By Catherine Moran
Friday, November 23 was Black Friday. You probably recognize the term: its name conjures up, not visions of turkey leftovers and marathon movie watching or long walks in fallen leaves, but visions of people standing in line in the middle of the night, racing from their homes no sooner than the turkey has been cleared from the table and they’ve finished giving thanks for what they already have, to wait for the chance to battle one another (sometimes physically, and, occasionally, with tragic results) for heavily discounted products. It’s the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S.—so popular, in fact, that the big discounts have spilled over into Cyber Monday, when consumers can buy heavily discounted items from the comfort of their own computer screens.
But, to many, Black Friday has also become known as Buy Nothing Day (or BND). Vancouver artist Ted Dave originated the idea in 1992, and in 1997 the official day was declared to be the Friday following Thanksgiving in the U.S., and the last Saturday in November around the world. 65 nations currently participate in BND. The big picture idea behind the day is that people should literally buy nothing: no video games, no gadgets, no dolls, no single-use pod coffee makers, no shoes. Yes, ladies, I said shoes!
There are some other protests one can participate in against consumption on Black Friday. Wikipedia lists a few other strange possibilities—for example, walking around as zombies inside a shopping mall, I’m assuming as Consumer Zombies. But there is one protest that involves shopping—instead of heading to megastores, buy local and support artisans and food sellers in your community. Hellllllo, craft fairs! And Small Business Saturday, the local retailers’ answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, falls between these two giant shopping days, completing the Holiday Shopping Trifecta.
This year, I was excited to see some websites participating in BND – gutsy! Can you imagine? Retailers, telling you NOT to buy from them. Patagonia is one company that is socially and environmentally aware as a company overall. They make quality clothing items that are meant to endure rough treatment over many years, and they actively promote buying their products secondhand through resale websites. On BND 2012, their website displayed this message:
The Common Threads Initiative pledge looks like this:
Patagonia includes this insightful quote from Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff, on the pledge page:
“There’s a reason that ‘recycling’ comes last in the mantra: Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle.
Recycling is what we do when we’re out of options to avoid, repair, or reuse the product first. That’s why I am so impressed with Patagonia for starting its Common Threads Initiative with the real solution: Reduce. Don’t buy what we don’t need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.”
Patagonia isn’t the only impressive retailer to encourage no shopping on Black Friday this year. Clothing company Everlane posted the following message on their website for Friday’s shoppers:
Sure, it is in part a marketing ploy, but a good one. I, for one, am impressed and thankful. Everlane will probably get more shoppers on their site on Cyber Monday (would that they shut down the site, to boot!) from the publicity this generates, but it’s a heartening thing to see—a retailer protesting its own purpose.
I’m heartened to think that BND could become bigger and bigger, until one day its existence might even rival the leagues of people who believe in Black Friday as its own holiday designed solely for shopping. It makes me glad to think that more people realize that their purchases have an impact. We decide where our money goes; we decide what part of our economy we are going to support, be it through consumer goods, food, or travel. Power to the people!
Do you know of any other companies that endorsed BND this year? I’d love to know if others have come across retailers that are encouraging shoppers to be mindful of why they are shopping.
Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter @folowbredcrumbs, or check out her excellent book blog.