Despite its association with the U.S. holiday Thanksgiving, Black Friday has spread to shoppers and stores around the world. Now, some French lawmakers are trying to stop that.
A French legislative committee passed an amendment Monday that would ban the shopping day because it encourages "resource waste" and "overconsumption," The Associated Press reported.
The amendment specifically targets Black Friday advertising campaigns and would be added to France's "anti-waste law," according to Euronews.
"'Black Friday' is a vast glory operation of consumerism imported from the United States in 2013," the amendment summary begins. It goes on to condemn the day for its "disastrous environmental record," according to Euronews.
The amendment was proposed by former French environment minister Delphine Batho and will be debated by France's lower legislative house next month, The Independent reported.
✅ L’amendement #StopBlackFriday est ADOPTÉ en Commission du Développement Durable ! Merci à @V_Riotton de son avis… https://t.co/DCqZMlu4Kn— Delphine Batho (@Delphine Batho)1574722411.0
Lawmakers aren't the only ones in the country who oppose the day. Both government officials and concerned citizens have said that it contributes to the climate crisis.
Ecological transition minister Elisabeth Borne said on Thursday that the day caused "traffic jams, pollution, and gas emissions," according to The Associated Press.
"We cannot both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and call for a consumer frenzy. Above all, we must consume better," she told BFM Business, as The Independent reported.
Activists on the ground have also taken action against Black Friday. Members of the environmental group Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) blocked the driveway of an Amazon warehouse south of Paris Thursday, The Associated Press reported. Demonstrators filled the driveway with hay and old refrigerators and microwaves and carried signs saying "Amazon: For the climate, for jobs, stop expansion, stop over-production!"
@AnvCop21 🔴Suivez le live du blocage d'#Amazon ! 📺Sur @lvslmedia : https://t.co/nKL4ag34sV 📺Sur @YahooActuFR :… https://t.co/2Df3Cx4Fbx— Amis de la Terre FR (@Amis de la Terre FR)1574946025.0
Additional protests are planned for the day itself under the banner of "Block Friday."
France's e-commerce union came out against the proposed ban, according to The Independent, but not all French businesses support Black Friday.
In fact, more than 300 mostly-French clothing companies actively called on their customers to boycott the day this year with a "Make Friday Green Again" campaign.
Borne said that the day helped large online retailers more than small businesses.
French lawmakers also argue that the day misleads customers into thinking that it offers greater discounts than the two sales periods mandated by French law, which take place for six weeks in winter and six weeks in summer, according to Euronews. In fact, the discounts offered on Black Friday are not comparable to those offered during the traditional sales periods.
"Stop overconsumption and communications that mislead consumers," French MP Matthieu Orphelin tweeted after the amendment passed the committee.
Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and the consumption it encourages can take a toll on human and planetary health.
"For people who don't have purchasing power, the ability to be able to buy something that is a necessity at a discounted price is obviously a benefit," MIT professor Nicholas Ashford told National Geographic last year. "For other people with more than enough, it just perpetuates a consumption-oriented society, which has an adverse effect on the environment."
In recent years, however, some companies have come to agree. Here are what four brands are doing to encourage more environmentally-friendly activities for the day after Thanksgiving.
1. REI Opts to Act
Join us this Black Friday for a nationwide cleanup – kicking off a year of change. Together we can fight for life o… https://t.co/X9aPLWB858— REI (@REI)1574112643.0
The outdoor gear company has closed its doors on Black Friday for five years now, encouraging its customers and employees, who are paid for the day, to #OptOutside and spend time in nature.
Originally, this decision was made for the sake of the company's employees, since Black Friday tends to pull retail workers away from their families, Ben Steele, the company's executive vice president and chief customer officer, told HuffPost.
But this year, REI is adding an environmental component and encouraging its customers to Opt to Act by joining one of the cleanups it has organized around the country with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and United By Blue. The store said those who don't live near a cleanup can still pick up trash while they spend time outdoors.
"Today, that future is at risk," REI CEO and President Eric Artz wrote in a letter announcing the campaign. "We are in the throes of an environmental crisis that threatens not only the next 81 years of the co-op, but the incredible outdoor places that we love. Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our co-op. I believe we do not have the luxury of calling climate change a political issue. This is a human issue. And we must act now."
2. Deciem Plans a "Moment of Nothingness"
Beauty company Deciem is also making a point this year by closing its stores and website Nov. 29 and implementing a month-long 23 percent discount for every one of its products sold online and in stores.
"Hyper-consumerism poses one of the biggest threats to the planet, and flash sales can often lead to rushed purchasing decisions, driven by the fear of a sell-out," the company wrote in a Nov. 1 Instagram post. "We no longer feel that Black Friday is an earth or consumer-friendly event, and have therefore decided to close our website and stores for a moment of nothingness on the 29th November."
In addition to environmental concerns, Deciem, which owns beauty brands The Ordinary and NIOD, emphasized that it wanted to give customers time to choose the right products.
"We strongly believe that skincare decisions should be based on education rather than impulse, and hope that a month-long promotion will provide the time for research, reflection, and consideration," they wrote.
