Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rethinking Black Friday

On the biggest shopping day of the year, my husband and I bought only two bagels and two coffees. It was a trip down to the local bagel shop and back. They know us there. We’re regulars. And that was it. No traffic, no stress, just a nice chewy bagel baked perfectly and smothered with gooey cream cheese. Let me tell you. It felt great to be home, to be together, the idea of shopping, the furthest thing from our minds. We are very lucky to have everything we need. And the things we want, no one can buy us – good health, world peace, and more time with each other, our family and friends. Time – the most important gift of all -- and yet we spend so much of our time working to pay for all the stuff we accumulate: stuff we don’t need that begins to clutter up our home and add stress to our lives as we try to find better ways to organize it all.

A few years ago my sister decided to simplify her life and told us all to stop buying her stuff. She introduced a game at Christmas called “Recycled Santa.” At first, we couldn’t understand why she or anyone would want used things for Christmas, but little by little over the years, her decision has helped us think about the things we buy, who made them, and the effect each purchase has on the planet. It took some real impulse control to stop going crazy at all the holiday sales and “Recycled Santa” took a little getting used to, but now our holidays are more focused on being together and listening to each other’s hearts.

Of course, there is always something wonderful about giving that perfect gift to the person you love, and there is nothing wrong with buying someone a gift, but it is also important not to feel pressured by the media advertising to spend needlessly. It takes the average American three months to pay off their credit card debt after the holidays. We are not helping our families by taking on debt. Our spending habits can promote a better world, support injustice, or contribute to global warming, so it is important to think about where our money goes. Nothing can make a bigger statement than how we spend or don’t spend our money!

Some considerations for this holiday season….

1. Really listen to what our loved ones want and need. When someone’s heart has been heard, the price of the gift is irrelevant.
2. Buy local if possible. Buying local keeps the money in the community, helps local retailers in business, and reduces fuel use.
3. Buy products that support your values. If it’s important to you that workers get healthcare or have the right to organize, you may not want to shop at Wal-mart.
4. Consider donating to a charity as a gift.
5. Museums, PBS, and NPR have great gift shops and purchases help support those institutions.

Sometimes we want to shop our values, but it can be challenging! Below are some links that might make it easier. will help you find products made by union workers. is a great independent bookstore that employees union workers. A great alternative to
Justice Clothing sells clothing made by union workers in U.S.A. and Canada.
The Certified Jean Company sells jeans made with organic cotton and by workers who earn a living wage.
Through Oxfam, you can buy a family in the developing world an animal that will help them be self-sufficient.
Dean's Beans sells fair trade coffee and you can design your own blend with your own label for the holidays.
Baby clothes made with organic cotton and adorned with inspirational sayings can be found at
Christmas Wreaths and Maine Crafts can be purchased at to help lower income people in Maine.
Hams, cheeses, organic foods, and Appalachian handicrafts can be purchased at to support the rural community. provides a list of green businesses. has a list of well known retailers that will donate to environmental causes if you purchase from them through this site.
Fair trade imported goods such as handicrafts, jewelry, linens, toys, musical instruments can be found at and and also has wonderful gift baskets.
Divine chocolate is fair trade, delicious and makes a nice hostess gift. sells beautiful organic flowers and gift baskets.
Equal Exchange sells fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate. sells great dvds and videos and the purchases support public broadcasting.
National Public Radio’s online-shop also sells interesting music, CDs, and other gifts. These purchases also support their programming.
The on-line store for the Metropolitan Museum of Art sells jewelry, scarfs, books, and more. Expensive, but beautiful.
Buying for Equality Guide helps you support businesses that support equal rights for gay people.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season! Enjoy the preparations!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the "Recycled Santa" idea. Oddly enough some of my favorite clothes are those that were handed down to me from friends or even purchased at the Salvation Army. "Used" things can be appealing in their "worn in" look or in the mystery of their existence before you were in the picture.