The unofficial start of the Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier, much to the chagrin of consumers. But most people eventually give in, getting swept up in shopping in hopes of giving a loved one the perfect present, spare no expense. But the Christmas season isn’t all consumerism. A lot of people use the season as a time to give back to the community in any way they can. Some volunteer, some give food, some donate money and others create unique ideas to help their fellow man. This brings us to Greg Gerritt, a green economist with a social conscious and activist spirit. Twenty years ago, he and some friends decided to combat consumerism while doing something good for the community, and the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange was born.
With a pretty self-explanatory name, the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange has grown since its inception, now taking place in 14 locations throughout Rhode Island (this number may change as locations are finalized). This event happens on Black Friday and benefits all who participate. This isn’t mobbing a national chain store to purchase discounted items that ultimately put more money into the pockets of the rich. Participants in this event take part because they either want to give back or are in need.
“We have built quite an event,” Gerritt writes in his annual essay about the day. “Something like 14 sites will be actively participating on November 25, and thousands of people donate and/or receive winter coats on that day in Rhode Island, with a few other sites around the country based on our model.”
The Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange epitomizes the very definition of helping out your fellow man. It doesn’t matter if a coat is donated, taken or traded. Everyone gets something, whether the endorphins that come with helping an individual person or a nice coat to keep warm during the winter months. An event like this has the potential to bring people together who never may have met otherwise. The potential that this day could bring is endearing, and the longevity of the event proves that it’s a successful model.
“We do what we can. And hope that it moves the needle toward justice and healthy communities,” Gerritt writes at the end of his essay. “Do it with joy and thank you for participating in the Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange.”
While many of these sites participate in the exchange only on November 25, there are a few that will collect coats for a few weeks. Other sites collect coats, but don’t exchange them. For information and contact information for the various collection and exchange sites around the state, visit facebook.com/BNDRhodeIsland.