green friday

5 alternatives to black Friday

green friday sunflower animalia project susan ask

Make it a green friday as an alternative to black friday. animalia project photo by susan ask

The news is full of black Friday.  ‘Buy nothing day’ is one alternative to the post-Thankfulness gluttony.  This year, try more than buy nothing— do something.

Some ideas to counter the consumption:

1. visit a favorite park or natural area

If you’re thankful for the pleasure, exercise, fresh air and inspiration you get from walking outside, go out and enjoy!  This time, bring a garbage pail & some gloves and clean up some litter.  Recycle or dispose of the litter properly.  Consider taking public transit to get there; the transit to trails blog offers a guide.

You can also join a scheduled volunteer event to take part in a bigger cleanup.  In the Chicago region, look for volunteer opportunities here.

2. cook with leftovers

You’re probably already planning to eat leftovers, but take the opportunity to start a new habit.  Plan a menu around what you have on hand, and what needs to be used up soon.  It’s a great habit to adopt year-round to eat better, for less money, with less waste.

Get started by putting your leftovers in the fridge promptly; click here for more details from Michigan State University Extension.

What does this have to do with sustainability?  It reduces food waste—which means less landfill, less energy/land/water/materials used to grow, raise and transport food that’s never even used.  According the Environmental Protection Agency, 36 million tons of food was landfilled in 2011¹.  As food breaks down in landfills, methane– a powerful greenhouse gas– is created.

A few vegan ‘recipes’ for using leftovers, based on 25+ years of vegetarian cooking:

  • vegan hash:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables/beans/tofu/seitan and sauté them in olive oil for 10 minutes—until heated through and slightly browned— add salt and pepper if needed and serve with leftover toasted or grilled bread or rolls.
  • veggie pot pie:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables/beans/tofu/seitan and put them in a pie plate.  Pour in any leftover sauce or gravy.  If you don’t have gravy, make some by sautéing a little chopped onion in olive oil, adding some corn starch or flour, then whisking in some rice milk, stock or water.  Cover the mélange with leftover mashed potatoes or a simple biscuit crust and bake for 45 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven.
  • soup:  chop up any leftover cooked vegetables/beans/tofu/seitan and put them in a pot with stock or water.  Add salt, pepper and other spices as needed.  Heat through and serve with leftover bread or rolls.
  • fresh veggie salad or sandwich:  chop up any leftover fresh vegetables, mix them in new combinations with dried fruit or nuts for a salad.  Put the veggies on toast with hummus for a sandwich.
  • dessert:  if there are any leftover sweets….. freeze them before they disappear.

If you have more leftovers than you can use, freeze them.  A great reference for preserving food comes from University of Georgia Extension; here’s a link to their guide to freezing leftovers.

3.  get rid of junk mail

junk mail animalia project susan ask

Get rid of junk mail to save energy, waste, paper, water and other resources. animalia project photo by susan ask

Reduce the volume of junk mail sent to your house.  Log-in or call-up to have your name removed from mailing lists.  Make sure to ask them to remove your name permanently.  There are several options:

  • contact the company or organization directly, via their website or toll-free number
  • send the postage-paid reply envelope back to them with instructions to remove your name from all their  lists
  • log in to Catalogue Choice and have your name removed from a bunch of lists
  • contact the Direct Marketing Association to have your name and address removed from lists of direct marketers

Do this again after the holidays, because if anyone has a gift sent to you directly by a retailer, you’re likely to start getting catalogs.

4.  mend something

Extend the useful life of clothes, furniture, blankets and anything else that’s languishing in a pile.  If you don’t know how to sew or a button or drive a nail, look for instructions online where there are more than enough instructables, youtube videos and diy-guides to basic repairs.  Evaluate the reliability of the source, so you don’t do more harm than good.

5.  make a donation

Just make sure the organization you love doesn’t add you to their mailing list!



¹US E.P.A. Reducing Wasted Food Basics


author:  Susan Ask

updated 10/2/13