Five Things to Do on Black Friday That Don’t Involve the Mall

Posted by – November 25, 2015
Categories: Ecology & Sustainability Society & Politics

It would be dishonest for me to claim that I’ve always been disinterested in the sales on Black Friday. Fortunately, none of my experiences involved camping out outside a store, physical violence, or any kind of police intervention. Just your run-of-the-mill shopping sprees that started with scraping ice off of my windshield at 4 AM and went downhill from there. I can’t really say what changed for me, but something did. Maybe it’s just that I finally spent some time thinking about the things that make me happy and realized that none of them are at a mall. In fact, “not being at the mall” is on my list of things that make me happy. I’m not saying I’m above the whole idea of shopping for and giving gifts. But, I do think the whole idea of giving gets a little out of hand this time of year.

One of the many unfortunate symptoms of an economic system that requires growth in order to function is that having enough just doesn’t feel like enough anymore. In order for our system to work, we have to always want more, and be convinced that the people we love want more, too. This frenzy to always be buying comes at the great expense of our planet and our selves. According to Charles Eisenstein: “If everyone on Earth lived the lifestyle of a traditional Indian villager, it is arguable that even 12 billion would be a sustainable world population. If everyone lives like an upper-middle-class North American (a status to which much of the world seems to aspire), then even two billion is unsustainable.” (You can read his excellent article on population stability and consumption on The Guardian.) Outliving our resources is a very scary and very real prospect, but it’s not too late to start making changes.

Events like Buy Nothing Day, and REI’s Opt Outside campaign are a step in the right direction. Sure, it’s a little sad that we need permission not to buy, and an ad campaign that reminds us to go outside, but if that’s what it takes, so be it. Let’s start somewhere. So, in that spirit, here are five ways you can spend your Friday that don’t involve the mall (or buying anything at all!):


  1. Take a hike. If you’re in California, check out one of our amazing redwood forests—they’re all open to the public and free on November 27! (This is where you’ll find me!).
  2. Volunteer. Many of families like to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day. This is a wonderful and very popular tradition. So popular, in fact, that a lot of organizations are overwhelmed by the support they get on holidays. Volunteering at a less popular hour or on a less popular day (say at midnight on Black Friday when the door buster sales begin) helps more evenly distribute the work.
  3. Start making presents. Just because you’re not buying anything doesn’t mean you can’t find a gift! Lots of DIY projects involve many things you probably already have at home. You can make some cool things using papier-mâché, which doesn’t need much more than  flour, water, newspaper, and a good idea!
  4. Treat yourself. It may be the season for giving, but don’t forget yourself in all of this. You may need some time to decompress or detox after your Thanksgiving feast. Take some time to catch your breath and practice a little self-care. Whether that means starting a cleanse, doing some yoga, or just putting your feet up, spend some time on yourself.
  5. Read a book. You probably saw this one coming. If you’ve got a whole day off, start making your way through that stack of books you’ve been meaning to get to. Or, go out and discover something new! Libraries are open!
Tags: DIY

About the Author

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Julia was delighted to find out that “professional book recommender” was a job. She has been working in marketing and publicity with independent Bay Area publishers ever since. She joined North Atlantic Books in 2014. She lives with her husband and two very nice cats in Oakland.