By Christa Adams
With Black Friday almost upon us — and holiday shopping underway — businesses are eager to snag our attention. They’re in our inboxes, our social feeds, and text messages bombarding us with big red and black messages enticing us to take advantage of “never before seen” deals “only this Black Friday!”
It’s easy to admit we all love a good deal, and that’s the appeal of holiday sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday after all. Big businesses will reap huge profits during the holidays — many of them far-from-sustainable companies. So, with the shopping season commencing, we’d like to show how to take advantage of crazy discounts without harming the planet along the way. Follow our guide to sustainable holiday shopping and find out where to shop, what to buy, and how to make better purchases.
Things to know before Black Friday shopping
The concept of Black Friday in itself is not sustainable. Once only a day of frenetic consumerism, it has quickly turned into an entire week of massive discounts just to tempt you to buy, buy, buy. On the other hand, sustainable living focuses on making ethical purchases that are kind to the planet and everyone involved in the process. Leaving a shop with bags full of fast-fashion clothing? Buying a new television just because it’s on sale? Supporting unethical brands? None of it is considered sustainable.
According to EcoCart, Black Friday shoppers spent $9 billion shopping online in 2020. Many Black Friday purchases are made on impulse and last just one or two seasons before getting chucked out. Plus, electronics are some of the most sought-after deals on Black Friday, increasing electronic waste as people upgrade their one-year-old iPhones and toss their old TVs in the bin. In fact, one study suggests that up to 80% of Black Friday purchases are quickly discarded or never used at all.
Of course, it’s not just about waste. It’s about the overall environmental impact. In the UK alone, 2020’s Black Friday emitted 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of 435 return flights from New York to London.
So, if you’d like to get into sustainable holiday shopping with better brands, here’s what you can do.
Create a list of what you actually need
Black Friday marketers are clever. They know how to get you to purchase. Be one step ahead by creating a list of exactly what you need, want to buy for friends or family, and something you’ve been dying to purchase for yourself. Write them all down physically or on your phone and stick to the list — even when you see advertisements with ridiculous deals. If it’s not on your list, pass on it. There will always be more deals anyway.
Find brands that are actually sustainable
Many brands claim to have sustainable collections or values, but beware greenwashing. Stick to brands experts have deemed sustainable or eco-friendly. Conduct research to identify the best sustainable brands.
You can also check out this article to find some ethical fashion brands that are fighting fast fashion and make for excellent sustainable holiday shopping options.
Stock up on essentials
If the item won’t perish and there’s a crazy-good sale, why not stock up on a six-month or year supply? It might seem like a big purchase initially, but the year-long money (and time) savings will certainly pay off.
Everyone (we’d like to think) does laundry. So, take advantage of a sale and stock up on a supply of eco-friendly laundry strips or gift some to friends and family. We’re especially thinking of those pals who are still stuck in the old ways of buying jugs on jugs of plastic-encased laundry detergent. Let's help them out.
Or maybe there’s an awesome deal on your favorite sustainable shampoo/conditioner brand or cosmetic brand. Basically, if you know you will use them, we recommend taking advantage of the sales. That’s why household items or toiletries are a great option to purchase when there’s a wild Black Friday sale going on.
Yep, even thrift stores and vintage shops tend to put on killer holiday sales. When it comes to sustainable shopping for household furniture items and clothing, secondhand is absolutely the best way to go.
Plus, there’s something special about knowing that the item is rare compared to some cute fast-fashion top that can be found, quite literally, around the world.
Don’t be afraid to give vintage and secondhand items as gifts either! As the world moves toward sustainable living, secondhand gifts are becoming more and more popular. If you find something unique and special, there is no shame in gifting it to a loved one. If they also live a sustainable life, they’ll be touched you were so thoughtful.
Shop for a good cause
Sometimes we shop simply because we’re bored and want the adrenaline rush of buying something (seriously!). If you can relate and have the extra money, then consider shopping and donating to an organization or cause you’re passionate about helping. Maybe it’s a local community center, animal shelter, or charity. Whatever it may be, call them to learn what they could use this holiday season. They’ll surely be grateful for your generosity!
Lowering the overall environmental impact of a purchase is a major part of sustainable shopping. Local items have traveled less distance to get to you and your purchases support your community instead of big business. So, before you trot over to your favorite department store, browse sustainable boutique shops and local vendors in your area first.
Bring your own shopping bags
Do the planet the biggest favor and bring your own shopping bags when you go out during the Black Friday weekend. You’ll be reducing the amount of shopping bags that go to landfill every year. This helps businesses re-evaluate the number of bags they will need the following year.
Let’s keep making Black Friday greener! If you’re looking for more ways to be sustainable this season, check out more articles on this blog.