Have you ever wondered what the relevance of Black Friday is...apart from being a great excuse for retailers worldwide to slash prices?

Black Friday generates billions of dollars in sales for clothing, electronics and other products.  But this shopping frenzy also generates huge volumes of waste. That is bad news for the environment.

Black Friday is the name given to the shopping day after Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is an American holiday so why do retailers all around the world embrace Black Friday?

Let's firstly understand why it's called Black Friday.   

In the 1950s Philadelphia's Thanksgiving weekend was a mob scene due to the Army and Navy college football teams celebrated their fierce rivalry on neutral-ground in Philadelphia on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The day before, thousands of people from surrounding communities would flood into the city to watch the game bringing with it intense racial and social tension. This annual wave of fans (and shoppers) would clog the streets and put a strain on law and order, inviting shoplifters to take advantage of the bedlam in stores.  The Philadelphia Police Department coined the phrase to describe the mayhem.

Historically, Black Friday wasn't a great day but this hasn’t stopped retailers around the world from popularising the event purely for commercial gain.

So, what's so bad about capitalising on Black Friday sales?  It's a win/win for everyone, right?  Wrong. Our excessive consumerism during promotional periods like this has a profound effect on the environment.

Heavily discounted prices and special offers trigger a sense of opportunity and urgency to consumers - the end result is low cost, high volume impulse buying and over-consumption of unnecessary products.  Research shows that although this type of activity may generate instant gratification it does not have a long lasting effect, yet in comparison this activity does have a long lasting impact on the environment that is real and significant.

And because fashion is so accessible and cheap, it's one of the highest selling product categories on Black Friday.

What we know...

  • Fashion is one of the largest industry polluters in the world, 20% of the industrial water pollution comes from treating and dying textiles.
  • It is estimated that we make 400 billion m2 of textiles annually, 60 billion m2 is cutting room floor waste
  • Clothing consumption produces 1.5 tonnes of CO2 (the equivalent of 6000 cars) per household per year
  • The volume of water consumed by apparel production each year is currently around 79 billion cubic meters or 32 million olympic swimming pools.
  • 80 billion pieces of clothing are consumed globally every year with most people regularly wearing just 20% of their wardrobe
  • 12.7 million tons of clothing is thrown away each year

With the fashion industry churning out up to 52 micro-seasons per year consumers are being encouraged to buy cheap, wear a few times and then replace.  Today's trend is tomorrow's trash. Due to this discard and replace mentality, the second hand clothing market is stretched to capacity which means even those pieces intended for recycle, end up in landfill. 

The only real solution is to BECOME part of the solution and reduce our levels of consumption.

And that is just the fashion industry.  Other industries such as consumer electronics are also in high demand around these `flash sale' periods. This category has rapid turnover and short life-spans due to constant new innovations in design; all those new phones, tablets, cameras, and home gadgets soon turn into waste. U.N. findings show that only about 20 percent of e-waste is recycled.  Adding further stress on the environment, electronics thrown into landfills often leak toxics into the soil and water with the high toxicity of materials used.

Add to this, the packaging that all these products are sold in. Only 2 percent of 78 million tons of waste packaging gets recycled.  The WWF 2018 Living Planet Report recently released shows evidence that nature is dying.  There has been a 60% decline in the animal population across the planet, 83% decline in freshwater species and 90% of seabirds now consume plastic. There will be more plastic than fish in the world’s seas by the year 2050 if current rates of plastic dumping continue.  

It’s time to change our throwaway behaviour and consciously consider what we really need, instead of queueing up for the next cheap deal.  Let's buy less & buy better.

So ask yourself: Do I really need to buy this? If not, you're not just saving money but your helping to save our planet.

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