Words by Abi Scaife
Once almost a holiday in its own right, the cultural phenomenon that is Black Friday has sunk in people’s estimations in recent years.
From complaints that the deals are not all they are cracked up to be, to accusations of overconsumption being bad for the environment, Black Friday is no longer the saving grace for people late on Christmas gifts.
Still, it's a day observed in many countries around the world, with even small, independent businesses running some kind of ‘Black Friday’ event. So should we get involved – and if not, what's the alternative?
What’s wrong with Black Friday?
The main concern people have with Black Friday is that it encourages over consumerism and, because of that, often produces a lot of waste.
80% of products bought at Black Friday end up in landfill, are incinerated, or are recycled poorly, according to stats. Add onto that the 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions we're expected to produce on Black Friday 2022 from deliveries alone, and it becomes obvious that there are a lot of valid environmental concerns.
There's also the issue that the "deals" aren't quite as deal-y as we thought. Which.co.uk found in 2020 that 98% of the ‘Black Friday’ deals advertised were available for the same price or cheaper in the six months after the ‘big day’.
So what are the alternatives?
There are plenty of businesses supporting alternatives for Black Friday – and one of those is Teemill, a platform that allows people to start a sustainable clothing brand, based on a circular model.
For Black Friday 2022, they're encouraging people to give back. They've launched #TakeBackFriday to encourage people to think about the environment and consider what they already have that they don’t use, before buying more.
“Black Friday is a symptom of how waste has been woven into the way our world works," says Teemilll co-founder Mart Drake-Knight. "Products are designed to be thrown away, meaning the only way to create growth is make and sell more products and create more waste."
This Black Friday, Teemill is giving customers the opportunity to send back clothes they bought from them that they no longer wear, which means the company can recycle what people no longer need.
Using their Remill process, Teemill turns the old cotton clothes into brand new garments, creating less waste from their products.
The Ethical Consumer, a publication encouraging people to learn how to use their spending power to help change the world for the better, also suggests supporting alternatives to Black Friday this year.
“We'd say check out Buy Nothing Day and MAKE SMTHNG week,” says Ruth Strange, from the Ethical Consumer. “But you can also take inspiration from what Green Friday suggested: rather than being stuck indoors on our phones and laptops, competing for discounts and buying products we don’t necessarily need… let’s join in with the Green Friday ethos!”
While Black Friday is all about buying new, alternatives such as Green Friday, Buy Nothing Day and MAKE SMTHING week are about moving away from consuming too much. Instead, they encourage you to focus on other aspects of life like going out into nature, putting time into creating something, volunteering with worthwhile causes and spending time with the people you love.
“Don't forget, there are many other ways to meet your needs, and save money, all without lining the pockets of giant corporations,” reminds Ruth. “Clothes swaps, second-hand shops, growing, making, and even sharing through Libraries of Things!”
So, is Black Friday bad? In a perfect world, no - and if there’s something you need that you’ve had your eye on for a while, Black Friday can be a great day to make that purchase. But if you’re hoping to be a bit more eco-friendly this year, or even if you just want to hold tight to your hard-earned cash, it might be worth looking closer at some of the alternatives.