Where To Volunteer On Black Friday If You'd Rather Be Outside Than Shopping

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The holiday season is officially coming up, and with that can often come financial and emotional stress. It's totally natural to worry about how and when you're going to get all of the gifts you need before Christmas — but it's also worth remembering that the heart of holiday spirit is about being with the people you love, not material possessions. For this reason, you might want to consider volunteering on Black Friday with your friends and family, rather than sweating away in an endless department store line.

It probably wouldn't surprise you to know that the five biggest shopping days of the year are from Nov. 21-26, per a consumer report by Adobe. And within those five days, planet Earth inevitably sustains a blow, from all of those Black Friday products that are purchased and destined to hit a landfill within years. For this reason, volunteering on Black Friday serves a double purpose. First (and most importantly), it allows you the chance to give back to the planet in myriad ways. However, it also gives you the chance to re-center your priorities, and take the time to really think about what you need, versus what you just think you might need because of a discount.

If you'd rather be outside than stuck underneath fluorescent lights, here are some great ways to volunteer outdoors on Black Friday:

Join REI's "Opt Outside" National Cleanup Initiative

Since 2015, REI has closed its doors on Black Friday every year, using the occasion to highlight opportunities for employees and civilians alike to get outside and experience the outdoors. This year, REI is including an "Opt to Act" aspect of its "Opt Outside" initiative, which revolves around nationwide cleanup events on Nov. 29.

Through the REI website, you can see if there are any REI-coordinate cleanup events near you; there are over 80 events scheduled so far across the country.

Participate In "Blue Friday" & Clean Up Your Local Beach Or Park

As part of the "Opt to Act" initiative, you could consider replacing Black Friday entirely with "Blue Friday," an initiative spearheaded by United by Blue, an outdoor brand that's focused on ocean conservation efforts. Blue Friday is a "nationwide DIY cleanup initiative," per its site. It encourages everyone to spend one hour or more cleaning up trash at a nearby park or beach on Nov. 29. If you want, you can even order a DIY cleanup kit from United by Blue and REI in collaboration, which gives you everything you need to clean up your own neighborhood.

Hit Up Your Local Animal Shelter & Offer Some Help

It will hardly feel like volunteering if you get to play with dogs and cats at your local animal shelter, but it might actually do a lot of good. One great way to volunteer outside this Black Friday is to contact your local animal shelter and see if you can help out with the animals.

Of course, you might have to do some other chores besides playing with dogs outside, but it's pretty much guaranteed that being around all of that fluff will put you in an amazing mood. You can find local animal shelters near you here.

Get In Touch With The National Forest Service To See What They Need

Whether its the National Forest Service or a nearby parks and recreation department, one great way to get outdoors this Black Friday and do some good is to find out how you can help take care of the precious land that's available to the public. You can learn more about volunteer work for the National Forest Service here. You can also consider volunteering for the National Park system, or even doing it with a group of friends.

Volunteer For A Local Conservation/Environmental Organization

The environmental volunteer opportunities could vary greatly, depending on where you live. If you live by the ocean, there are probably countless organizations worthy of your support and hours of volunteer work along the coast. If you live by the mountains, your volunteer work might be more land-focused.

Either way, spend some time researching local conservation initiatives and organizations. Then, when you've found one that you really connect to, you can reach out and ask how you could best help them come Black Friday.

Help Out At A Rural Or Urban Farm

It doesn't matter whether you live in the city or the countryside: it's pretty likely there's a farm or co-op initiative near you. Consider contacting a local farm or community food initiative and asking them how you can help their mission. Not only will you spend some time doing really impactful volunteer work, but you'll probably enjoy meeting some of the individuals who are working to deliver food to your neighborhood.

In the end, you don't need to find a nationally-run initiative event in order to do good where you live. If you want, you and your friends and family can make the rules for your very own alternative Black Friday. Whether it's going on a hike or picking up trash at your local beach, taking the time to be outside in nature is a great way to reinvigorate connections with the people you love the most, rather than spend your time getting stressed out in a crowded department store.

If you really love Black Friday deals, though you could always go shopping in the morning and do a cleanup initiative in the afternoon, or vice versa. Of course, you should also keep in mind that it's always a good idea to give back to the planet, whenever you can. Black Friday just offers a particularly relevant time to skip the stores, breathe in the fresh air, and be appreciative for what (and who) you already have in your life.