The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

November 23, 2012

Black Friday: To Buy or Not to Buy?

I’ve got a conundrum.  It’s Black Friday, the day in the U.S. when the holiday shopping frenzy officially begins.  Environmentalists decry this day of conspicuous consumption, advocating Buy Nothing Day instead.  And normally, I would be one of them.  But this year, I actually have something to sell:  my book.  In fact, I’ve planned a super cute gift pack with a copy of Plastic-Free, a copy of the Bag It DVD (which is packaged in a paper pulp case), and a cute reusable cotton gift bag from Green Planet Parties.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it), I can’t sell this to you today because demand for the book has been so high, it’s sold out!  The publisher ordered a second printing, but it has been delayed.   The books were supposed to have arrived in the warehouse several weeks ago, but so far, no books.  (Keeping my fingers crossed for this week!)

Now, I have a confession to make:  I’ve been unable to sleep for the past week, as I obsess about my missing books.  Not that there is anything I can do about the situation.  It’s out of my hands.  I need to just breath.  Meditate.  Focus on the present moment.   And realize that getting people to buy new stuff — even my own book — is not my mission.  I need to think about what really is important to me: connection with people rather than selling to people.

So it’s serendipitous that my local public radio station, KQED, is airing a program today on alternatives to buying gifts for the holidays.  They’ll be interviewing my friend Katy Wolk-Stanley of The Non-Consumer Advocate, who has been working on buying nothing new for the past 5 years, and they will be calling me for a 5-minute chat on how I’ve reduced my purchases of new stuff as a way to reduce my plastic consumption.

Introducing Yerdle

The other guest on the KQED show today is Adam Werbach, former director of the Sierra Club and founder of a brand new web app called Yerdle, which makes it easy to swap, borrow, or share things via Facebook friends.  Yerdle officially launched today — Black Friday — to encourage people to share rather than buy new stuff.  As soon as I finish listening to this program, I’m going to jump on and list some things that I no longer need.

Don’t Get Trampled

Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff Project released this short video to highlight the ugly side of Black Friday and to suggest alternatives.  It’s great.  Please share widely.

Mindful Consumption?

Do you think there is such a thing as mindful consumption?  I mean, we all have to consume to stay alive.  And some new things are worthwhile.  (My book, for example!)  What’s the balance for you?


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Linda LaRue

Promote your book and accompanying DVD as a New Year package, if you can. It is perfectly consistent with new beginnings.


I bought some Corningware on Black Friday and was pleasantly surprised that there was NO plastic in the packaging! Cardboard only, separating all the pieces.

Eve Stavros

Last year I gave everyone (but the wee kiddies) charitable donations in their name, given as hand-made cards or paper items which represented their gift, and it was a big hit with family & friends. With so many people in the world (esp. my home state of NJ) not having any sort of Christmas at all this year, I feel selfish buying into the whole consume, consume, consume especially when I don’t NEED anything! So, expect more of the same this year.


Thank you for an inspiring talk here in Port Townsend, WA last week! Today when I went for a walk on our pristine Puget Sound beach, I thought of you again because of everything that had washed up with the storms and high tides. I wrote about it here:

Beth Terry

I wish I could have stayed longer and taken a walk along Puget Sound. It’s sad that wherever we go in the world these days, there are masses of plastic trash.


We are consumers by nature, but not maliciously. We eat, we use resources for housing, fire (heat, cooking), transportation (boats, shoes). I’m a Buddhist but I think the word mindful has lost its meaning. It has become too passive. We just don’t need to call living consumption just because the press does. We don’t need to become mindful consumers. We don’t need to think of ourselves as consumers at all. We will use things. The more we get connected again as neighbors, communities, the less we’ll feel comfortable consuming selfishly. I’ve been making my children’s Christmas presents since they were… Read more »

Beth Terry

Thank you.

Julie Marsall

Thank you. I make all of my Christmas gifts…nooooo shopping for me. Love your blog darlin’. So proud you sold out. And you have inspired my own life changes.


Freecycle, ususally organized by city or county, is another great way to pass along stuff that’s no longer personally useful, or to get stuff you need but don’t necessarily need to purchase new.


I refuse to shop on Thanksgiving because I don’t think we should be ruining another family holiday due to the commercialism of Christmas. I get irritated that everyone expects gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Feeling obligated to buy someone something takes the whole joy out of the gift-giving experience for me. The Black Friday mayhem seems insane to me, and I’ve never understood the mentality. The stores use our competitive and impulsive nature to get us to buy a bunch of random garbage we don’t need. We thought about going out this morning to buy some specific items we’ve been… Read more »


I did the Black Friday thing for the first time last year, it was not worth it except that I ran into some of my favorite former students, so oddly, my biggest gain from Black Friday was totally immatterial. I always thought it was kind of silly to try to do “Buy Nothing Day” on Black Friday when no one would notice. I think there is such a thing as mindful consumerism and it is important, it’s a little self serving since my job is to make expensive electric cars, but you have to buy new sometimes, and when you… Read more »

Donna S

I am choosing not to spend the day at the mall today, because I can’t buy into the madness the is Black Friday. I do think there is mindful consumption. I think moderation is what we need to learn in our country, about everything! Oh, and don’t stress about the book – it would make an awesome New Years resolution item. We are also doing an Experience Christmas this year.


Experince Chrismases are the best, especially for adults. I did one with my former husband’s family when a family friend was trying out for the Olympics and it was one of the best Christmases ever, and another year one of my friends got us all tickets to “Wicked” it’s the answer to the problem of someone having everything.


Beth, congratulations for selling out, in the best possible way of course.For years I have not celebrated any holidays and feel the family burden to buy something for someone. When I say i do not want anything I am looked at like a grinch, I just do not want stuff for the sake of stuff or someone’s guilty conscience.


Congratulations on selling out! I’m still decluttering. Nothing new for us for Christmas if we can convince the relatives. We have decided to have an Experience Christmas. We are going to give each other experiences. Except the kids get new Canadian made Kamik rain & snow boots. I use frecycle lists to locate new-to-us toys and liberate ones we are done with. When people threaten to give me an object I ask for artisan made earrings. At least they are small and likely metal. We go shopping for stocking stuffers at our food coop – splitting a few hundred dollars… Read more »

Beth Terry

Good to know! I’ll post on Facebook that you have copies. How many do you have?


Thanks, Beth. I have 6 copies. The book costs $15 to post o the US by Air Mail, though because it’s over 500g! Write a lighter book next time!

Beth Terry

LOL. The book turned out to be twice as long as what was specified in my contract, and I still couldn’t include everything I wanted to!