Antidotes to Black Friday, Cyber Monday Overconsumption?

You wouldn’t expect companies like JCPenney, Microsoft or Sony Electronics to back a plan that reduces flagrant consumption, but they’re founding partners for "Giving Tuesday."

The first Giving Tuesday, set for November 27, will provide a counterpart to the US shopping binges that take place on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the antithesis of sustainable consumption principles. It encourages Americans to give rather than acquire.

A group of charities and philanthropic organizations came up with the idea for a national day of giving that kicks off the annual holiday season. On "Giving Tuesday," (#GivingTuesday on Twitter) people can give by volunteering time or money (or both) to causes being promoted by more than 800 businesses, foundations and non-profit groups.

"#GivingTuesday offers America a new narrative, challenging us to think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday and reminding us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism," says Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation. "The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to build a better world."

Other founding partners include the Gap, Darden Restaurants, JPMorgan Chase, and Unilever.

Microsoft’s Skype division, for example, is using a crowdfunding initiative to support Peace One Day‘s educational efforts on non-violence and creating a more united and sustainable world. The company will match every dollar of the first $100,000 raised. Microsoft is supporting Give for Youth, which encourages entrepreneurial ventures and education programs for young people in developing nations.

Here’s a video about Giving Tuesday:

Status of Sustainable Consumption

Although our economy depends on nurturing consumerism, it’s widely understood that it’s among the most destructive human acts on the environment.

Each year, we’re treated to surveys that show how committed (or not) people are to buying "green" and from companies they view as "sustainable."

Regardless of the surveys, the vast majority of shoppers don’t give that a thought. About 247 million people flocked to stores this Thanksgiving Weekend, spending a record $59.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, up from 226 million shoppers who spent $52.4 billion last year.

But the surveys continue. In this year’s Regeneration Consumer Study, two-thirds of those surveyed say "as a society, we need to consume a lot less to improve the environment for future generations" and that they feel "a sense of responsibility to purchase products that are good for the environment and society."

The research, conducted by Globescan, BBMG, and SustainAbility in six major international markets – US, UK, Brazil, China, Germany and India – finds that a much bigger majority of people that live in emerging markets (76%) agree with that statement than do those in established economics (57%).

People that live in Brazil, China and India are twice as likely as those in the US, UK or Germany to purchase products because of their environmental or social benefits (51% versus 22%). They are also more likely to encourage others to buy from companies that focus on sustainable resource consumption (70% to 34%).

While people seek brands that improve their own lives while creating a more sustainable economy, the top barriers remain: price, performance and skepticism about product claims, notes Raphael Bemporad, co-founder of BBMG, a partner in the survey.

Past BBMG research shows that about 30% of US citizens unite "pragmatism and purpose" in their product purchases.

Why Not Pass Things Along?

A new "sharing marketplace", Yerdle, hopes to inspire people to reduce overconsumption by passing along or lending items to friends, neighbors and coworkers. It’s slogan: "why shop, when you can share?"

Founded by former Sierra Club president Adam Werbach and former Walmart sustainability manager Andy Ruben, Yerdle offers a place where people can borrow things they only need infrequently, such as a tent or a circular saw for a home improvement project.

"Our closets, trunks and self-storage units form the world’s largest warehouse," says Ruben. "According to the Self Storage Association, there has been a 1000% growth in square footage in the past 30 years. We’re building software and logistics systems for yerdle that will make it as a easier to borrow from a friend as it is to buy something new and store it."

Here’s the Giving Tuesday website:

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