I want to explain why I don’t shop on Black Friday.
I worked retail for 6 years. A big box electronics store of all places. I was in charge of Inventory and Merchandising so that particular day was very important and stressful. I planned for months to ensure that Black Friday was successful. It had to be.
I’d start preparing as early as September. I’d plan product placement, inventory levels, customer flows, and employee schedules. I was even in charge of ordering food for the entire staff that day and planning lunch rotations. I ran that show and honestly, it was a lot of fun in the beginning. Shipments and trucks would start coming in full of cheap MP3 players, cheap photo frames, and about any other unnecessary door buster you can think of to get people inside.
People would line up days before Friday camping out in tents and sleeping bags sometimes skipping Thanksgiving altogether just to get their hands on a $200 TV. And I will never forget the one couple who deep fried a whole turkey inside their tent in front of the store. I don’t know how that didn’t end up badly. The droves of people were insane. We’d specifically have to put up barricades and hire security just to keep the peace until the shopping event was over. It was all quite sad.
Every year, I would have to go into work earlier and earlier. My last year there, I remember having to leave my families’ Thanksgiving early in order to be at work on time. I worked over 15 hours that day because we were expected to handle the amount of people who’d rather cut family time short to shop sales. And I know many others who work in the retail industry had similar stories. And yes, it’s easy to just say, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to work retail.” I get it. But for many people, the option to choose any job merely out of not wanting to work on holidays, isn’t necessarily an option.
A day that, for so long, was set aside for friends and family to be thankful for the time they got to spend with each other has been taken over by greedy corporations attempting to scrape in a little more money. They cast that line, and we bite. Now, I’m not saying that you should be ashamed if you venture out to take advantage of something you need that is on sale. Not at all. If there is something you legitimately need and can only afford it on Black Friday, then by all means, take care of yourself! But if you are blindly throwing money away at the sake of getting something cheap, I think it’s time to assess what the holidays are really about.
Many of the problems we face today in relation to our waste issues is a result of over consumption and Black Friday is the national holiday for consuming. Instead, wait until Saturday and support small businesses during the “Shop Small” event or look for alternative ways to gift during the holidays. Just be mindful of those who have to sacrifice their holidays to make it so that you can shop.
Instead of shopping this year, I decided to join United By Blue for Blue Friday. United By Blue’s mission is to host clean ups to ensure that waste doesn’t make it to our waterways. They also sell sustainable goods that are made from recycled plastic bottles so that those don’t make it into our gyres as well.
I met up with Zero Waste Geek and his daughter to clean up our parkways and extra trashy areas near water runoffs to do our part. It didn’t take us long to find loads of litter, sadly. Since we do not live near an ocean, we always opt to clean up areas that are more likely to wash into our rivers which in turn, end up in our oceans. We live near the Missouri River. When combined with the lower Mississippi, the Missouri and its headwaters form part of the fourth-longest river system in the world, at 3,745 miles. That’s a lot of access for our waste, inland, to make it to the ocean which, each year, is approximately 8 million tons of just plastic waste. It’s a problem we work to bring attention to every day.
I think it total, we managed to recover about 100 lbs of waste including plastic bottles, cans, a massive amount of beer bottles, 3 tires, paper, cardboard, cigarette butts, and sadly, a used syringe.
We sorted what could be recycled, which was way more than half of it, and took it to our local recycling center. All in all, a very successful day.