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Disrupt Black Friday: Buy Nothing, Make Something, Shop For Good

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Disrupt Black Friday: Buy Nothing, Make Something, Shop For Good

It's Thanksgiving week, so you know what's coming after that last slice of pumpkin pie: Black Friday.

The annual occasion—as well as its digital cousin Cyber Monday—sets off the country's mad dash of holiday shopping. And let's face it, some of the deals can be pretty enticing.


But in recent years, there has been growing backlash against this retail frenzy. Outdoor gear company REI famously closed down all of its stores on Black Friday in 2015 to give its 12,000 employees a well-deserved paid day off. In 2016, fellow outdoor brand Patagonia donated its entire $10 million in Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental organizations.

With the emergence of Buy Nothing Day, Small Business Saturday, Shop for Good Sunday, Giving Tuesday and the newly launched Make SMTHNG Week, more people are starting to counter rampant consumerism or put their dollars towards a good cause.

"We are already drowning in stuff—stuffed wardrobes, garages, and kitchens—yet we keep on shopping for more fashion, gadgets, food, single-use plastic, toys, and cars," Robin Perkins, Make SMTHNG campaigner at Greenpeace, said in a press release. "With our throwaway lifestyles we are fueling climate change, pollution and the destruction of people's homes and irreplaceable natural wonders."

Greenpeace and its partners—Fashion Revolution, #BreakFreeFromPlastic, Shareable, Arts Thread, the Fab Labs Network and the Fab City Global Initiative—will be holding more than 273 events in 38 countries this November 23 – December 2 where participants will be asked to #BuyNothing and #MakeSmthng instead.

"By sharing, caring, and repairing things we can make more of what we already own and give our beautiful planet a break," Greenpeace's Perkins said about the event.

Hundreds of designers and artisans will lead classes that teach you how to reuse, repair, upcycle and DIY. There will also be workshops on making sustainable gifts, cooking with zero-waste, living a plastic-free life, book and clothing swaps and more.

That being said, there's really no shame in buying new stuff when we really need to. Giving and receiving gifts is a genuine display of love and companionship. However, there's a lot to be said about where and what we spend our dollars on.

The research firm eMarketer predicts this holiday shopping season will surpass the $1 trillion mark for the first time.

But "sixty percent of this online spending between Black Friday and Cyber Monday goes to only a dozen giant retailers, none of which are impact-focused," wrote Cullen Schwarz, the founder of the Boston-based e-commerce site DoneGood.

"Imagine if even a fraction of these holiday shopping dollars were also used to reduce poverty, fight climate change, or make the world better. The impact would be enormous," he added.

That's why for the second year, DoneGood has launched its Shop for Good Sunday campaign for socially and environmentally conscious consumers. This year, 100 percent of the revenue generated through the DoneGood platform on Nov. 25 will be donated to RAINN—the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Using the platform, you can find unique handmade accessories, clothing made from non-toxic, organic and/or recycled or upcycled materials, and products made with eco-friendly processes such as facilities powered with renewable energy. Partner brands have met standards such as Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard, Rain Forest Alliance and other ethical certifications.

DoneGood itself is a Certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet member which gives 1 percent of revenues to environmental non-profits.

"The brands participating in Shop for Good Sunday just make better gifts anyway. They're higher quality and more unique than the stuff from typical big box stores," Schwarz said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. "If we can all get better gifts, save money, and make the world better, just by getting the holiday gifts we were going to buy anyway, why not?"

Disclosure: EcoWatch is among the 125 nonprofits, media outlets and social impact brands that have partnered with the Shop for Good Sunday campaign. We earn no revenue from the campaign.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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