Can Black Friday Ever Be Sustainable?

How to make black friday more sustainable

The most sustainable thing to do would be to avoid shopping for anything you don’t need, but I understand how tempting Black Friday can be. Platforms like Instagram can be overwhelming. Not only due to the amount of ads at this time of the year, but also because of influencers who encourage compulsive buying without thinking about the consequences for both workers and the environment.

I’m not totally against Black Friday. I know that this is not a very popular opinion but I’m aware of my privilege and I know that for many people, Black Friday can be the perfect opportunity to get that sofa they need, maybe a new pair of headphones and even a nice warm coat for the winter, which tend to be the most expensive.

Shopping consciously is what we need whether pieces are discounted or not. It is important to work on a regulation in this regard because days like Black Friday are getting out of control. Instagram is already a constant telemarketer, but around Christmas, it’s impossible not to be on the platform without being bombarded with hundreds of discounts. 

And I must admit, it brings out the worst in me. Seeing influencers with so much reach simply profit at the expense of their followers by manipulating them to make them feel like they need something makes me sick. And let’s not even talk about those who claim to support local businesses and then make videos about how to take advantage of discounts in large stores, especially in brands that have demonstrated their lack of ethics and commitment to their workers during the pandemic.

What is Black Friday?

It was a surprise to me that the actual origins of Black Friday it’s actually been in American society since the 1800s. The first recorded use of the term ‘’Black Friday’’ was applied not to the Friday following Thanksgiving in the United States, but to the financial crisis, especifically, the crash of the US gold market in 1869, when plummeting gold prices precipitated a securities market panic.

However, throughout the 1980s it spread quickly becoming connected to Thanksgiving, as we know nowadays, marking the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States, Black Friday becoming the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States since 2005. So, when and how did Black Friday arrive in the UK? Simply put, Amazon.

We all know the world’s largest retail Amazon. Amazon is very convenient, that is undeniable, the prices are very competitive and often allows small and medium-sized companies to have their profile on a platform that has such a large exposure. However, in case you weren’t aware of it, Amazon was and is still destroying hundreds of thousands of products that were never sold, or returned by customers, each week.

Discounts of up to 50 percent on almost all well-known brands, endless queues, chaos in the shops, employees working non-stop days and nights and people desperate to grab those bargains, when, according to the latest research by Which?, 99.5% of products were cheaper or the same price as their Black Friday price at other times of the year. 

Make Black Friday Green

It’s not a lie that everyone loves a sale and Black Friday is good to shop for Christmas presents and makes more expensive items available to everyone but it does come at a cost. In fact, there are campaigns such as Green Friday that try to compete with Black Friday to help raise awareness of the impact of society’s shopping habits.

The main philosophy of Green Friday is to encourage people to use these days to be active, do something fun outside in nature, spend time with friends and family, and support causes in need. This has gradually been distorted a little in my opinion because ethical and sustainable brands are using this term to offer small discounts to encourage people to invest in their products and support fair and sustainable trade instead of big retailers.

This is a double-edged sword, as by offering any kind of discount, regardless of the time of year, you are implying that you can afford to lower the price of your product or service and still make a profit. 

It is true that there are brands that have opted for minimum discounts to encourage consumers, especially because as a society, we have normalised certain prices that do not correspond to reality at the cost of the forced labour of others and the resources of the planet. However, this practice can jeopardise their credibility and above all… how will these brands justify their prices for the rest of the year? 

Sustainable Shopping Tips

I know it may seem impossible not to succumb to Black Friday. I’m the first one who, without realising it, was spending my free time on Instagram and in the blink of an eye, I was about to buy something I didn’t need.

As it happened to me several times this week, I decided to take control of what I was doing and I hope these tips will help you to avoid shopping anxiety around the holidays:

  • Create a budget. There is a significant number of shoppers who cannot easily afford their purchases and some even get into debt after being lured in by the hype.
  • Create a detailed shopping list and stick to it.
  • Only buy a gift if it serves a purpose, in other worlds, do not shop without  a purpose
  • You can turn off your emails and social media and watch Gilmore Girls all day. Unsubscribe from newsletters. Newsletters are the worst! Unfollow accounts that do not help you at all and only encourage you to overconsume.

By the way, something totally random, but we started watching Girlmore Girls a few months ago and what a coincidence that yesterday 25th November we watched the Thanksgiving episode. And without planning it! Has anything like this ever happened to you? 

How to Make Black Friday More Sustainable

Have you considered shopping second-hand for Black Friday? I am aware that there are limitations in terms of buying second hand, but some of the most popular applications like depop, ebay, vinted or vestiairecollective are also offering discounts these days.

This doesn’t mean that because it’s second hand, you can go crazy and buy even more than you would normally do, but it is a much kinder alternative for the planet and it would be a more conscious purchase because normally when you buy second hand, unless it is from a luxury brand, there is no possibility of return.

I, personally, have opted to buy second hand this year and if it is within my budget, I will buy something from one of my favourite sustainable fashion brands. Also, whatever you do, don’t let Black Friday get you down, and know that as much as you hate being bombarded with adverts, at least you’re not working in retail (so, so sorry if you are).

There are other brands that have chosen to close their websites as a form of protest against the massive Black Friday shopping. I encourage you to take a look at the campaign because I think it could give everyone pause for thought.