It would seem we’ve hit a conundrum when it comes to awareness days, with two that I fully support falling on the exact same day, but asking us to do two totally different things. Both Buy Nothing Day and Green Friday are relevant and much-needed awareness days. They remind us of how much we buy, where our money goes and where our purchases will end up! Both days have their merits and offer us a chance to reflect.
Let’s start with a newer awareness day to hit the UK: Buy Nothing Day.
Buy Nothing Day
Buy Nothing Day started in Canada in 1992 as a day to acknowledge overconsumption. In 1997, it moved to the day after Thanksgiving, so it falls the 4th Thursday in November. Coincidentally, the same date as #blackfriday – one of the busiest shopping dates in the US.
Ultimately, my take on it all is that it’s a day to remind us to take stock of our spending habits. To look at all of the things we’ve acquired, and maybe never used. This day is also a great way to review our finances and think about what we spend and why.
Having a Buy Nothing Day is a great opportunity to reflect on our everyday actions. Maybe if we can all take 1-day a year to slow down, we may start to notice that we are actually supporting businesses that are in conflict with the things we care about.
So, Buy Nothing Day, it’s a day to breathe, reflect and give the debit card a rest.
Now, let’s move onto the awareness day that is gathering momentum: Green Friday
Over the past few years, in the UK we’ve started to see more businesses welcome Green Friday which is a counter-movement to Black Friday highlighting more conscious shopping instead. Some businesses are refusing to participate in the chaos that is Black Friday (and in some cases, we are seeing this madness span across a whole week) and instead opt-in for a Green Friday. Some businesses are boycotting Black Friday by shutting their doors for 1-day, like Elvis and Kresse.
Others are donating a % of profits to charitable causes or simply being transparent and saying they cannot afford to compete with the likes of Amazon, ASOS and larger retailer chains.
And finally, how can I not mention Black Friday?
Many large retailers rely on this ridiculous holiday to shift stock cheaply and quickly. Many also can afford to offer these big discounts, and contrary to what we may think, Black Friday is a retail selling strategy that many large retailers plan for. We think we’re getting a great deal, and in some cases maybe we do, but we’re also a pawn in their bigger plan to get us to spend our hard-earned cash on things we don’t really need, and that probably won’t last long either.
The trouble with Black Friday is that it’s totally unsustainable. Almost 80% of all impulse purchases end up unloved and disregarded. Then we have to consider where these items will end up and also account for the impact on the environment for all of the ‘postage’ and ‘transportation’. Let’s not even talk about returns…
A report by Green Alliance found that 80% of items purchased during Black Friday deals (of which half are electronics and a third are clothes) will end up either in landfills or incineration after a very short life.
Every year, we add to this waste, buy engaging in more Black Friday frenzied shopping. The real problem I have with it is that the guilt and shame rest on the consumers’ shoulders. We tell people that mindless consumption is bad, not recycling is bad. But where is the accountability for the businesses that churn out all of the products? Where is the government legislation to prevent unethical marketing designed to coerce people to spend before the Bargain Offers expire – and you’ll have to wait another year, or worst still miss out completely…
Letting Go of Ownership
Is renting instead of owning the next big thing? Millennials are definitely helping redefine the sharing economy and letting go of ownership, from houses, cars, tech, clothes and furniture. An article from 2019, Generation Rent: How Millennials are Fueling the Rental Economy, stated that: “Female renters are more likely to rent furniture, clothes, and jewellery, while male renters are more likely to rent tools and gaming systems” – and I could completely relate and see sense in this.
Some fantastic website’s I’ve seen that encourage the sharing economy include:
1. FatLama – is a trusted marketplace for buying, selling and renting. You can lend and sell pretty much anything to earn more from your stuff. I think it’s fantastic as it allows you to access things like a drill, or professional studio lighting, baking equipment, or even a bike, anything for the rare occasions you may need it.
Now, this was a website I didn’t stumble across through a Google search. My zero-waste friend Laura Zabo who lives lightly, owns very little and enjoys her life fully, shared the website with me.
2. My Wardrobe HQ and By Rotation are both luxury fashion rental platforms that make it easy to access clothing that may be financially out of reach to ‘own’ but you can simply enjoy for a few days and then return. I have used both of these to rent out items, and I fully intend to use these to rent from for future events when I need something extra special, but just for one occasion.
3. Clothes Swapping is a great way to inject fresh items into your wardrobe without having to buy anything new. Very often these apps are full of clothes with their tags on and owners just looking to get rid of the surplus items clogging up their wardrobes, but equally open to swapping instead of selling if you have something they want too.
4. Shopping Preloved Clothes as much as it pains me to admit it, but I’m not a minimalist! I am passionate about the environment and not fuelling a capitalist system that rewards people who don’t care about the triple bottom line. So, how can I keep my satiation for new items satisfied? Well, I have a little system – I sell pieces on these apps and then use the money from the sales to buy new things as and when I need them.
Buy Nothing Day or support Green Friday?
To summarise, there’s merit in supporting both but it’s hard to do that when they fall upon the same day. I think #GreenFriday is already gathering good momentum and there is a risk that Buy Nothing Day will be overshadowed. This particular day would be more impactful if it were moved to the Wednesday before Green Friday (instead of sharing the date). This would encourage people to stop and think before indulging in discounted shopping.
What I would also like to add is that we shouldn’t shun people who do take part in Black Friday either. In England, many non-essential shops have been closed during Lockdown 2.0. Many people have been furloughed or worse. Black Friday still represents an opportunity for many to be able to afford things that they couldn’t get at any other time of the year. I think it’s important to recognise that many small businesses will participate in #BlackFriday to try and capture some of the sales too – and we shouldn’t judge them either.
In my recent interview with CGTV, I also suggested that “there is something else which is even better than not buying anything or renting. It’s actually thinking about giving back – acts of kindness and acts of service don’t cost anything. It’s a really nice opportunity to think about what you can do without having to spend money,”
You can read my Interview with CGTN Europe here > “Buy Nothing Day an antidote to Black Friday Consumption?“
Use the day to reflect on whether owning more ‘stuff’ has helped or hindered you, whether owning new things creates joy or adds to mess and stress.
Is ownership the best solution, is rental better? this applies to electronics, tools and even clothes.
For me, I think this is a great day to audit what you own. Take stock of how much you have and identify if you have more than you need, or if there are some gaps and use #greenfriday where you can to support brands that are doing the best they can.