Thanksgiving's "Black Friday"—the day after Thanksgiving—historically marks the biggest shopping day in the United States, a day when shoppers flock to stores in search of bargain prices for items on their holiday shopping lists. In 2008, consumers spent $534 million on that day alone, reported comscore.com, up 1% from 2007.
This year, with unemployment at record highs and increased consumer interest in making environmentally friendly choices, many shoppers plan to "Go Green" on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving.
Here are some eco-conscious ways to celebrate "Green Friday":
- Support locally owned independent businesses
For every $100 spent locally, $45 stays in your community—if the business is independently owned. (Some mega corporations have stripped their name off of stores and opened them under different names to benefit from the "shop local" movement, so be sure to ask before you shop). Shopping at locally owned independent businesses also is a way to support products and services that help your community stand out from those defined by big-box stores.
- Buy products having little or no packaging
If just one out of 10 products that you buy had little or no packaging, it would eliminate more than 50 pounds of waste per household each year, according to The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time (www.readthegreenbook.com) by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen.
- Bag it
It's best to use canvas shopping bags, which are inexpensive and reusable, but when your only choice is paper or plastic, opt for paper. Some legislators have proposed banning plastic bags because of the harm they cause to the environment.
- Make a charitable donation in someone's name
For people wanting to give the gift of charity, JustGive.org (www.justgive.org) has several options, including a gift certificate that allows the recipient to give to his or her charity of choice, and a gift basket that bundles together like-minded causes, such as environment, education or homelessness. Another way to support a charity is by purchasing your gifts at The Greater Good (www.greatergood.com): With just the click of a mouse, the charity of your choice gets additional money, at no cost to you.
- Buy previously owned products
Buying used products, such as through eBay (www.ebay.com) or Craig's List (www.craigslist.org), is both eco-friendly and easy on the budget. More than 4,500 local groups also receive and give items for free using The Freecycle Network™ (www.freecycle.org), which has more than six million members across the globe (membership is free).
- Select alternative gifts
For $28, you can provide an American family struggling to make ends meet with food for two days; $108 will provide one week of education, job training and life-skill training to help women survivors of domestic violence gain confidence and become stronger and more independent ($8 provides one hour of training). View these and other options at the Alternative Gifts International website (www.altgifts.org).
Another option is to give trees in honor of loved ones. Each dollar donated plants a tree in one of America's national forests, where one million acres need to be replanted due to forest fires in recent years. Visit www.arborday.org for more information.
Have a talent for baking, sewing, writing stories, photography, woodworking, knitting or another hobby? If so, you might want to consider making your gifts this year. Often, handmade gifts are the most meaningful ones that people receive.
- Wrap it up reusable
Each year in the United States, holiday wrapping paper and shopping bags generate four million tons of waste, according to the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable. Some creative alternatives include reusable containers such as buckets and watering cans, reusable gift bags, children's drawings, alternative wrapping such as scarves or baby blankets, and biodegradable gift wrap such as seed wrapping paper, infused with seeds and ready for planting (http://www.realgoods.com/product/camping-gifts-apparel/toys-gifts/for%20her/flower%20seed%20wrapping%20paper.do).
- Give the gift of your time
Interested in volunteering but unable to commit on a regular schedule? Homeless shelters, nursing homes and hospitals often need people to help prepare holiday meals or visit with residents. To find a holiday volunteer opportunity near you, visit www.holiday-project.org or call the shelters, nursing homes and hospitals in your area.