Being Green on Black Friday

November 15, 2020

Black Friday originated in the US, and happens the day after Thanksgiving when shops lower their prices to signify the beginning of the Christmas season. The tradition has since spread across the world, including here in the UK, and in recent years has increased from a day of sales to a weekend, and for some stores even a whole week. It's a busy time for businesses and consumers, and last year, transaction value was up 16.5% compared with the year before. This year, Black Friday falls on 27th November, and though it may be good for big businesses, it is bad news for people and the planet.

First, it's important to mention that Black Friday can be a great opportunity for conscious purchases, particularly items that you need but couldn't previously afford. However, for many people it is a day of mindless consumption which is disastrous for our planet. 

The prices of fast fashion items plummet on Black Friday, but at what cost to people and the planet? Many of the people making our clothes live in poverty, are not paid fairly, and experience workers' rights violations and poor working conditions. On top of this, every year the fashion industry contributes 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions and uses around 1.5 trillion litres of water, and is a massive polluter of our air and water. In addition are the environmental impacts of packaging, which is often plastic, and carbon emissions and air pollution from an increase deliveries.

Low prices encourage over consumption and results in excessive, unnecessary waste. In Europe, clothing prices have been dropping since 2000, and the average consumer is buying more items but keeping them for less time. In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, and 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in household bins every year.

As consumers, one big way to make a difference on Black Friday is with our wallets. Supporting unethical brands sends a message that it's acceptable for them to overproduce at the cost of people and the environment. For the sake of the planet, we should opt to spend our money only on items we truly need and try to support ethical and small businesses, rather than making unnecessary, impulse purchases in the rush of Black Friday. 

Throughout November, Fashion Revolution is asking people to take part in their Black Friday campaign by abstaining from shopping the discounts and spreading the message that overproduction costs the Earth with their free, downloadable social media assets. Participants can also use their voices by reaching out to the big brands and asking #WhoMadeMyClothes? and #WhatsInMyClothes?, along with confronting brands about making less stuff. This campaign will also celebrate clothing longevity by asking participants to make, mend, upcycle, share, and swap clothes instead of buying new.

This campaign is supported by Fashion Revolution’s global network, along with international organisations all working to shape a better fashion industry. Supporting organisations include The Sustainable Fashion Forum, Greenpeace & Make Smthng Week, Fashion Act Now, Global Fashion Exchange and Fashion Takes Action. In addition, the campaign is supported by a series of small sustainable fashion brands who are doing good this Black Friday by donating some profit to Fashion Revolution in lieu of hosting discounts.

“Black Friday is a scam. It’s one more way to get citizens to think they are finding a bargain, when in fact they are hunting an illusion. Don’t just buy because it’s cheap, think of why you are intending to buy, inspect your potential purchase and only then decide. Black Friday is about the rush, the speed, the compulsion. At Fashion Revolution we are asking you to stay conscientious, to buy with purpose.”

-  Orsola de Castro, Fashion Revolution co-founder and creative director

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