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. 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.
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 that battling crowds 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 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 recently had my sewing machine repaired and can now use the embroidery feature to sew the tare onto my bags. If you’re new to plastic-free and zero-waste shopping, know that many stores will deduct the weight of reusable cloth bags from the total weight of your food. That way you pay only for the actual food inside the bag and not the weight of the bag itself. I’ll eat more leftover pie as I work on these…
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…
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. To keep the carrots submerged in brine (that’s the only trick to fermentation), try using a narrow-neck jar as suggested in this fermented carrot recipe from Food Renegade.
5. Compose a thneed-free gift list
In Dr. Suess’ book The Lorax, the Onceler harvests and destroys the entire truffula forest—and its ecosystem—in order to use the raw materials to manufacture and sell useless crap and thus make his fortune. In the following quote he has chopped down the first tree and describes his product, the “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). I’ve heard about some wonderful fermentation workshops here in Mountain View. Those would make a great gift too 😉
- 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 pretty good second-hand wares in the last few months at garage sales, an antiques fair and here in the community where I live. My neighbors regularly bring me stuff they want to get rid of (see the sheets in #2).
- 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. Here’s a recipe for that from The Kitchn.