Thanksgiving usually comes with a lot of things - too much food, family, arguments, holiday cheer, and shopping. Now most of these are quite easy to do zero waste (nothing quite as zero waste as family time!) but shopping for Christmas gifts or holiday gifts can present quite a challenge. And it all starts with Black Friday.
To be honest, I have gone to Black Friday with my family for as long as I can remember. And I went this year too. but before you yell "Consumerism!" and throw me to the wolves, let me tell you why.
Growing up my mother never let us go "back to school" shopping like most kids. Our big shopping trip of the year was always on Black Friday. Mostly for economical reasons. We weren't poor per say but we also weren't rich. With my sister at 6'1" and myself at 5'10" we grew out of our entire wardrobe every year. So my mother would wait until Black Friday, take us to Fred Meyer, and get all of our clothes half-off. I remember going endless times to used clothing stores like Value Village and Goodwill and crying when I couldn't find anything. Pants were too short or two wide (I am a size 4 and yet 5'10" so you can see my problem) and my sister didn't have much better luck. We tried to buy used but with two teenage girls going through high school, it just wasn't feasible to find anything in our size (or style). So when I say that I don't think Black Friday is all bad, I mean that.
Taking advantage of a discount isn't a bad thing, we all look for good deals and best prices. The problem with Black Friday is that it encourages over consumption. People, myself included, can get easily caught up in the discount signs and buy way more than originally planned. Many of the items we don't really need or don't end up using at all. When Black Friday shopping, it is important to go with a list and purchase intentionally. I went with a list of three items this year: a jacket, a pyrex container, and story cubes (a board game). I walked out of Fred Meyer with six items. Not perfect. But way better! If you can get a list together and made a pact with someone to stick to it, then Black Friday isn't much different than shopping during any other sale during the year. I think though next year I will avoid it altogether and stick with Small Business Saturday.
Speaking of which, Small Business Saturday is a great alternative to Black Friday. It encourages people to buy their gifts and everyday items from local and small businesses rather than heading to these giant box stores with huge sales. Small businesses circulate much more money back into the economy of their own town and as well as usually practice much better employment policies. If you can, look for those holiday gifts that you can buy locally.
This Small Business Saturday I visited three different stores to show my support (all of which were items I needed and still bought intentionally).
1. Bellingham Farmer's Market
With the winter season rolling in, I made the trip out in the pouring rain to visit the farmer's market for one of the last times this year. I stocked up on vegetables for the week, all of which I got plastic free. I was quite happy to find lettuce plastic free as the usual place I buy from only had ones in bundles and they don't take back the plastic ties :(
2. Wonderland Teas
If you ever get the chance to visit Bellingham, make sure to stop in and visit Linda Quintana and her beautiful tea shop! It is the most comprehensive and affordable bulk tea store I have ever seen. Just saying, but even my coop can't compare to the variety she supplies. Many of which are all organic! I refilled my stash of peppermint tea for the cold days coming up!
3. Bellingham Community Food Coop
Lastly I stopped in at the Food Coop for some milk and yogurt in class containers and a few fruits I couldn't find at the farmers market.
If I may mention though, I think every Saturday should be small, local business day! ;)
The final item I want to comment on is Cyber Monday. Just like Black Friday, it is important to buy intentionally. I also suggest buying from Etsy businesses and companies with eco-friendly policies that will ship your items in recyclable containers or compostable packaging. Shipping items straight to your door usually leads to a bigger carbon footprint. However, when buying an eco-friendly product that's not available in your town, the pros and cons are debatable. I plan on purchasing a few items from Juniper Seed Mercantile as Christmas gifts and restocking some facial rounds from The Creekside Kid, both of which are Etsy companies.
So in conclusion, if you shopped on Friday or Saturday or Sunday or plan on doing it in the coming weeks before the holidays, make a plan of what you really need and find businesses that support your beliefs when buying them. Your earth (and budget!) will thank you! And let's all focus on positively reinforcing what each of us is doing, and leave the "throwing to the wolves" to the actual wolves ;)