Before you get drawn in by those deals and discounts this weekend, read this and turn yours into a Green Friday!
Black Friday, the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving, has managed to break through the American borders and find its way onto the rest of the world’s shelves. Somehow it has also managed to expand into Cyber Monday, and then take over the weeks either side. It’s a day (or week) of what some claim to be the hottest deals of the year, but we’re here to intercept and tell you why it’s not so hot.
The clue is in the name really, but we’re all too busy thinking about what we’re going to watch first on our massive new super-telly to think about it. It started off as an innocent pitch by retailers to mark the start of the festive season and get the bauble rolling, but soon became a fight to the death. So Black Friday basically got its name because it left a pretty massive black mark on the calendar when the human and vehicle traffic absolutely soared – and when people were trampled to death!
But the truth is, it’s about more than just laughing at the news stories about people queuing for days only to be elbowed in the face when they reach for a blender (although it is pretty wild that humans have been reduced to needing a bouncers on the doors of Argos). Don’t get us wrong, we do have your purse strings in mind too, but there’s more to it than that…
It’s also about our planet and its environment, and the way we view retail as a society. In the words of Veruca Salt, “we want it NOW!” and we don’t stop to think about the horrific human and environmental costs. Clothing, gadgets, homeware and office supplies have become dangerously disposable nowadays, with peer pressure meaning that young people in particular have to stay on trend and have all the new-fangled technology. There’s a lot to be said for the way we treated Nokia phones back in the day…
‘Fast fashion’ is a theme that crops up time and time again, but its relevance never seems to dwindle. Are you buying that because you need it, or because it’s got a big red ‘reduced’ sticker slapped on it? Clothes should last longer than a season, and if they don’t, then do a charity shop swap: donate what you don’t want and buy something you feel more comfortable in. Or alternatively, do a Gok Wan and just throw a belt round. It’ll work miracles.
Of course, it’s also the biggest corporations that are able to offer the biggest discounts, leading to a huge increase in revenue for them as consumers flock to their doors (or homepages). It’s these corporations that have managed to brainwash us into thinking it’s outrageous not to be offered next-day delivery, so we should be holding them accountable for the massive carbon footprint they’re leaving and their lack of commitment to make any positive changes. Do as much of your Christmas shopping as you can with small businesses and independent retailers – especially if they’re transparent about their sustainability and ethics.
Photograph credit: Ackerman + Gruber for The Verge
If that hasn’t persuaded you, then think of the unsung elves working day and night to hook you up with your retail therapy fix! Do you have to make that Amazon warehouse operative pack your next generation Echo at 3AM just so you can have it on your kitchen counter the very next day? Take notice of them striking for better working conditions over in the leadup to Black Friday after it was revealed that their injury rates are over three times the industry average. Is that blender really worth giving someone a nosebleed over, just for a retail worker on minimum wage to have to mop it up? Especially when they’ve just skipped their family Thanksgiving dinner to stock the shelves (and barricade the doors).
If you’ve already planned to get your Christmas shopping done this weekend, then here’s the lowdown on how to make it as low-impact as possible:
1. Shop second-hand – whether it’s clothes from charity shops (or off Depop where there are plenty of Black Friday deals to be had) or tech from CEX
2. Choose the slowest delivery option if possible, to allow multiple local orders to be completed at once
3. Order as many items as possible from the same store at the same time to combine them into a single shipment
4. Do your research and buy from ethical companies
5. Oh, and remember that a bag is for life, not just for Christmas! Don’t forget your carrier bags or totes, because it’s really not worth paying 10p just to make the plastic problem worse.