If the high price of some green goods has prevented you from buying them in the past, Black Friday – and Cyber Monday, the online shopping spree that happens four days after Thanksgiving – may offer the opportunity to finally give them a try. Retailers usually slash prices 30-50%, which helps make eco-friendly products more affordable. As we get closer to the big day – November 25 – I'll let you know about bargains I think are worthwhile, not because it's Black Friday particularly, but just because I think it's a smart way to use the power of your big green purse to send a message to manufacturers that green is the best "black" there is. For now, here are categories to consider if you want to make a shopping list.
Organic food can cost as much as 30% more than food that's been conventionally grown using pesticides or under inhumane conditions for animals and people. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that staples like organic milk, meat, poultry and fresh vegetables will be on sale just because it's Black Friday. But specialty foods – like chocolate, tea and coffee, nuts, and dried fruits – are likely to have their prices slashed, particularly at more conventional grocery stores where they're seen as a premium item. I expect online retailers to offer bargains on gift packs of these items – but there's no reason why you can't buy them for yourself.
ELECTRONICS and APPLIANCES
I hate to encourage anyone to buy more electronics, given how much e-waste is piling up. However, if you're truly in need of a new phone, tablet, computer, or printer, Black Friday is the day to buy it. Do your research now so you can aim for the most energy-efficient, eco-friendly equipment; check this Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics to pick the most environmentally responsible company for the item you want. Plan now to recycle your old equipment when you replace it; stores like Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot accept almost any electronic device, regardless of the manufacturer. If you still don't have an energy-saving power strip, get one of those while you're at it. Appliances will include the federal government Energy Guide sticker to help you choose the refrigerator, freezer, washer or dryer that uses the least amount of energy.
While you'll find fashion bargains galore on November 25, not many of them are likely to be green, especially at the mall. Sadly, stores like Macy's, Target, Ann Taylor, Chico's, Express, Coldwater Creek, and the Limited are embarrassingly limited when it comes to dresses, shirts, pants, and other couture made from organic or eco-friendly fibers. You might have some luck at H&M; the last time I was in there, I found skirts and blouses made from organic cotton, and some sweaters made from recycled polyester. If you're not looking for dressy work clothes, head over to Lands End, Northface, Patagonia, and REI. Patagonia has done a particularly good job of using recycled fibers to make its vests and jackets; plus, you can recycle old t-shirts and other clothes at Patagonia when you shop.
More and more fine jewelry stores are offering bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings made from recycled gold, reclaimed stones, and diamonds sourced from humane and fair trade mines. Before you buy, ask to see certification that shows where the jewels originally came from.
TOWELS AND SHEETS
Organic towels and sheets are a real luxury, and their usual high price shows it. But even their cost might come down on Black Friday; if it does, go for it! JC Penneys, Target, and Wal-Mart stock organic linens regularly; hopefully, they'll put them on sale November 25 along with the conventionally produced items. Check online or in the newspaper for "money off on anything" coupons.
WINE, BEER, SPIRITS
Most liquor stores sell organically produced wine, beer, vodka, gin, and possibly other spirits. Whether you're stocking up for the holidays or want to refill your fridge or wine cellar, take advantage of storewide discounts or sales on individual brands.
SOAP, SHAMPOO, PERFUME, PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS
Stores like Bath & Body Works, the Body Shop, and Origins increasingly sell soaps, shampoos, lotions, and cremes free of parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances. Read labels carefully, and look for products packaged in paper, cardboard and glass rather than plastic.
YOGURT AND BREAD MAKERS
If you buy a lot of yogurt and bread, chances are you're throwing away a lot of plastic yogurt containers and paper bread wrappers. Pretty much every department store will have these two items on sale on Black Friday.
WRAPPING PAPER AND HOLIDAY CARDS
The "greenest" option is to use paper you saved from last year and to send e-cards. You can also wrap presents in fabrics, towels, or table cloths and napkins or bundle them into reusable shopping bags. But if it's paper you must have, look for 100% recycled paper or tree-free paper options in both wrapping and cards from Hallmark and Papyrus, among other shops.
Don't forget your own shopping bag… your reusable one, of course!