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The Black Friday Guide for the Responsible Shopper

Raz Godelnik
| Monday November 19th, 2012 | 1 Comment

Looking for an alternative? Explore the sharing economy
window shoppingSo, you’re a responsible consumer, right? You try to shop locally, don’t buy too much stuff you don’t really need, and even take an active part in the sharing economy. When you go to the supermarket, you use the GoodGuide mobile app, you never use bottled water and you might even compost. You watched The Story of Stuff three times and even read Cradle to Cradle once. And did we mention you have a picture of TOMS’ Blake Mycoskie on your wall?

Yet, while you definitely consider yourself a new consumer, you also find you can’t really ignore the obsession everyone seem to have with Black Friday. In addition, you live on a budget and feel it might be a shame to waste such an opportunity just because it represents everything you hate. So, what to do?

Well, no worries. We’re here to help with 10 tips for responsible consumers just like you on how to shop this upcoming Friday, aka Black Friday.

1. Buy only what you meant to buy anyway. Make a list of the things you wanted to buy anyway and stick with it. If you have planned for some time to buy a TV and you know exactly what you want, then it doesn’t make sense not to buy it on Black Friday if you can get it for a better price. So go for it, but don’t forget to use some of the other tips when doing so.

2. Buy from retailers that don’t open early. One of the things that seems to get worse every year is the fact that retailers are opening their doors earlier and earlier. It’s not fair to the employees and it’s time to reverse this trend. You can do it by shopping only at retailers that open at regular hours.

Remember what the former CEO of Best Buy, Brian Dunn told our publisher, Nick Aster, last year about opening the stores early. ”No, it’s not irresponsible, it’s responding to what the market wants. Best Buy’s competitors do it, people want it, and it’s a part of modern culture that a lot of people look forward to.” The only way to show Dunn and others they’re wrong is to support retailers who take a different approach and act in a fair manner.

3. Buy from responsible companies. Black Friday is a good opportunity to vote with your wallet, not just for retailers that don’t open early, but also for responsible companies in general. How do you find which companies are more responsible? Good question. You can check rankings, search TriplePundit and other resources for information, or just go to the company’s website and look for its sustainability report. If the company doesn’t have one, don’t buy its products. If it does, read it (or at least the executive summary) and decide for yourself if the company is truly serious about sustainability.

4. Buy locally. As we wrote here many times, buying locally is more sustainable. It’s better for your community, for the environment and encourages local prosperity, so try (and not only on Black Friday) to buy from locally-owned businesses.

5. Buy experiences, not products. If you plan to buy gifts on Black Friday for a friend, family member or even for yourself, consider buying an experience rather than a product. If you live in New York, Chicago or DC, you can check sidetour, which offers experiences from eating a seasonal 5-course meal prepared by a native NY chef to shooting the firearms that have defined America’s last century. This is not only far better than just buying more stuff, but also another great way to support your local economy and community.

6. Offset your purchases. No, not with carbon offsets (though feel free to do so), but with books with a meaningful message. What do I mean? Here’s an example – if you buy your husband a great jacket, add to it Gernot Wagner’s But Will the Planet Notice. If you buy your girlfriend a new iPad, add to it Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics by Kalle Lasn and Adbusters. This way, while you don’t avoid the problem (aka over-consumption), at least you help make others more aware about it. Just be ready to not to get anything from them next year.

7. Look for a sharing alternative. You have probably only heard it from us about a million times in the last couple of weeks, but it’s true – the sharing economy is great, rewarding, fun, exciting and more sustainable, so if you really want to buy a valuable gift, look for a sharing economy business and buy it there. A good place to start is with list of companies that offer the perks on our crowdfunding campaign.

8. Buy online. Generally buying online is considered a greener option, especially if you don’t overuse it only because it’s greener (rebound effect). So unless you can bike or walk to a store, consider buying online. And yes, it does mean you can enjoy a quiet Friday and wait for Cyber Monday.

9. Buy one, give one. If you’re buying yourself something nice, take the opportunity and look for something nice you have but don’t use anymore and donate it. Freecycle is a good place to do it, but if you’re living in one of the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy, please consider doing it through one of the organizations that help those people who lost most or all of their belongings in the storm.

10. Buy nothing. Yes, I know you can do it! Good luck!

[Image credit: zoetnet, Flickr Creative Commons]

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/odile.beniflah Odile Beniflah

    OMG Thank you! As a new comer in America, I was just wondering what this whole frenziness was about. Now I can relax, shop at regular hours and maybe not shop at all. Perfect!