3. 300+ Clothing Brands Unite to "Make Friday Green Again"
Fast fashion is a major environmental problem. A garbage-truck's worth of textiles is discarded every second, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation study. Clothing also sheds more than 50 billion plastic bottles worth of microfibers into the oceans every year. If industry practices don't change, fashion will gobble up a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050.
So it's fitting that more than 300 clothing companies are taking Black Friday off, BBC News reported. The Make Friday Green Again collective, whose members are largely French, wants customers to spend the day going through their closets to decide what they can repair, recycle or give away.
"When people buy something, we pollute because of the carbon emissions that come from making that product, from using it and then getting rid of that product," Nicolas Rohr, who started the group and co-founded green clothing company Faguo, told BBC News. "Today we don't buy what we need; we buy because we are tempted. We are not in a good relationship with consumption any more."
4. Patagonia Will Match Your Green Gifts
Outdoor store Patagonia will remain open to shoppers Black Friday, but it is also using this holiday season to encourage a different kind of gift giving.
Starting Nov. 29 and lasting through December, the company will match any donations made to one of environmental groups it supports through Patagonia Action Works, even if the giver doesn't purchase anything from the company. Customers can donate in their own name or as a gift, and the store will provide eCards and cards to print online or physical cards in store.
"Black Friday is often a day when we go out and buy things we don't really need and give them to people who don't really want them," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote on LinkedIn. "This year, consider giving to our home planet in the name of someone you love."
In her message, Marcario pointed out that environmental groups only receive three percent of charitable giving, despite the urgency of the climate crisis.
She also wasn't above encouraging a little passive-aggressive gift-giving when donating in others' names.
"With a wink and a friendly nudge, you might include those relatives or friends who refuse to believe in climate science," she wrote.
The Elephant in the Room
While these brands are offering a different vision of Black Friday, HuffPost writer Laura Paddison cautioned that the movement away from a door-busting Black Friday doesn't change the underlying culture of consumption that drives environmental harm year round. Both Deciem and REI offered November sales. (REI discounted items by up to 30 percent between Nov. 15 and 25.)
"[T]he elephant in the room here is that, even for companies that work hard to toe an ethical line, a business model predicated on growth means the ultimate aim is always to get people to buy more, which means producing more, which means more resources extracted, and more stuff in the world," she wrote.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
BY Connor McGuigan
REI will once again shutter its doors on Black Friday as part of its #OptOutside campaign, which encourages people to forgo bargain-hunting and spend America's busiest shopping day outside. The outdoor retailer will also suspend online sales and provide all 12,000 employees with a paid day off to enjoy the outdoors.
#OptOutside began in 2015 when REI executives began questioning their corporation's involvement in the annual bargain bacchanal. Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans generate one million extra tons of waste, a good portion of which can be attributed to Black Friday shopping.
REI decided to offer a different narrative for Black Friday—one that runs counter to consumerism and the environmental harms it generates. "We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season," said president and CEO Jerry Stritzke in the letter first announcing #OptOutside in 2015.
During that first #OptOutside campaign, REI partnered with 170 organizations to help get the word out and arranged for 1,000 state and local parks to waive entrance fees that day. #OptOutside resonated widely—more than 1.4 million people posted on social media with the #OptOutside tag. Ad Age called the campaign the "future of marketing."
After another successful campaign in 2016, REI has sought to widen the reach of #OptOutside this year with an "experiential search engine" designed to make it even easier for people to get outside. The search engine compiles thousands of photos depicting outdoor adventures that people have posted on Instagram with the hashtag #OptOutside. You can scroll through photos organized by activity, or search for outings in a particular area. If you find a photo that piques your interest—say a landscape in your area that you've never seen—you can click on the photo to find more information, including the name and location as well as the difficulty level of trails.
CEO Jerry Stritzke believes the search engine unites outdoor enthusiasts in an unprecedented fashion. "We have captured the experiences of the outdoor community and organized them in a way that no one has done before," he said in a press release announcing the #OptOutside 2017 campaign and search engine. "Right now, I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves, and come together."
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
By Kirsten Brodde
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to generate billions of dollars in sales for clothing and other products this year. But this shopping bonanza also generates greater volumes of waste than ever. That is bad news for the environment.
Instead of chasing prey in the jungle like our ancestors did, we chase bargain clothing that seems like a good deal. Just look at the scenes that take place every year in American shopping malls on the fourth Friday of November, when people try to secure a favorable position in the queue outside shops in the early hours of the morning. One could say "Black Friday" deserves its name: Every year dozens of people are crushed, even to death, as has happened in the past.
Trend today, trash tomorrow. Greenpeace sends a queen of trash wearing a dress made of old #fastfashion… https://t.co/ZUi5IupPhE— Lu Yen Roloff (@Lu Yen Roloff)1480067120.0
Black Friday, followed by Cyber Monday, are intended to mark the beginning of the big shopping season, when some people start buying gifts for Christmas. Both days use heavy price discounting and special offers to trigger a sense of urgency and "exceptional opportunity" to consumers, triggering low cost, high volume impulse buying and—as a result—overconsumption of unnecessary goods.
