While I could go on about the many ways you could have a green Thanksgiving (including eating a free range turkey, as we did last year), let’s focus instead on that glorious tradition of American excess: Black Friday!
I try to either make holiday gifts myself or buy handmade, but if you’re comfortable with hundreds of strangers breathing on your neck, I found some interesting tips on how to “go green on black Friday” from Green Your Life:
- Know your green attributes: Whether you’re shopping for electronics, clothing, or appliances, there is always a greener option out there. Read up on what certifications and credentials you should look for to minimize your environmental impact while maximizing your savings.
- Opt for recycled-content products: Recycled content products are the ultimate trash-to-treasure gift! Recycling cuts back on the demand for virgin materials and is a cleaner process than manufacturing new materials. In fact, recycling programs are estimated to have kept the equivalent of 39 million car’s worth of carbon out of the atmosphere in 2006, saving the equivalent of 10 billion gallons of gasoline.
- Look for products made with eco-friendly materials: Look for products made from organic materials, which require fewer toxic chemicals to create; alternative fibers, such as hemp, bamboo, sea grass, and jute, which grow rapidly and require little, if any, chemical additives or petrochemicals for production; and sustainably sourced materials such as FSC-certified wood.
- Bring your own shopping bag: Each year, 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper shopping bags are used in the United States, requiring about 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil to produce. These bags take between 20 and 1,000 years to break down in landfills, or worse, in wild spaces and oceans, creating choking hazards for sea creatures and mammals alike. You can avoid taking a single disposable bag while you’re out shopping by bringing your own bags from home.
- Use green credit cards: Make the money you’re spending work for the environment! Banks offering green credit cards use a portion of what you spend to support green causes or take eco-friendly action, like buying carbon offsets. Big banks have often been criticized for funding environmentally questionable industries and political parties and causes that are anti-environment.
- Buy products with minimal packaging, or packaged in eco-friendly materials: No matter what you’re buying, make sure to go with the option that uses the least amount of packaging, or those packaged in eco-friendly materials, such as recycled paper or plastic. You’ll reduce the amount of landfill waste created and cut back on the amount of new materials, chemicals, and energy required for packaging.
- Shop locally: The average consumer product is shipped 1,500 miles in a diesel truck before coming to rest on a store shelf. Diesel exhaust contains over 450 chemicals, 40 of them believed to be toxic to humans and detrimental to the environment. Carbon monoxide from vehicle emissions accounts for 56 percent of total carbon emissions across the US and, along with nitrogen oxide, contributes to air pollution. Buying locally produced products cuts out this fuel-intensive, climate change-inducing transport and supports small businesses and your local economy.
- Shop in areas that are close enough to walk or bike to, or where you can walk from shop to shop: Whether it’s a mall or a downtown area with concentrated retail outlets, the less you have to drive on Black Friday, the better for the environment. (And it’s not a bad deal for you, either, avoiding all that searching for parking spots!) Americans use more than 100 billion gallons of gasoline each year; every gallon of gasoline burned releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, making the transportation sector responsible for about a quarter of overall US carbon dioxide emissions. Saving a few gallons by not driving store-to-store will reduce your carbon footprint. If you must drive, consider buying carbon offsets.
- Ride the bus instead of driving: If walking or biking to your shopping destination is not an option, take the bus. Buses, which emit 80 percent less carbon monoxide and are 91 times safer than the average car, can carry the equivalent of 60 car-loads of people. (Which means they have lots of room for all those packages you’ll be bringing home too.)
- Shop online: Perhaps the best way to avoid the transportation-related effects of a busy shopping day is to avoid transportation at all. Just be wary of how far the items you purchase will need to be shipped and what shipping method is employed.
- Buy nothing: Of course, some greenies argue that the best way to reduce your eco-impact on Black Friday is to buy nothing at all. Buy Nothing Day is an informal day of action, “celebrated” on Black Friday, to protest the consumerism and eco-unfriendliness of such a massive shopping spree. New products always come with an environmental price tag: from the procurement of materials, the production into a new product, transport from source to store, to their eventual disposal. Buying nothing at all is one way to avoid all the eco-impacts.
While some holier-than-thou types might say “buying nothing on Black Friday is best,” these are tough times, and when your fridge or washer or other large item is on the fritz,or even when you need a new pair of shoes, taking advantage of ridiculous deals makes sense….I won’t judge!
Photo from the BlackFriday.info blog