activism consumerism fair trade lifestyle shopping

Bonfire of the brands

I’m usually a little sceptical of people who take on over-sized challenges and then release books about them. Dave Gorman, Tony Hawks, they’ve sort of spawned their own genre, and now there are green counterparts – No impact man in New York, or Hugh Sawyer the ‘ditch monkey‘. There was someone else in the paper yesterday, and I’m going to put my scepticism to one side for a moment and tell you about him, because once you get past the grand gesture he has some interesting things to say.

Neil Boorman was a publisher and brands consultant, and self-confessed ‘brand addict’. When he finally realised how dependent he was on brand names for his own sense of worth, he decided to start again. He burned everything he owned with a brand name on and tried to live for a year with no brands. That year is explored in a forthcoming book, Bonfire of the Brands, and in the meantime the accompanying website, is worth checking out.

“The basic message of brands is that we will feel better for consuming more”, Boorman says in his manifesto: “In owning these brands, we are promised that our lives will be transformed for the better… In paying for this lifestyle, we British work longer hours than any other country in Europe, and we are over £1 trillion in debt. Despite our materially high standard of living, our overall quality of life lags far behind those of some developing countries; in meeting our inflated expectations of life, we suffer enormous stress. But most important of all, the brand message prevents us from properly dealing with the challenge of climate change. According to the Carbon Trust, 42% of our individual carbon footprint comprises of consumer products and services. The core message of message of branding – to consume more – is fundamentally at odds with footprint reduction – the need to consume less.”

Check out the site for lots of ethical shopping links, tips for avoiding brand names and more.


  1. Jeremy
    thanks for the post sir. I’ve only just discovered your blog, but I fine one it is sir. I’d like to mention it in my site if thats ok with you.

    One comment from the likes of you makes up for a umpteen death threats I get each day.


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