Happy family playing with leaves in beautiful autumn park.

The pandemic makes Black Friday crowds even scarier than usual (not to mention leaving lots of folks flat broke). The good news? More people than ever may be ready to participate in Buy Nothing Day.

Lying somewhere between a protest and an alternative holiday, Buy Nothing Day was invented by Canadian artist Ted Dave as a challenge to find out what it feels like to step completely outside of consumer culture for just one day. If you’re up for the challenge, here are a few socially distant Black Friday alternatives that could even put you on the path to buying less all year long.

The more you consume, the less you live.
This year, Buy Nothing Day is Friday, November 26. (Poster above is from Buy Nothing Day 2019.) Image: adbusters.org

DIY Gifts

Gift-giving can be one of the most meaningful parts of the holiday season. But the average American racks up more than $1,000 of holiday credit card debt each year, and fewer than half of them will pay it off before Easter.

So instead of shopping, why not make gifts for your loved ones? Handmade holiday gifts are more meaningful, and can be more environmentally friendly, too. You can use essential oils, Mason jars, old books, and even your cut-up credit cards to make eco-chic gifts like handmade beauty products. You can use the skills to make thoughtful homemade gifts year-round for birthdays and other special events.

Go Outside

You can get a lot of exercise walking around the mall but carrying all those shopping bags will help your wallet lose as much weight as you do.

Try getting outside instead. Outdoor exercise boosts your mood and immune health as well as your metabolism. Kids benefit as much as – or more than – adults. So take them on a winter nature scavenger hunt. You can even find nature in the city if you know where to look. Follow the Scandinavian’s example and get outside in all kinds of weather.

Once you’ve gotten used to winter biking, hiking, or just playing outside, keeping up the healthy habit in summer will be easy.

Read a Book

Even if you enjoy shopping, odds are that cozying up with a good book is more relaxing. Take advantage of the long weekend to catch up on your TBR list. You could dig into the roots of environmental nonfiction or explore its contemporary branches. Maybe you will change your shopping habits for good after reading books to counter consumerism.

Make reading a family affair this Buy Nothing Day with captivating picture books about recycling, Green Earth Awards-winning children’s books, or books that expertly teach kids about the environment.


You don’t have to put the garden to bed in the fall.

The long weekend is the perfect time to replant, build a cold frame, go vertical, and mulch to keep your garden going all winter. You can even get the kids involved. But if it’s really too cold for a winter garden outside, consider starting an indoor garden or using your garden leftovers inside. If you do it right, growing your own food is good economics year-round, and a little extra work in the fall will give your garden the best start next spring.

Originally published on November 23, 2020, this article was updated in November 2021.

By Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.