Because it is so cheap, fast fashion is one of the highest selling product categories on Black Friday, with many major fashion brands and retail giants jumping on the bandwagon. While it is hard to resist the allure of the next must-have outfit, consumption research shows that the act of shopping only gives us a short burst of excitement, but no lasting reward. However, the environmental impact lingers and is all too real.
Greenpeace has shown that fashion production uses lots of precious fresh water and pollutes rivers and seas with toxic chemicals, long before it hits the shelves. We are also consuming and trashing clothing at a far higher rate than our planet can handle. Fashion retailers have been speeding up the turnaround of fashion trends since the 1980's, increasing the rate that we use and throw away clothes—the life cycle of consumer goods shortened by 50 percent between 1992 and 2002. A recent report shows that Hong Kongers throw out the equivalent of 1,400 t-shirts a minute. Today's trends are tomorrow's trash.
We are told that clothes can be recycled, but second hand markets are already overloaded with our unwanted clothes. Greenpeace research found that up to date and comprehensive figures on clothes waste are not easily available. However, we do know that in the EU 1.5 to 2 million tons of used clothing is generated annually, with only 10 to 12 percent of the best quality clothes re-sold locally and much of the rest likely to be exported to countries in the Global south. Some countries in East Africa, which currently import used clothing from Europe and the U.S., are considering restrictions to protect their local markets.
Due to rising volumes of cheap, low-quality fast fashion, the second hand clothing system is on the brink of collapse. Technical solutions such as closed-loop recycling—which would make new fibers from old clothes—is nowhere near possible. Although there is currently much interest from fashion brands and designers and a lot of promising research, none of the technologies are commercially viable at this point. This means that, as the situation stands today, every garment we buy will eventually end up as waste, to be burned in incinerators or dumped in a landfill.
The only solution is to reduce our levels of consumption. It could be as simple as taking a break from shopping on Black Friday to participate in global "Buy Nothing Day." This symbolic day invites people to stop shopping for a day and reflect on what they really need. Greenpeace supports the message of "Buy Nothing Day" and is calling for "Time out for Fast Fashion."
Illustration featuring models in polyester clothing.
It's time to trash the throwaway-mentality and re-think what we really need in our wardrobes, instead of queueing up for the next cheap outfit. We can wear our clothes for longer, look after them, repair them, restyle and re-invent them, swap them with friends and pass them on. It's time for fashion brands to re-invent themselves and design clothes that we really need and enjoy wearing—designed for better quality, longevity and for re-use.
This is the only way to make fashion fit for the future. Let's call timeout on fast fashion.
Happy Buy Nothing Day!
Dr. Kirsten Brodde is the Detox my Fashion global project lead at Greenpeace Germany.
Patagonia: 'On Black Friday, We're Donating 100% of Sales to Grassroots Environmental Organizations'
We're just days from Black Friday, one of the biggest consumer shopping days of the year in America. And as people think generously about family and friends, we also want to help our customers show love to the planet, which badly needs a gift or two (and still gets coal every year).
This year Patagonia will donate 100 percent of global Black Friday sales in our stores and on our website to grassroots organizations working in local communities to protect our air, water and soil for future generations. These are small groups, often underfunded and under the radar, who work on the front lines. The support we can give is more important now than ever.
We'll also provide information in our stores and on our website about how to get in touch with these groups and easily be active in your own communities—on Black Friday and every day.
For decades, Patagonia has demonstrated that caring for our planet is not in conflict with running a successful business. We are always looking for ways to further reduce our manufacturing footprint, including our company's reliance on fossil fuels. We also fund grassroots environmental organizations by giving away 1 percent of our sales. To date that amount totals $74 million.
But during a difficult and divisive time, we felt it was important to go further and connect more of our customers, who love wild places, with those who are fighting tirelessly to protect them. This we know: If we don't act boldly, severe changes in climate, water and air pollution, extinction of species, and erosion of topsoil are certain outcomes. The threats facing our planet affect people of every political stripe, of every demographic, in every part of the country. We all stand to benefit from a healthy environment—and our children and grandchildren do, too.
By getting active in communities, we can effect local change to protect the food we and our children eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the treasured places we love the most. And we can impact global priorities, too, by raising our voices to defend policies and regulations that will reduce carbon emissions, build a modern energy economy based on investment in renewables and, most crucially, ensure the U.S. remains fully committed to the vital goals set forth in the Paris climate agreement.
At Patagonia, we will grow and deepen our resolve to protect what we love. We will fight harder and smarter, and use every means at our disposal to prevail for the sake of the country, the planet and the wild places and creatures that need our voice.
This Black Friday we’re donating 100% of sales to grassroots environmental groups. #LoveOurPlanet:… https://t.co/XRKkJb89R5— Patagonia (@Patagonia)1479742356.0
We are here and we'll keep fighting. hundred percent on Black Friday, 1 percent every day. #LoveOurPlanet.