Turning Black Friday into Green Friday

Holiday season shopping "officially" launches the day after Thanksgiving -- at an ever-earlier hour. This day has been nicknamed "Black Friday" as it is the date when retailers hope their bottom line will turn from red ink to black. $20 bills folded into arrows creating a triangular recycling symbol on brown background

The color of the U.S. dollars we use to buy holiday gifts is green. But typical shopping behavior -- driving miles out of town to big-box stores and purchasing stuff cheaply manufactured 6,000 miles away -- is not at all green.

Can we think greener when shopping for gifts this holiday season? Absolutely:

  • How about walking or cycling to local stores, instead of sitting in a line of traffic and fighting for that last parking space at a distant mall?
  • Consider buying goods made by local artisans, for example, at crafts fairs or farmers markets (the Princeton Farmers’ Market continues throughout the winter in the Public Library’s Community Room).
  • Why not give a special experience from a local provider?
Shop Local!

Here in Princeton, we have so many great stores that it's hard to think of a gift category that's missing.  And all within distances you can walk or cycle to, carrying re-usable bags!  Try the Hometown Princeton, Palmer Square, and Princeton Shopping Center websites for lists of local stores and shopping events.

And that's just the local stuff... then there are the local services, whose providers will be happy to sell you gift certificates for special or fun experiences.  Here is just a partial listing of ideas:

  • Gift certificates to a local eatery (maybe an obvious idea, but always appreciated!),
  • How about a certificate toward the services of one of the Princeton hair salons, barbers, or massage therapists?
  • Someone on your list could try something new at a pre-paid class in art or dance, or enjoy a local theater or musical event.
  • Our local papers list intriguing services, such as home organization (one I’ve always wanted to try... Hope my hubby is reading this!)

So, let's start a new tradition of launching our holiday commerce on "Green Friday" in Princeton, when we skip the driving, and shop as locally as possible, keeping our greenbacks here, to support our community.

Prevent Pollution: Don't Flush Your Meds!

[Updated April 2014] Each Spring and Fall, you can safely dispose of expired and otherwise unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs by dropping them off at the lobby of the Princeton Police Department from 10 am to 2 pm as part of Operation Take-Back NJ.

Bottles of unused prescription drug in a green sieve

Although our police coordinate this event to help prevent drug abuse and accidental ingestion by children, proper drug disposal helps prevent pollution of our water.  Sure, flushing is easy, but flushed meds get into our streams, foods, animals, and drinking water. Unfortunately, most water treatment systems are not designed for pharmaceuticals and other man-made contaminants. These synthetic substances can be difficult and expensive to monitor and clean-up.  Preventing pollution is much easier and more effective than regulating it or cleaning it up!

In densely-populated New Jersey, we live and flush close to our water sources. Pharmaceuticals and other man-made contaminants have been documented in New Jersey’s water. Most of the research occurred almost a decade ago using sophisticated methods that are not readily available, so the current extent of contamination is not well documented and media attention has drifted away from water quality issues.

Pharmaceuticals are of particular concern because they are designed to be active in our bodies.  Additional organic compounds get into water from storm-water runoff, leaching from land-fills, personal products like soaps and detergents, drugs that people and animals excrete, and other sources.

Some further actions you can take beyond proper disposal of meds and chemicals:

  • Learn more about the issue and support groups that work for clean water.  In our community, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association focuses on conservation, advocacy, science and education for clean water.
  • Ask your elected representatives to support water pollution research, as well as the the development and implementation of water treatments that can remove significant amounts of contaminants from the water.  Ignorance does not protect your health and we cannot effectively manage what we don’t measure.
  • Continue to properly dispose of unused medications.  If you missed this Operation Take-Back NJ, there may be another take-back day next year.  Meanwhile ask your pharmacy if they take back drugs - for example, CVS has announced a recycling program for a low fee.
  • Stick with tap water. Bottled water is not necessarily safer and plastic bottles are energy-intensive to produce and recycle.

Further details of the April 26, 2014 drug disposal collection in Princeton.