Less-Than-Black Friday: Ideas for a More Socially-Just and Sustainable Holiday

The other day, my friend Zach said, “I have a great idea for a bumper sticker!  It will say (excuse the language), “Fuck Black Friday.  Give thanks again!”

I’ve never really understood the hyper-consumerism that accompanies the holidays.  Even though I’ve often had a strained relationship with my family, I still love them, and I see them as the focus of the holiday season.  I just don’t quite understand why we’re expected to show our love for our families through rampant consumerism.  “Buy More Stuff.  That’s the way to celebrate the holidays.”

Though in some ways, I will undoubtedly participate in that consumerism (there are a few small things that I want to give to family and that I hope to receive), I also recognize that there are lots of ways to participate in this dance more responsibly.

Thus, here’s my 2nd Annual list of ways to celebrate in a more Socially Just and Sustainable way.

1.  Since I spent the other day baking tasty vegan rolls and vegan gravy for Thanksgiving, the idea of food in the holidays is definitely on my mind.  I love to eat.  I love to eat well.  And I am incredibly privileged to eat super well!  I also recognize the privilege that comes with being a vegetarian, and while I hope that folks reduce their meat consumption, I also don’t really see any sense in trying to convince everyone to stop eating meat.  However, in that, I am mindful of the environmental impact of meat consumption.  Eating turkey is wildly unsustainable (and the turkey-production industry really screws the farmers)!  How about beef or ham?  Well, if you choose to eat those, it’s like dumping 2400 gallons of water down the drain and burning 55 square feet of rainforest.  Thus, this holiday season, I encourage you to consider a vegetarian holiday meal!  Or perhaps consider having all-vegetarian sides with your turkey or ham or pot roast.

2.  Rather than giving tangible gifts this season, consider donating to one of the following amazing organizations!

  • We’ve all seen incredible disasters unfold around the world, and the realities of climate change mean that we will only face disasters of increasing severity unless we mitigate carbon emissions. Until we can mitigate this problem, we need organizations like the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent who are always there, on the ground, helping those in need during a disaster.  Their donation tool on their website allows you to target your donations to causes that are close to your heart.
  • Speaking of disaster, few seem to know about or understand the depth of the crisis in the horn of Africa, as drought this summer has led to an incredible food crisis.

    Few organizations are able to get aid to those who need it, but the American Friends Service Committee and the World Food Programme are both doing incredible work to relieve suffering in the region.  Please consider giving.
  • Love babies?  Well, so does my mom, so she serves on the board of an amazing organization called The Parenting Place of Western Colorado, which offers parenting support for new parents, particularly within at-risk families.  In the face of scarce grant funding and budget cuts, the organization is in need of tremendous support to keep its doors open, though, so please visit their IndieGoGo campaign site (only open for 6 more days) to consider giving as generously as you are able!
  • Though the problem of homelessness weighs on me year-round, I particularly worry during these cold winter months.  While I encourage folks to give to the homeless however they can (and not assume that a homeless person will just spend it on booze), many feel more comfortable giving to a trusted organization that serves the needs of homeless folks.  Thus, I make sure that every year I give at least a small donation to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (or another similar organization).

3.  Heck, rather than dictating to your gift-recipient how their good will should be spent, give them a Global Giving Gift Card!  This card allows them to spend your allotted sum on any of 1000+ charities that do incredible work!

4.  I recognize, though, that it can be really fun to have something tangible to unwrap under the Christmas tree or passed out on one of the nights of Chanukah, and who doesn’t love a good soup during the cold winter months.  Thus, I love giving soups from the Women’s Bean Project, which helps women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.  Not only do they do some amazing feminist work, but their soups are DELICIOUS!

5.  Ever considered giving someone a water buffalo for Christmas?  Now you can!

Consider giving through Heifer International to empower someone to get out of poverty by diversifying their income!   If you still want something for your friend to unwrap, consider buying a sheep (or portion of a sheep) through Heifer International and then buy a stuffed version of the real-life animal you helped buy to give to your friend or family member as a token of the larger gift you gave!

6.  If you’ve never used the Hunger Site, stop reading, and click this link.  The Hunger Site allows you to give freely to end world hunger, to fight breast cancer, to support veterans, and more, and all you have to do is click!  Again, if you want a tangible gift to give, though, they have an amazing store where you can buy everything from chocolate to clothes to dolls and jewelry.  It’s all super affordable, and all the proceeds go to support the cause through which you click!

7.  UPDATE: Though I published last week, I just discovered this awesome offer from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network!  There are few organizations I support as wholeheartedly as I do RAINN due to the incredible sexual violence prevention and response work they do.  Well, if you plan to do some shopping online today, you should do it through RAINN!  40 online retailers (including Target, Amazon, Netflix, and more!) have agreed to donate a portion of your purchase to RAINN if you shop using this link!  If you’re going to online shop, you might as well do it this way!

8.  Unfortunately, the Holidays are also super hard on our earth.  With all the travel and wasted packaging and overeating and waste, we really do a number on our Mother each year.  Thus, please consider some ways that you can make your holiday more environmentally-friendly!  My friend Karen has some great tips!  The Guardian offers a guide to greener gift wrappings and cards!  One small step you can consider this year is avoiding traditional wrapping paper.  Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled for the following reasons:

  • Wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated.
  • It can also contain non-paper additives, such as gold and silver coloring, glitter and plastics.
  • It can be very thin and contain few good quality fibers for recycling.
  • It usually has tape on it from the gift wrapping.

Thus, I encourage you this year to use reusable cloth gift bags for the classier touch, or if you’re like me and think that what’s inside counts, consider wrapping in an old newspaper (I prefer an old edition of the Sunday comics).

Regardless of how you do it, take a second to breathe and consider the real reasons for this season: family, love, and good will.  I, for one, am happy to be sitting at home in my underwear on Black Friday rather than getting trampled as I rush to find the hottest deals.  And in all of this, I know that I still can give with impact.

Peace be the Journey.


2 thoughts on “Less-Than-Black Friday: Ideas for a More Socially-Just and Sustainable Holiday

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about consumerism of late, check out this blog post I did for Ink & Spindle.
    We Reeds have been trying to do local/homemade/ecofriendly Christmases the last few years! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  2. I know you posted this a while ago but I was revisiting because I couldn’t remember the Heifer International name. I wanted to add another thing. You can also buy I meal for a family of four through Whole Foods. Each Whole Foods has their own programs their donating too. Although they don’t really have a card or anything physical to give to your gift recipient you can always make handmade cards with the info of the organization and people that recieve the meals. 🙂

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