Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being green while saving green on Black Friday

Each Thanksgiving, while the bird is roasting, the women in our family rip apart the newspaper, scouring ads for promised deals for the next day. Our list is written by time of day, in the hopes of scoring the deal. Then, Friday morning, we join hundreds - OK, thousands - of bargain hunters. For us, it's about the camaraderie - and the hunt. (And for the record, we're usually done by the time the men wake up!)

If you, like our family, are on the hunt for deals this weekend, there are a few ways to make this ritual just a little bit greener. Even if you're not ready to give up this holiday tradition, a little common sense and courtesy can actually make a difference in overall consumption of our precious resources.

Make a realistic plan. Unless there's something you desperately need, hold off on the excess and camping out for hours outside of an electronics store or whoever has the 4 a.m. sale. The best case scenario is you'll freeze your buns and get that laptop your kid wants for college.

The worse case? You waste gas and electricity, trying to stay warm in the car, waste time and precious sleep, and come away empty handed (or with something not on your list, just to justify your time!).

Along the same lines, does driving across town to shop at a particular store really save you that much? If not, reconsider that stop on your schedule.

Park and walk. It's a concept, I know. You'd be amazed by the number of people who circle the mall lots like vultures, searching for a close parking spot. It's wasteful, and it's better to burn off yesterday's feast and park in the far ends of a lot and hike in.

Watch your excess. Sure, it's tempting to stock up on sales, but think twice. Not only does carrying lots of bags set you up to be mugged or your car broken into, but you also may be buying things you simply don't need.

Seek out local vendors. While they may not have the splashy ads the chain stores do, local stores may have sales, offer unique gift items and may have great parking. Plus, you have the added benefit of helping the local economy, and, depending on the store, purchasing locally produced or sustainable items.

Watch your plastic. Seek out gift items with as little packaging as possible.

Buy practical. It may not seem as much fun, but it's no less appreciated in a tough economy. Besides, how many lotion gift baskets can a girl need?

Shop online. It doesn't offer the same ambience as being with a thousand of your closest friends in the mall, but many retailers extend the same pricing on their Web sites. Shipping is already done for you, so you save an extra trip to the post office. It's convenient, and if you do miss the holiday magic, throw on a Christmas CD and sip a cup of cocoa.

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