Green-Minded Shoppers May Bring a Shift to 'Black Friday'

Green-Minded Shoppers May Bring a Shift to 'Black Friday'

This year may be the year that Black Friday goes green. Or at least greener.

The day after Thanksgiving, long known as Black Friday both for the horrific traffic it creates as well as the fact that it is the beginning of most retailers' most profitable season, will this year be an opportunity for sellers to showcase their greenest products and services.

Two surveys released this month show why businesses are increasingly targeting green-minded buyers this year. Last week, Cone LLC released its 2007 Holiday Environmental Survey, which found that over half of shoppers surveyed said they would pay more for an "environmentally responsible" product and that they're more likely to buy green gifts this year than in previous years. Respondents said the biggest motivator for this shift was guilt over excessive holiday consumption.

The Cone survey may paint a rosier picture than is accurate; but Deloitte's 22nd annual Holiday Survey confirms that the shift is going on, even if it's not as dramatic as Cone found. Deloitte's survey suggests that just under one-fifth of shoppers will either buy more green gifts or shop and green retailers this year (18 and 17 percent, respectively) than in previous years. Other environmentally minded results from the survey include 27 percent of shoppers saying they would use fewer plastic bags from stores this year, and 20 percent saying they'd forgo wrapping presents as a way of saving paper.

Regardless of the extent to which shoppers have the planet on their mind, bloggers and retailers have rushed to round up the best ways to green the holiday shopping frenzy.

Treehugger has posted an extensive Shades of Green shopping guide, listing hundreds of products and categorizing them "light green," "medium green" and "dark green" depending on how deep a commitment to green each product shows.

Also joining the online-shopping rush is the new shopping portal EarthMoment.com. The site, a project of Ogden Publications (publishers of green titles including Utne Reader and Mother Earth News), links to hundreds of online stores -- big and small, green and not-so-green alike -- and donates a percentage or flat fee from shoppers' purchases to a range of carbon offset projects.

Another service has launched this month to add carbon offsets to the shopping process. ShipGreen is a new, free service designed to make it easy for retailers to offset the emissions from their product sales. The service works by letting consumers add offsets to their shopping cart and donates the funds to carbon offset projects certified by The Gold Standard and meeting the standards of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.

Rounding out this roundup, two lists highlight alternative shopping ideas. Co-Op America, in response to the long list of recalled toys in recent months, created SafeGreenToys.org, listing ten toys that are toxin-free, locally made or fair trade-certified toys to replace the lead-tainted Thomas the Tanks and Curious Georges pulled from shelves earlier this year.

And finally, possibly the greenest list on the web this year, Grist created a top ten stuff-free gift list, including such non-commercial gifts like IOUs for favors, stopping junk email for a friend, signing up for a CSA veggie box, and yes, buying carbon offsets for friends and family.

We won't really know just how green Black Friday was until after the fact, but the build-up indicates that this is a sigificant blip on the country's radar this year.