Have a very Merry Merry Thriftmas
Time to start buying used gifts, people!
It’s Black Friday, which means you are probably, at some point today, going to buy something online or in a store because it’s really cheap and you may need it someday. Why not? It’s a chance to get one over on those retailers like Amazon who you are always giving all your money. Last year on Black Friday I bought footie pajamas on Amazon for the baby, in 2018 I bought some really cheap leggings and a iPhone holder for the car. In 2019, for some reason, I showed restraint.
But I tried something new this year, all in the name of stunt journalism. As I’ve been writing about American consumerism, I've started to really think about what all this shopping is doing to the planet. Around 45% of global emissions are from making and using the products we buy every day, so even if we stop using fossil fuels, we have a lot of room to go. One solution? The circular economy, where we make stuff so that it can be re-used again and again, rather than thrown away.
In my latest story, I tried to buy used stuff for holiday gifts. (Spoiler alert for the people I mention in this article who now know they are getting used stuff!)
I already participate in the circular economy to some degree, in part because getting ahold of good quality used stuff became one of my hobbies during the pandemic. I signed up for a Facebook group, Buy Nothing San Francisco, where people post things they no longer want, and other people comment on their posts to claim them. You have to move fast to win out, but I’ve gotten a bunch of huge boxes of clothes for the baby, a Jumperoo, and lots of baby books. Yesterday I got a bag of flour from a neighbor one block away. I went onto NextDoor and got a free carseat and two strollers. I got rid of lots of stuff too, including baby clothes and plants and a hiking baby carrier.
But doing this for gifts was harder. As worried as I am about climate change, I didn’t want to send the wrong message to loved ones by giving them some junk I found at the Salvation Army. Gifts are supposed to be special, not someone else’s discarded stuff. Is it really fair to assuage my conscience about climate change this way? On the other hand, Americans have been conditioned to think that they can show how much they care about someone by spending a lot of money on a gift, and I’m sure many of the new things I’ve bought people are sitting around gathering dust.
I interviewed a few people who are also giving only used this year, because of supply chain backups and climate worries, and also talked to some economists about what would happen if everyone in the U.S. stopped buying stuff. I wish I could say it’s going to become a habit, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to go browse some Black Friday deals after I publish this post. At least this year, I’ll see if I can find something used first. Which is, I think, a start?