During this year’s Black Friday — or “Buy Nothing Day” as I know it — I stayed home, read, and ate leftover pumpkin pie. Getting lost in crowds at the mall, standing in line, and spending way too much money on things I don’t need have never sounded appealing to me. There is something quite contradictory about extreme consumerism on the day after we say thanks for the things we already have. Incredible shopping deals on clothes, electronics, and what-have-you can be pretty enticing when considering gifts for our loved ones or ourselves, but the best way to save money is not to buy anything at all. Plus, partaking in Black Friday and other shopping frenzies cheapens the true purpose of holidays (spending time with family and friends) with money-spending and materialism, and it negatively impacts the environment.
According to the EPA, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. All the packaging, shopping bags, wrapping paper and food waste add up to an additional 1 million tons of landfill waste a week. And, 150 or so million Americans driving to and from malls and big box stores isn’t exactly beneficial for air quality or the local economy.
Here are some of my favorite eco-friendly approaches to holiday gift-giving and shopping:
- 1. Don’t buy anything. I’ll be honest: I was curious and browsed online websites to see what crazy deals stores would be offering for Black Friday. But, I told myself, I have plenty of clothes. I don’t need a new camera, and I definitely don’t need any jewelry — even if it is 75% off. Not buying anything saves money, reduces clutter, and makes life simpler.
- Make your own gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. I love making cards and envelopes by recycling old pictures, and magazine and book pages. You also can reuse newspaper, paper bags, and interesting book or magazine pages as gift wrap. My favorite homemade gifts are hand-milled soaps, pottery, hand knitted items, and art. They show that you put thought, time, effort, and love into your gift, rather than money for a mainstream commodity.
- Make food. I love making baked goods as gifts for friends and family members. Cookies, pie, and cakes are presents no one will resist. I put them in reusable or recyclable containers to minimize waste.
- Buy used gifts or antiques. Finding unique items at bookstores, flea markets, garage sales, and thrift or antique stores makes gifts more special and interesting; and it’s fun!
- Buy hand-made arts and crafts. Supporting small businesses and local artists is a great way to buy one of a kind gifts. Shopping locally is also beneficial to your community’s economy. Local craft fairs and online sites like etsy.com have an abundance of hand-made goods such as jewelry, accessories, clothes and art.
- Do something. Think outside the gift box and plan a fun activity for the family. Go to a museum, a concert, or a play. Stay at a relative’s home, go camping, or visit a national park. Most of us don’t need more stuff, and spending time with the people you love most is better than any gift from a store.