In September 1992, the first Buy Nothing Day commenced in Vancouver, Canada. Founded on the premise of directing concern to the societal problem of over-consumption, Buy Nothing Day is understood as a worldwide day of protest against consumerism.

Adbusters helped publicize the campaign internationally through anti-advertisements, including a television spot that most networks refused to air.

In recent years, Buy Nothing Day has been held to coincide with the first Friday after American Thanksgiving which has historically been one of the busiest retail days of the year.