Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and the consumption it encourages can take a toll on human and planetary health.
"For people who don't have purchasing power, the ability to be able to buy something that is a necessity at a discounted price is obviously a benefit," MIT professor Nicholas Ashford told National Geographic last year. "For other people with more than enough, it just perpetuates a consumption-oriented society, which has an adverse effect on the environment."
In recent years, however, some companies have come to agree. Here are what four brands are doing to encourage more environmentally-friendly activities for the day after Thanksgiving.
1. REI Opts to Act
Join us this Black Friday for a nationwide cleanup – kicking off a year of change. Together we can fight for life o… https://t.co/X9aPLWB858— REI (@REI)1574112643.0
The outdoor gear company has closed its doors on Black Friday for five years now, encouraging its customers and employees, who are paid for the day, to #OptOutside and spend time in nature.
Originally, this decision was made for the sake of the company's employees, since Black Friday tends to pull retail workers away from their families, Ben Steele, the company's executive vice president and chief customer officer, told HuffPost.
But this year, REI is adding an environmental component and encouraging its customers to Opt to Act by joining one of the cleanups it has organized around the country with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and United By Blue. The store said those who don't live near a cleanup can still pick up trash while they spend time outdoors.
"Today, that future is at risk," REI CEO and President Eric Artz wrote in a letter announcing the campaign. "We are in the throes of an environmental crisis that threatens not only the next 81 years of the co-op, but the incredible outdoor places that we love. Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our co-op. I believe we do not have the luxury of calling climate change a political issue. This is a human issue. And we must act now."
2. Deciem Plans a "Moment of Nothingness"
Beauty company Deciem is also making a point this year by closing its stores and website Nov. 29 and implementing a month-long 23 percent discount for every one of its products sold online and in stores.
"Hyper-consumerism poses one of the biggest threats to the planet, and flash sales can often lead to rushed purchasing decisions, driven by the fear of a sell-out," the company wrote in a Nov. 1 Instagram post. "We no longer feel that Black Friday is an earth or consumer-friendly event, and have therefore decided to close our website and stores for a moment of nothingness on the 29th November."
In addition to environmental concerns, Deciem, which owns beauty brands The Ordinary and NIOD, emphasized that it wanted to give customers time to choose the right products.
"We strongly believe that skincare decisions should be based on education rather than impulse, and hope that a month-long promotion will provide the time for research, reflection, and consideration," they wrote.
3. 300+ Clothing Brands Unite to "Make Friday Green Again"
Fast fashion is a major environmental problem. A garbage-truck's worth of textiles is discarded every second, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation study. Clothing also sheds more than 50 billion plastic bottles worth of microfibers into the oceans every year. If industry practices don't change, fashion will gobble up a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050.
So it's fitting that more than 300 clothing companies are taking Black Friday off, BBC News reported. The Make Friday Green Again collective, whose members are largely French, wants customers to spend the day going through their closets to decide what they can repair, recycle or give away.
"When people buy something, we pollute because of the carbon emissions that come from making that product, from using it and then getting rid of that product," Nicolas Rohr, who started the group and co-founded green clothing company Faguo, told BBC News. "Today we don't buy what we need; we buy because we are tempted. We are not in a good relationship with consumption any more."
4. Patagonia Will Match Your Green Gifts
Outdoor store Patagonia will remain open to shoppers Black Friday, but it is also using this holiday season to encourage a different kind of gift giving.
Starting Nov. 29 and lasting through December, the company will match any donations made to one of environmental groups it supports through Patagonia Action Works, even if the giver doesn't purchase anything from the company. Customers can donate in their own name or as a gift, and the store will provide eCards and cards to print online or physical cards in store.
"Black Friday is often a day when we go out and buy things we don't really need and give them to people who don't really want them," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote on LinkedIn. "This year, consider giving to our home planet in the name of someone you love."
In her message, Marcario pointed out that environmental groups only receive three percent of charitable giving, despite the urgency of the climate crisis.
She also wasn't above encouraging a little passive-aggressive gift-giving when donating in others' names.
"With a wink and a friendly nudge, you might include those relatives or friends who refuse to believe in climate science," she wrote.
The Elephant in the Room
While these brands are offering a different vision of Black Friday, HuffPost writer Laura Paddison cautioned that the movement away from a door-busting Black Friday doesn't change the underlying culture of consumption that drives environmental harm year round. Both Deciem and REI offered November sales. (REI discounted items by up to 30 percent between Nov. 15 and 25.)
"[T]he elephant in the room here is that, even for companies that work hard to toe an ethical line, a business model predicated on growth means the ultimate aim is always to get people to buy more, which means producing more, which means more resources extracted, and more stuff in the world," she wrote.
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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.
"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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