It’s Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the United States, a time retail stores offer deals aimed at enticing shoppers to buy frenziedly, kicking off the Christmas shopping season. From an environmental perspective, the “black” in Black Friday could stand for the day’s effect on the earth itself, assuming black is in opposition to say, green. In our rush to get the advertised “deals,” we often forget that it’s not all about money. Cheaper rarely means better in terms of the effect of the “stuff” we’re buying on the environment. Take electronics, items high on most gift lists this season.
Whether you’re lusting after a big-screen TV, computer, iPad or e-book reader, or a game console, remember this: manufacturers save money by cutting corners, such as using toxic materials in manufacturing products and processes (and exposing their employees to those toxics), disposing of toxics irresponsibly, and by not building in recycling programs for the products themselves, which then become toxic waste. Cheap products are often energy hogs too.
How do you find which electronics are “greener”? One place to check is the Electronics TakeBack Coalition’s shopping guide. Digital Tips also has a handy calculator to determine how much your electronics will cost you in energy use, plus lists of recycling programs, and tips for saving energy.
No product is entirely environmentally friendly. So the bottom line about buying on Black Friday or any other day: be moderate, and pick your purchases carefully. Stuff is made from natural resources, consumes energy, and becomes waste. Buying responsibly–and buying less–is the most environmentally friendly strategy.
If you’re going to buy stuff though, especially if you’ve got kids of the picture-book age to shop for, here’s a recommendation for a thoughtful purchase: Sofia’s Dream, the book above. Why? First, it’s about being thoughtful about our impact on the environment. Second, Land Wilson’s story is charming, written entirely in rhyme that’s not too sweet for kids and has a rhythm parents will enjoy reading:
Sofia was a thoughtful girl,/who called the moon her giant pearl.
As nights passed and the moon would grow,/she marveled at its opal glow.
One bright night in a dreamy state,/Sofia heard a sound quite late.
As she peeked around at all her toys,/she wondered which one made a noise.
Turns out the noise comes from the moon. Sofia and the moon begin nightly chats, and soon become friends. The moon has something to say, and Sofia’s dream-journey to visit the moon gives her a new perspective on Earth and her place in it.
Lastly, the book is from innovative kids’ book publisher Little Pickle Press (which also published What Does it Mean to be Present?, a title I reviewed back in August). Little Pickle Press cares enough to be environmentally responsible. Each title includes an environmental accounting statement summarizing the energy and resource cost of the paper used. Sofia’s Dream is printed on a paper made of 50% total recycled fibers, the majority post-consumer, in an acid- and chlorine-free process, powerd by wind power–not bad!
It’s still stuff, but Sofia’s Dream seems more than worth the cost, both in terms of dollars and the environment. (Full disclosure: This post is part of the blog book tour for Sofia’s Dream; I did not receive any compensation for the review. Check out the rest of the tour at the Little Pickle Press blog.)
In the tradition of Black Friday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Little Pickle Press is giving out one iPod Shuffle each week during the blog book tour for Sofia’s Dream. (iPod Shuffles, by the way, earn good ratings for environmentally friendly materials and manufacture, unlike some MP3 players, which include components made with carginogenic flame-retardant compounds and PVCs.) You can register for the drawing at the Little Pickle Press blog. Simply click the link and leave a comment on the blog with your name and email address. The drawing will be held at noon CST on Saturday.
Good luck, and please buy responsibly!