Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! I hope you are enjoying your holidays and spending time with friends, family and loved ones. Now, one question – how do you feel about Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday coming up? Artists like Chris Piascik regularly criticize the “I’m SO thankful for everything I have. I am truly blessed — HEYY LOOK, CHEAP STUFFFFF! I NEED IT!! IT’S MINE!! GET OUTTA MY WAY!!” mentality that grips us around this particular holiday. Doing as much thinking as I do about sustainable consumption patterns, this attitude particularly pains me – especially if people end up buying things that they don’t particularly need. However, we don’t have to fall into the trap of the race for the best deals, and companies don’t have to follow the generic pattern of offering below-cost goods just to keep up with the competition either, as firms like Patagonia impressively showcase.
They are well-known for supporting long-lasting rather than instantaneous purchasing decisions and first showed up on the radar with their infamous “Don’t buy this jacket” ad in the New York Times on Black Friday 2011.
This year, they go even further in advocating for sustainable consumption decisions by hosting Black Friday Worn Wear parties in their stores, where this 30 min movie about the relationship of people with their favorite worn pieces of clothing is screened, live music and food is offered, and a Patagonia repair clinic is hosted where customers can repair their used Patagonia gear. Check out this post to see whether there are parties in your city!
The elephant is growth-based capitalism, and the assumption that a growth economy equals prosperity and a healthy society. This campaign names and confronts the elephant. And it will explore what alternatives look and feel like, from large -scale economies to small, local ones.
We see a growing global dissatisfaction with the way the present economy relies on relentless consumption in order to function, while delivering less social benefit than it promises. At the same time, we see trends toward meaningful change in both large corporate and industrial movements, and innovative, community-minded businesses.
We know we must consume less, and far more slowly – as well as innovate as quickly and ingeniously as we can.
What is a responsible economy? It’s one that cultivates healthy communities, creates meaningful work, and takes from the earth only what it can replenish. It’s one where all the indicators currently going in the wrong direction – CO2 emissions, ocean acidification, deforestation, desertification, species extinction, water contamination, toxic chemical release – all those things that are leading us to bankruptcy, will even out, then reverse. What would make up this economy? Where do we already see examples?
During the next two years, Patagonia will explore these questions. We don’t have all the answers – but, we invite you to join us as we seek out the stories, solutions, examples, and new leaders of the responsible economy.
This is one of the first times a global corporation even asks these questions, and I for one am very interested in what they will come up with to confront them.
Check out this essay by Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard for a start:
What we are reaching toward is an economy that does not rely on insatiable consumerism as its engine, an economy that stops harmful practices and replaces them with either new, more efficient practices or older practices that worked just fine. An economy with less duplication of consumer goods, less throw-away-and-close-your-eyes. We don’t know exactly how this will play out. But we do know that now is the time for all corporations to think about it and act.
Also, this essay by Rick Ridgeway is a great read on the uneasy relationship – some may even call it hypocrisy – of a company growing in double-digits that concerns itself with limits to growth and the capitalist-consumerist growth model.
The truth is, we meant what we said about the need for all of us to reduce consumption, but we realize we have to be transparent about the challenge of walking our talk. That is why we have an accompanying essay in this catalog on this topic, written by Yvon Chouinard, that examines Patagonia’s uneasy relationship with growth. Yvon writes, “I think we at Patagonia are mandated by our mission statement to face the question of growth, both by bringing it up and by looking at our own situation as a business fully ensnared in the global industrial economy.”
We also realize if we all got out of bed tomorrow and bought only what we need, business-as-now-practiced would collapse.
But if business-as-now-practiced is leading us to a cliff, what is the solution? While no one pretends there is any easy answer, leading thinkers are beginning to ponder a suite of changes that in combination could present an alternate path away from the cliff. In this campaign that we have chosen to call The Responsible Economy, we’ll examine what it will take to evolve our economy from unsustainable to sustainable and the fundamental shifts in our lives that it will require. We’ll invite essayists on topics such as redefining our relationship with stuff, our relationship with work, our relationship with food, our relationship with nature.
At its most fundamental, a responsible economy will require us to re-examine our relationship with ourselves and perhaps reset our personal definition of fulfillment and happiness. Those of you reading this may find these challenges daunting and even quixotic, and so do we. But I find comfort in knowing that buying more stuff and running to catch up every day is not satisfying to me. There must be a better way. And perhaps you will find insight, as I did, in recognizing that while these challenges have been wrought by the modern economy, they are as ancient as human society.
Where does that leave us? Whether you go and turn to supporting Patagonia in their mission by buying their products instead of others, or just take an inspiration by buying nothing at all, here are some alternatives to getting overwhelmed and potentially trampled on Black Friday:
- Buy Nothing Day challenges you to go completely against the flow and buy absolutely nothing tomorrow (or on Saturday for international participants). Nothing! No coffee, no groceries, and most definitely no Black Friday sales. Can you do it?
- Giving Tuesday on December 3rd (next Tuesday following Cyber Monday) “celebrates and encourages people to give their time, resources, talents and social media voice to a new kind of philanthropy that is about social purpose and collaboration for improving conditions for those in need throughout the world.” Make sure to look up the #GivingTuesday social media to see what companies and individuals are doing to look beyond their own backyard.
- Engage in the Sharing Economy using sites such as Yerdle where you can give away, find and exchange free things you or others don’t need anymore.
- Sign up for alternative (non-material) gift giving on sites such as SoKind, letting people know that you are someone who “values experiences over material goods, handmade crafts over mass-produced gadgets, and gently used and carefully selected pre-loved goods over things they’ll probably use once and never see again”.
Again, happy holidays!