Looking for an alternative? Explore the sharing economy
While some of us prefer to stay warm and snuggle in our living rooms Thanksgiving night, others are already lined up, or even camping, in parking lots waiting to snag those Black Friday deals on laptops, flat screen TVs or The Hunger Games on Blu-ray DVD. Black Friday may as well be called Black Thursday now as more large retailers have opened today, earlier and earlier. For many of these stores’ employees, Black Friday is the chance to earn some extra pocket change. These employees’ wages, however, do not necessarily benefit our economy; reports have been produced that detail how giant retailers like Walmart benefit financially because their employees rely on food stamps as a result of low wages. Your shopping today may satisfy some Wall Street analyst; any other boost to society is debatable.
Of course for those of us who are bored, or appalled, at how crass consumerism has turned Black Friday into a monster that cannot be fed fast enough, the tempting reaction is to just stay home. Avoiding Black Friday and the monster crowds have long been my M.O., but this year I want to turn the idea on its head and shop till I drop on Black Friday–at thrift stores who often hire people who cannot find work elsewhere, and where proceeds offer tangible benefits to society. Aid for our veterans is an especially good reason to check out thrift stores–and offer shopping with a real patriotic message.
Across the country, two large organizations come in mind; Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Amvets National Service Foundation.
Both DAV and Amvets are 501(c)(3) organizations that help to fill the needed gaps as veterans’ benefits continue to erode across the country. Amvets dates back to 1948 and tasks itself by helping returning veterans adjust to civilian life. DAV uses the monies its stores generate to help mentally and physically disabled veterans as well as their factories. These organizations are helping to fight the good fight in the post-Iraq and Afghanistan world where the treatment of health problems such as traumatic brain injuries has caused Veteran Administration’ assistant programs to become even more overwhelmed. And they provide jobs to folks who need them the most.
Will I actually be Christmas shopping in the San Joaquin Valley at these and other thrift stores today? I plan on completing a lot of DIY (do-it-yourself, I mean, hand-made or -crafted) projects for the holiday, but thrifting to me is more about scoring supplies. I need some tools, can always use an end table or shelf that I could strip and then refinish, and I need random items such as vintage mason jars. But instead of helping a retail company look good in its next quarterly or annual report, I would rather have a small role in helping a non-profit provide services to the folks, as in our veterans, who have sacrificed and now could use some help. Plus, thrifting is way more fun than trolling around a big box store’s parking lot frustrated with the crowds and traffic. The proof is in the $7 Danish Modern end table I snagged recently, along with some Depression-era Vaseline glass. And true, some of the items could be from China, but at least they passed through a few pairs of hands before they ended up in mine.
The upshot is that if you want to shop with a conscience on Black Friday, patronize the businesses that truly help build your local community–and turn the idea of this ridiculous excuse to shop at weird hours on its head.
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: DAV.