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Black Friday and Cyber Monday, are upon us once again, but when it comes to sustainability, they are controversial subjects. Many brands market heavy discounts at this time of year, encouraging hyper-consumption, with Brits planning on spending an estimated £3.95 billion for a bargain, resulting in massive amounts of waste. So how can you ensure you’re not making savings at the cost of the environment? Here’s a quick 5-point guide to navigating the sales.
1. Don’t Get Pressured into Buying Things You Don’t Need
The first and most important step of the waste hierarchy is ‘prevention’; to combat climate change. We need to reduce consumption and make sure we’re reusing the things we already have.
This is especially true when it comes to clothing, as fast fashion retailers are always primed to take full advantage of deals. But behind all those bargains is a huge environmental cost: according to the UN Environment Programme the fashion industry is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater (a standard pair of jeans uses 2,000 gallons of water).
Try not to get too distracted by the ‘deals’ (we’ll get on to the truth of this claim below).
Ask yourself this simple question: ‘am I only buying this because it’s on sale?’ – If the answer is ‘yes’, then both you and the planet would be better off if you saved your money.
2. Remember it’s Not All it’s Cracked Up to Be
One of the most important things to remember about Black Friday deals is that they’re not always as good as they may seem. Research by consumer group Which? found more than 200 offers last Black Friday were cheaper or the same price at other times of the year.
In addition to this, Greenpeace did a survey of our shopping behaviours and found that although many people enjoy the experience of shopping, this feeling doesn’t last:
“People already own too much, and they know it. Around 50% report that shopping excitement wears off within a day.”
In the same report, Greenpeace highlights that “regularly buying too many clothes, shoes, bags and accessories has become an international phenomenon” and that we must curb our consumerism to preserve our planet.
3. Consider the Whole Carbon Footprint of Your Purchase
In the UK, we do the vast majority of our Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending online – 77% of it, according to PWC. This means there are carbon emissions to consider beyond the manufacturing process involved in your purchase.
Everything has to be delivered, and every delivery mayhave a carbon footprint. Thousands of delivery vehicles will be driving around London in the coming week to deliver impulse purchases, which may be packaged in cardboard and often non-recyclable plastic film, generating further waste.
Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy anything on Black Friday, but being aware of your purchases’ environmental implications will help ensure you’re buying something you want or need.
4. Spend Your Money Sustainably
If you are hitting (or clicking) the shops this Black Friday, there are plenty of ways to spend your money with retailers committed to doing something positive for the planet.
As environmental issues take centre stage, companies are developing innovative ways to turn consumer spending into positive change.
Patagonia is committed to learning how to repair what they already own and have devised a reuse scheme to help used broken gear out of the landfill. They have also created multiple care and repair guides to help you better look after your clothing so it doesn’t go to waste once damaged.
Maybe one day, we can change Black Friday for the better if we change how we approach it. Instead of thinking of it as a day when people fight over discounted TVs in overcrowded supermarkets, we could use it as a day when we think about our spending habits and seek out the businesses doing the most to combat climate change.
5. Basically, Keep a Cool Head
The best way to navigate Black Friday and Cyber Monday is to know what you’re buying and why you’re buying it and avoid being sucked in by the sea of aggressive marketing campaigns. There are deals to be had and companies working hard to be sustainable; it’s just a matter of finding them.
It’s great to see some brands promoting sustainability and donating money to great causes. However, it is still the case that the most high-profile companies doing this are not what most people would classify as ‘affordable’. Hopefully, more high street chains follow suit in the coming years as we take a closer look at the environmental effect we’re having when we shop.
You can certainly use the Black Friday sales to make your money go further when buying Christmas presents or large purchases – but three things to bear in mind:
- Make sure you’re getting a deal
- Don’t buy something just because it’s on offer
- Make every effort to spend sustainably where possible