5 Activities for Buy Nothing Day, Formerly Known as Black Friday

Updated 11/27/20

Buy Nothing Day (previously known as Black Friday) may come around just once a year but you can embrace it year round. Adbusters launched the day in the early 1990s to protest the consumer madness that kicks off in the U.S. (and now all over) the day after Thanksgiving. You can read more about Buy Nothing Day here.

If you don’t shop on Black Friday, what else can you possibly do? I have some (mostly) food-related ideas.

1. Eat

For me, Buy Nothing Day extends to food as well as consumer goods. We will have SO many leftovers we can get creative with, I refuse to go to the store to buy one morsel of food. And I’m pretty sure many people would agree that sleeping in, staying home and eating leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast sounds like a lot more fun than standing in line at the big box stores to buy more stuff that no one needs and that will likely break either on the way home or soon after it arrives there.

My daughter likes to bake…

2. Make

My neighbor, busy clearing out 18-years’ worth of stuff before he moves to a more affordable home (I live in Silicon Valley—gentrification central), brought me a large bag of thin sheets and pillow cases this week. I’ll use these to make a pile of reusable cloth produce and bulk bags, which I plan to start on Buy Nothing Day.

I’ll eat more leftover pie as I work on these. If you sew, check out this list of seven gifts to make for your favorite zero waster.


3. Mend

While I have my sewing supplies out, I could also mend the still-small holes in several items—MK’s sweatpants that I’ve appropriated, a couple of pairs of socks and one of my cloth shopping bags that has begun to wear out in the bottom. My idea of fun on Black Friday would be to have a bunch of friends over for our very own repair cafe or a clothing swap. I should have thought of this weeks ago. Maybe next year…

4. Ferment

If you read my blog at all, you may know I am obsessed with fermentation. Many people on social media have told me they would love to try fermentation but they feel intimidated or worry they will poison their family. Fear not! The good microbes in fermented foods crowd out the bad guys, making the food very safe to eat. If you bought a pile of carrots for your Thanksgiving dinner, you could ferment those (so, so easy). Basically, you clean and slice carrots into sticks, stuff them in a jar, pour a brine of salty water over them and wait a few days for the microbes to do their magic. Go here for more info on fermenting vegetables in a brine.

Winter is coming

5. Compose a thneed-free gift list

In Dr. Suess’ book The Lorax, the Onceler destroys the entire truffula forest—and its ecosystem—to manufacture and sell useless crap and thus make his fortune. In the following quote he has chopped down the first tree and defines “thneed”:

Look, Lorax, calm down. There’s no cause for alarm. I chopped just one tree, I’m doing no harm. This thing is most useful! This thing is a ‘thneed.’ A thneed, a fine something-that-all-people-need! It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove! It’s a hat! But it has other uses, yes, far beyond that. You can use it for carpets, for pillows, for sheets, for curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!

If you must exchange gifts (my kids would freak out if I gave them nothing), you have many thneed-free options:

  • Experiences. Studies show that experiences bring more happiness than stuff. You could buy tickets to the symphony, ballet or opera or a yearly pass for a museum or other local attraction. I recently started skating again and would love a yearly pass for the skating rink (hint hint). Go here for a longer list of experiences as gifts.
  • Something homemade. Do you knit or sew? Throw pots? Paint? Turn wood? Even if you think you’re not crafty, I bet you can think of something really lovely to make and give away.
  • Second-hand whatever. I’ve found some amazing secondhand wares at our thrift shop and during the pandemic, thrift shops are bursting with all the stuff people have decluttered from their homes. Or check out your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Or join one if you haven’t. Someone wants to get rid of what you’re looking for.
  • Food. You can’t go wrong with good food. If you get confident with fermenting in #4, you could give away some delicious goodies like ginger beer or kombucha. Homemade cookies or chocolates simply can’t fail (unlike big banks…). A student who came to one of my kombucha classes told me she made flavored vodka to give away at Christmas last year. That sounded delicious. Go here for more gifts in jars (or bottles).

Happy Buy Nothing Day!

Image credit: Adbusters

11 Replies to “5 Activities for Buy Nothing Day, Formerly Known as Black Friday”

  1. Your place sounds like a lot more fun than a shopping mall on this holiday. Enjoy!

  2. all very good ideas …I have just spent a week in the city of melbourne ( a new grandchild) and I find so used am I to forest living that a week is way long enough. everywhere shops and cafes, everywhere people eyes down plugged into phones, everywhere the very visible rising distance between the wealthy and the poor. a sobering look at what passes for a life these days in which shopping figures hugely.
    we generally gift each other at christmas but this year who knows …certainly we will eat and cook and eat and cook again because we enjoy it because sitting around a table with family or friends eating lovely food is such a great thing to do and we will laugh and play a game or two or sit contentedly on a sunny verandah watching honeyeaters scoff into the buddleia flowers and the hens peck around our wild wild yard.
    have a good one

    1. Thanks, Sandra. Your Christmas sounds ideal. You can’t go wrong with good company and good food. My favorite memories of the holidays were the parties at my aunt’s house with all my cousins, aunts and uncles (not the presents). So much fun. You have a good holiday too 🙂

  3. This blog speaks my language! Thank you for making me aware of others out there who rose “above” the holiday insanity years ago…seems so simple…and so obvious.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      My pleasure, Kay. It is simple! ~ Anne Marie

  4. Fantastic ideas!! I definitely need to try the carrots recipe!

  5. Wonderful ideas! We will be playing board games!

  6. This ridiculous Black Friday nonsense is making its way to our little ol’ New Zealand. None of that for me thanks! I’m looking forward to a relaxing night in after work, watching a movie and eating some home made popcorn! 😀

  7. A gift of service sounds like a great gift to me – as recipient or as giver. Or teach someone else a craft or skill for their
    ‘gift’. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    1. Hi Janice,
      I love the idea of sharing a skill. That is a gift that keeps on giving! Thanks for reading the post 🙂

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