Let the Shopping Begin!

Today is Black Friday, which is “often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season” (Wikipedia article). The term ‘Black Friday’ originates in “Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving” (Wikipedia article). Origins of the name are also attributed to the profit accrued by retailers on this day (i.e. ‘in the black’ rather than ‘in the red’) (Wikipedia article).

Although historically an American event, more and more Canadian retailers are finding it possible to keep shoppers within Canada due to shifts in the currency rate, border crossing hassles, earlier opening times and greater deals (Davison, November 2013Strauss, November 2013; National Post, November 2013). Even online retailers, like my friends over at GiftCardRescue, are getting into the spirit of shopping with pre-Black Friday sales and releasing shopping strategies for the Black Friday madness onto their social media sites.

I must admit that this year I feel a hint of greed wafting through my soul. After years of being in (and paying for) school, the knowledge that I don’t have to spend money on tuition next semester provides the heady feeling that I have some spending money available to purchase new clothing and other paraphernalia. But something holds me back. I know that movements like Buy Nothing Day provide an “international day of protest against consumerism” (Wikipedia article). Buy Nothing Christmas sends out the same message with associated moral implications. Either way, my values towards and perspectives of shopping are being subliminally pulled in opposite directions to influence my purchase behavior.

Most prominent in my mind is the wastage associated with frivolous purchases. It’s fine if you donate your gently used clothing and other goods to wonderful stores like Talize or Value Village; even better if you take your old goods and try ‘upcycling‘ them (i.e. converting them into new materials or products of better quality). But it’s quite another issue if you use the item for a few months and then throw it away in the garbage.

Waterloo Region is currently struggling with financing garbage collection and disposal, as our waste management department is “expected to post a deficit of at least $4.3 million this year” (Desmond, October 2013). There are proposals to turn waste management into a separate utility, or implement a cost for every bag put out on the curb (a system commonly used in other Ontario municipalities) (CTV Kitchener, November 2013Desmond, October 2013). But I ask – why not reduce the waste at the source, and try to generate less overall? This local family has undertaken the related quest to reduce their household garbage to only one bag per year. Buying products that last longer is one simple way of achieving this goal.

Regardless, I don’t think that I’ll be engaging in a free-for-all of shopping this year. Though I know that many people are saying ‘let the shopping begin!’ in this season of buying, I would suggest that we should all think carefully about how and what we buy, as well as what the eventual environmental impact of that product will be.

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