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The Dark Side of Black Friday Shopping

Black Friday shopping starts today and with The National Research Federation predicting sales for 2012 will increase over this US holiday – it seems that the movement to boycott this shopping day is not working. I’ve written about Black Friday in the past (click here) but this year I asked my friend Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot to give me a glimpse into the after effects of consumerism through the eyes of a person who is an expert on personal waste. Hopefully the message of over-consuming is not missed by those planning on shopping Black Friday deals. You see, Barb sees the ugly side of the holidays and she also sees the side of Black Friday few people know. The majority of people see this method of shopping as a way to save a few dollars and perhaps even help support the US economy. What a recycling depot sees are the tons of un-opened gifts that start arriving in the trash after the holidays. Gift wrap and discarded gifts (that were never opened from their packaging!!)  are the dark side of a recycling depot in January. Face it or not, when you are purchasing a gift based off price – you are not shopping with any sort of Eco-conscience. When you are shopping based only from cost alone – several things are happening:

– the product is probably manufactured overseas. So how does purchasing it help the US or local economy?

– the product might be unsafe with lead or phthalate levels because the cheapest materials have been used in manufacturing.

– consumers overspend. We all probably head to the Walmarts of the world with a list but we look around and start seeing items in bins for $1. Thinking we can’t possible give up a bargain like this we buy it.

– stores that offer the greatest sale discounts are big box and do not think about packaging or the huge footprint it took to transport the product into their store. Is the cost of that $1 trinket still only $1 if it will exist on earth for 100s of years after it’s been trashed? Is that item still $1 if it’s wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam that cannot be recycled? The facts are – when the toll on the earth is so great from that $1 item – it’s true cost is no longer $1.

Barb actually gave me a quote today that was amazing and I’d like to share it. She works at one of the most progressive recycling depots in Western Canada. I’ve been there, seen how much they can recycle, so it’s important to listen to someone who knows waste.

We are culturally conditioned to want to create displays of abundance. In most cultures and history there is feasts and gifts, so we must create behavioral changes where we create and satisfy those needs but without all the consumption and waste. We need to get into “creative abundance” where maybe we put photos under the tree and everyone shares memories and stories about each other, Maybe those old plastic farm animals toys become symbols of donations we have given to aid organizations in someone else’s name. I see the ghosts of Christmas past throughout the year, bags of awful plastic toys, useless products…

To put a visual along with this quote from Barb, I found a video published by our friends at The Story Of Stuff. It’s called Tis The Season To Get Trampled… and it is driving the movement to ‘Buy Nothing Do Something’ over Thanksgiving this year. I sat and watched this video with my children and their mouths just hung open. Then of course they giggled because they couldn’t believe adults act like this over stuff! Have a watch with your children and then try to justify going shopping later that evening. You might just decide to stay in and choose family over frenzy.

Barb has also given me some stats regarding Canadian waste over the holiday season. I’m posting these facts so that you can think about personal waste while starting your Christmas shopping. Will you be contributing to another person’s personal waste by your gift giving choices?  Thanks for these Barb!

Every person will throw away an average of 110lbs of waste this holiday season

3,000 tons of foil will be used

Canadians will consume 4.3 million turkeys.

2,6 billion greeting cards will be sent

27.8 million real Christmas trees will be decorated

7.3 million fake trees will be purchased

6 millions rolls of tape will be used

250,000 tons of plastic packaging will be discarded

So with the high level of greenwashing that happens from ‘green gift lists’ this year – cut through the crap and ask yourself 3 questions: where is this made? what is it made from? how do I get rid of it? If you can get a positive answer on any of these questions while your shopping – you are no longer shopping based purely off price. You are now shopping based off price and thinking like an Eco Ninja – which is way cooler. Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the US!

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