Looking for an alternative? Explore the sharing economy
With stores such as Walmart, Kmart, Target and Best Buy set to launch huge holiday sales that will be sweet for their bottom line but offer no redeeming social value, Black Friday (at this point it should just be called Black Thursday!) will soon tease us with supposedly cheap deals and, of course . . . a few moments of disturbing content for local TV news due to the occasional stampedes and altercations in store aisles and parking lots. It is easy to become jaded as the Black Friday messages crescendo–especially since many of these companies have cut hours and benefits for their part time workers to the point that the rest of us subsidize them with social programs like SNAP (food stamps).
But for those of us who truly think that the holidays are more about giving, not indulging or credit card max-ing, there is a day, one week from tomorrow, that should capture the true spirit of the season. #GivingTuesday (you knew there was a Twitter hashtag in there!), a nice follow up to November 15th’s Global Sharing Day, aims to nudge society past consumerism and towards community.
Giving Tuesday has its home in New York’s 92nd Street Y. As a bunch of “influencers” (anyone with over 500 Twitter followers) talked about how to make #GivingTuesday a reality, this movement eventually moved to its current home on the Upper East Side and now includes the United Nations and a bevy of businesses as partners. Now this force is working to recruit organizations, including non-profits that will lead initiatives and companies that will benefit the former.
Hopefully #GivingTuesday will inspire Americans to do what they have done well for decades: help the less fortunate in their neighborhoods by taking a few simple steps we have all heard before. But the stubborn truth is that it is easy to lose the true meaning of the holidays at this time of year with year-end stresses, holiday plans, skittishness over those upcoming awkward family gatherings–not to mention the endless marketing messages that tell us to spend, spend, spend.
The #GivingTuesday folks have also set up a program to advise businesses how they can spread holiday cheer for what is yet another year with too many people struggling and doing without. The best one? The suggestion that retailers offer a portion of their proceeds from Black Friday (and Thursday) to a local cause. Let’s see if the big box stores will bite.
As the nature of buying and shopping are changing with the surge in collaborative consumption along with the sharing economy, and the idea of giving evolving with social enterprise and collaborative efforts like that of #GivingTuesday, it is easier now than ever before to spread some holiday cheer. And remember this just does not mean cutting a check or making someone a meal. Sometimes genuine acts of kindness, which we often forget to do (due in part by being excessively wired in social media sites), are a fantastic way to make someone’s day. Check out #GivingTuesday’s blog to glean some interesting ideas.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter.
Image credit: GivingTuesday.org