As an alternative to Black Friday - a frenzied day of shopping like crazy, hitting the malls at 5am looking for bargains and buying stuff for their relatives who "have everything" - Adbusters has offered Buy Nothing Day. For the next 24 hours, opt out of the insane cycles of consumption that are driving our planet to the brink and SPEND NOTHING!
After that, think about cutting back this entire holiday season. Here are some easy ways:
1) Consumables: Look for consumables as gifts this holiday season - local wine, fair trade coffee or chocolate, local soaps, homemade jam or scarves, gift certificates for insects for the little ones (guess what my butterfly loving niece is getting).
2) Tradition: Put an orange or apple in your kids stocking along with whatever other gifts might be in there.
3) Buy Used: Don't forget to persue craigslist for bigger items (a new-to-you bike or musical instrument?) and buy used. Another obvious place for used gifts is the local thrift store. Ours is an adventure and I've found many a cool item - including a very cool wooden train set for the little one. For the more refined, check out the local antique mart or even vintage items on Ebay. These are the ultimate in re-use.
4) Re-Gift: For the grown ups, instead of exchanging gifts cut back to picking names or better yet do a white elephant exchange where every gift is a re-gift.
5) Forgotten Gifts: Scour the back of your closets for gifts you bought in the past but forgot. I found two pairs of jammies that I bought the kids last year on clearance and a game that I never got around to giving to my oldest.
6) Service-Related Gifts: Even better than giving a material gift is to a give the gift of time - yours or someone else's. You can give a gift certificate for an eco-friendly massage or yoga classes or music classes or cooking lessons or something similar. Or you can give the gift of yourself and offer a voucher for babysitting services, a home cooked meal, a cleaned house and so on. For kids, experience-based gifts are wonderful. This Christmas, my mother-in-law is taking my oldest to a symphony for his main gift. Take a child to the ballet, the nutcracker, the zoo, on a nature walk, to a football game, on a train ride, to get ice cream - whatever sparks their interest. These sort of gifts have very limited impact on the environment but are likely to have a deep impact on the receipent - children will remember and cherish the special time they had more than some plastic toy that gets broken or becomes boring and is tossed in the trash or the Goodwill pile in February.
A couple of the blogs I frequent have posted recently on the same subject. Check out Organic Pick's How Long Can We Shop Like There Is No Tomorrow? for some hair-raising statistics that will make you think twice. Also, Charles over at Car(bon) Free in California has suggested looking at Christmas gifts in a different way - think about what gifts you remember and ask people the same to get an idea of what types of gifts are really important. Personally, the gifts I remember were homemade and not purchased at the local mall.
If you're looking for more ways to change the focus of your holidays from spending money to tradition, family and fun, check out Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben.
Happy Buy Nothing Day, everyone.