The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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.
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.
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.
We are here and we'll keep fighting. hundred percent on Black Friday, 1 percent every day. #LoveOurPlanet.