Happy Thanksgiving! Build up your community, help the planet, and move into the rest of the holiday season with a level head.
Maybe it's because I hate crowds, or because I'm perpetually two years late to the newest technology, or because shopping makes me tired ... but I've never understood Black Friday.
Personally, I prefer to spend the day following Thanksgiving eating pie at every meal while wearing pants with elastic waistbands.
Let's be real: Even if you do like shopping, Black Friday brings some major issues to the table.
First of all, most of the retail workers who deal with crowds of customers on Black Friday make close to the minimum wage — about $10.29 an hour, on average. Many big box stores don't offer health coverage to all their employees. And the sale-crazed crowds on Black Friday can even be dangerous for workers and shoppers both.
That's why REI made the decision to close their stores on Nov. 27. They're giving their employees a paid holiday so they can "opt outside" and spend the day in the great outdoors instead of "fighting it out in the aisles."
The shopping surge also means that many retail workers have to leave their loved ones and work on the day after (and sometimes the night of) Thanksgiving.
So if you only get one day-after-Thanksgiving every year, it's silly to waste it at a crowded store with hundreds of other people who are willing to throw elbows to get a new Blu-ray player.
Instead, here are seven ways to spend Black Friday that are (at least in my mind) a whole lot better than shopping.
1. Take a trip to a state park.
I'm pretty sure that parks offer much better views than the inside of a Walmart. So load up your Thanksgiving leftovers into a picnic basket, find the closest park, and get some fresh air. If you live in Minnesota, you can even take advantage of free admission to all of the state's parks this Nov. 27.
2. Clean out your closet.
Remember that one time you spring cleaned? Yeah, me neither. But it's never too late to pull everything out of your closet and get rid of the things you really don't need. When you're done, find a new home for your old clothes and for those books you never got around to reading — try Freecycle or Craigslist.
3. Eat those leftovers.
OK, you were probably planning on doing this anyway, but let's pretend it's my idea. About one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted and thrown away. Don't let that happen to your Thanksgiving meal. If you get sick of turkey sandwiches, give your leftovers a makeover with one of these recipes.
4. Take a long walk.
I just started taking long walks and I cannot recommend it enough. You're going to need some endorphins to propel you out of your Thanksgiving food coma, and since daylight is getting a little more scarce each day, you better spend some time outside while you can. Bundle up and kill two birds with one … pleasant stroll around the neighborhood.
Seriously, if you haven't seen it yet, you should maybe re-evaluate your life decisions. "Master of None" isn't just hilarious and brilliant — it's also an honest depiction of people of color that doesn't tokenize the characters. That's rare in TV, but Aziz Ansari pulls it off flawlessly.
6. Compost your food scraps.
The potato peels, lemon rinds, and coffee grounds from Thanksgiving dinner could actually be used to create nutrient-filled soil! If you live near a community garden, you can keep your food scraps in a Tupperware container and take them to the compost pile the next day. Or, better yet, spend Black Friday building your own compost bin.
7. Talk to your family.
Here's one cool thing that I recently discovered about adulthood: Your parents (and grandparents, for that matter) have a lot of good stories they never told you, either because you never asked or because they didn't want you to know they were also young and kind of stupid once. If you're together this year, dig up some of those stories. Bonus points: Research has shown has shown that sharing those stories can actually bring you closer together and build empathy.
There are a lot of really awesome things you can do on Black Friday that don't involve a credit card.
We'd love to hear your ideas, too.
And really, however you spend your Thanksgiving — or the day after, or the day before — just don't forget to celebrate the true spirit of the holiday, focusing on feeling grateful for your family, your friends, and your planet.