Today is Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Many of us choose to actually boycott shopping on this day as a statement to corporate America that we will not acquiesce to an arbitrary designation compelling us to shop 'til we drop on the day after (American) Thanksgiving, just because they said so. Also known as Buy Nothing Day, activists often choose this day to gather in shopping malls for events such as cutting up credit cards, or forming long conga lines of empty shopping carts at Walmart, clogging the aisles, getting in the way of eager shoppers, and of course, buying nothing.
This year, Adbusters is targeting MTV, who refused to air a Buy Nothing Day ad. From the Adbusters' Buy Nothing Day website:
Action update: MTV, the channel that markets itself to hip youth, has decreed that our Buy Nothing Day public service spot "goes further than we are willing to accept on our channels". Gangsta rap and sexualized, semi-naked school girls are okay, but apparently not a burping pig talking about consumption. If you object to this sort of corporate censorship, why not send them a message now?
We never shop on Black Friday, choosing instead to eschew that activity for staying at home and spending nothing. Does our private boycott really have an effect? Possibly on some less tangible level, but it sure feels good to buck the popular trend. As stated on Wikepedia: while critics of the day charge that Buy Nothing Day simply causes participants to buy the next day, Adbusters states that it "isn't just about changing your habits for one day" but "about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste."
In terms of holiday shopping, I am making my annual appeal to the readers of Digital Doorway to consider some options other than the usual American corporate suspects. Some selected websites for "alternative" holiday shopping:
Giveline: forget Amazon.com. Giveline offers millions of products, with each purchase generating charitable contributions to your favorite charity. Gift cards and on-line gift cards are available, the recipient having the ability to choose which charity receives a percentage of their gift.
The Hunger Site: offers special gifts from around the world which benefit those in need with each purchase
as well as....
The Breast Cancer Site, The Child Health Site, The Literacy Site, The Rainforest Site, The Animal Rescue Site
And not forgetting...
For kids, you can adopt an endangered animal from the World Wildlife Fund or Defenders of Wildlife, and they will send the child a certificate of adoption and a plush stuffed animal representing the adopted creature.
Remember, for those friends and families who have everything, you can also give money to a favorite charity in their name. Many charities and non-profits will send a card to the recipient to let them know that you have donated in their name, or you can simply make a homemade gift certificate telling your loved one about the organization to which you donated.
So, remember----you don't have to line the pockets of corporate America just because it's holiday time. Spend judiciously, shop locally if you can, and consider avoiding toys and items manufactured by cheap labor in places like China and Mexico, where workers are mistreated, environmental standards are lax, and the pay is reprehensibly low. Choose toys and gifts made with durable and natural materials, if possible. Look for items that are not sealed in redundant and wasteful plastic packaging. Spending a few dollars more at a local business can have far-reaching effects, decreasing the ability of malls and Big Box stores to destroy local businesses struggling to remain open on a Main Street near you. At this (and any) time of year, you wield a great deal of economic power in terms of when, how, where (and whether!) you open your purse or wallet. Use your power wisely!