November kicks off the holiday season, including the infamous Black Friday, a day of frenzied shopping. As sales start earlier and earlier to entice shoppers, there’s been a recent surge of anti-consumerism as many have been choosing to skip Black Friday in an effort to reduce consumption and waste during the holidays. There’s even an alternate name for the date: Buy Nothing Day!
Greener Black Friday Campaigns
REI’s #OptOutside campaign (now in its seventh year) is a prime example of an easy way to skip Black Friday: all of their stores close on Black Friday, and REI customers and employees are encouraged to get outside and enjoy nature instead of heading to the local malls. They’ve even updated their Opt Outside campaign to be more intersectional for those who face systemic exclusion from outdoor activities.
Patagonia has run anti-Black Friday ads in the past (telling customers, “Don’t buy this jacket“), does not run Black Friday sales, and even contributed 100% of Black Friday revenue to grassroots environmental causes in 2016 in partnership with One Percent for the Planet. Patagonia, like many other environmentally conscious brands, really won’t mind if you skip Black Friday and focus on more thoughtful shopping habits instead!
The Pros and Cons of Opting Out
Skipping Black Friday sales (and reducing your gift-giving footprint in general) is great for the environment! It saves gas and reduces material waste, contributing to a lower personal waste footprint for many people. It’s also a lot safer to stay home or outside, considering that COVID-19 is still an ongoing public health crisis. Opting Outside also boosts your health, as there numerous health benefits from connecting with nature.
The pressure to reduce holiday waste is timely and important — Americans throw away 25 million extra tons of trash between Thanksgiving and the New Year alone! However, it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone can afford to skip Black Friday when that may be the only time they can purchase presents for their children or buy household items at an otherwise unattainable price.
So, should we skip Black Friday? If you can, absolutely! If you can’t, that’s okay. There are plenty of ways to reduce your holiday footprint even if skipping Black Friday isn’t possible for you.
How to Reduce Your Holiday Footprint
Some of our favorite sustainable tips for the holidays include:
- Giving experiences instead of material gifts
- Using upcycled or reusable gift wrapping like cloth, newspaper, or paper bags
- Shopping from small and local businesses
- Giving high-quality consumables like bath and beauty products, cheeses, and other indulgences (bonus points for zero waste packaging)
Mix and match the tips that work best for you, but don’t fall for the mentality that anyone participating in Black Friday sales doesn’t care about the environment! The largest responsibility for pollution and waste lies with the corporations supplying the market with high-volume, low-quality items designed to break down and be replaced. We’ve talked about this kind of privilege before, regarding the ableism of plastic bans, as well as the idea that environmentalism isn’t all or nothing and we must all do our best within our limits.
When I was a child, my family had years where there was not enough in the budget to buy gifts for my brother and I or other family members, and we heavily relied on Black Friday to make those gifts happen and to buy things we needed but couldn’t otherwise afford. We are fortunate to have not needed to do that in recent years, but having experienced the necessity of Black Friday helped develop an acknowledgment of and respect for the people who don’t have the option to skip this shopping day.
If you decide to skip Black Friday and Opt Outside this year, take a moment in nature to appreciate your ability to do so, and to think of those who are doing what they need to do for their families and loved ones in stores across the country.