This is your annual reminder to forget Black Friday

consume less
© Buy Nothing Day

“Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.” Fawzi Ibrahim

Black Friday is just around the corner on November 29, but I won’t be shopping. Black Friday strikes me as a singularly awful idea – and not only because I’ve become accustomed to small-town life and have neither patience for lineups nor a desire to fight for parking spots. I don’t like what Black Friday does to people, when corporate greed brings out the worst of human behavior, nor do I support the idea of buying unnecessary stuff just because it’s cheap. I think that we as a society need to move toward buying less and higher quality items, and so much about Black Friday challenges that philosophy.

One clever alternative to Black Friday’s excesses is Buy Nothing Day 2013, which has been organized and promoted for years by Adbusters, a counter-culture magazine from Vancouver. Buy Nothing Day urges individuals to forego the clearance sales and abstain from buying anything for 24 hours.

"Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we’re not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times."

Adbusters has some entertaining suggestions for taking action against Black Friday. There’s the “Credit Card Cut-Up,” where you stand in a mall with a sign offering a simple service: an end to high interest rates and mounting debt with a single snip. How about the “Zombie Walk,” featuring a stroll around the mall to observe the blank, comatose faces of shoppers? Or try out the “Whirl-Mart,” when 10 people silently drive their shopping carts around the store in an inexplicable conga line without buying anything. You can also check out Adbusters’ “American Piggy" anti-advertisement for Buy Nothing Day. It has been banned from MTV and other worldwide networks. (You’ll understand why once you’ve seen it.)

Boycotting stores works for some of us, but, as Lloyd pointed out here on TreeHugger last year, it can have a negative impact on people whose livelihood depends on selling. Another solution is to start celebrating Small Business Saturday instead. Many of us inhabit towns and cities whose downtown cores have shriveled up, thanks to the arrival of big box stores operated by distant corporations. Choosing to support local businesses can be a powerful tool for protest.

“When we invest in small businesses, we are investing in Main Streets - the places that give our towns and cities a unique sense of place. By celebrating Small Business Saturday and shopping at independent businesses, everyone can play a part in strengthening our economy and supporting revitalization on our Main Streets.” (Stephanie Meeks, National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Buy Nothing Day and Small Business Saturday can easily be celebrated simultaneously during American Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to embrace the philosophies behind both of these movements and apply them to everyday life, all year long.

This is your annual reminder to forget Black Friday
Whether you opt for 'Buy Nothing Day' or 'Small Business Saturday,' the journey toward sustainability begins with a single step.

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