Can Black Friday go Green?

With Black Friday weekend just gone, many of us picked up bargains. But what does the sale mean for the fashion industry, and our planet?

Keely Murphy
13th December 2021
Image: Instagram @flaxlondon
Starting out as an American tradition, the increased global outreach of brands in the last decade has made Black Friday a staple part of British Winter. We’ve all seen the hauls from influencers over the last weekend of November. They show stacks of plastic packages filled with clothes they purchased at bargain prices, encouraging you to buy while the prices are low. Not to mention the constant advertising by the brands themselves, flashing images of products as they show how much they’ve cut the cost this year for “the lowest prices yet”. Fast-fashion is already a multi-trillion-dollar industry. If we add to this the increase in excessive consumerism this time of year, profits rise, but so do the levels of carbon emissions.

In the 2019 UN report, it was revealed that 8-10% of annual global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry. This is in large part to the mass production of products at a very low cost, outreaching their factories to countries with relaxed environmental laws that allow brands to churn out clothes at an insane rate with a large impact on the environment. For example, Bangladesh is the worlds 2nd largest producer of fast fashion products, but it is also one of the most polluted countries despite only producing 0.5 metric tons/capita/year of carbon emissions. This shows how the fast fashion industry is not only causing a great impact on the environment, but also taking advantage of the people working in the factories and living in surrounding areas. These effects are escalated by the Black Friday sales, with the influx of consumer demand requiring more production at a faster rate.

Image: Instagram @prettylittlething

Some fast fashion brands have taken the sales to a new level this year. One of the biggest offenders was Pretty Little Thing, who rebranded the sale day to ‘Pink Friday’. The company actually made certain products on their website completely free, asking only for postage payment. Alternatively, smaller, more sustainable brands reject the concept of Black Friday entirely. For example, the linen company Flax London shut down their website in protest against the sales and to raise awareness to their customers of the environmental impact that excessive consumerism creates.

Customers should ask themselves before buying: is this product durable, repairable, and fit for reuse?

In defense of the consumer, offers like the ones found on Pretty Little Thing are almost too good to miss, as not everyone finds themselves in the privileged position to pay the high prices for sustainable products. But, with increased media recognition of climate change and the unsustainability of fast fashion brands, the novelty for many has worn off. As a customer there are ways to help reduce this impact of fast fashion, such as buying from honest and transparent brands trying to become more sustainable. Using websites like fashionchecker.org, customers can see information about how, where, and by whom a product was made. This highlights which brands are truly sustainable, and who are using the word to appeal to conscious consumers without changing their means of production. Kirsten Brodde, one of the writers for Greenpeace, says customers should ask themselves before buying: is this product durable, repairable, and fit for reuse? By meeting these requirements, customers will not need to purchase as many items of clothing, reducing the need for fast fashion.

Think twice about whether you really need another dress for clubbing? Or could you find a bargain pair of Levi’s that will last you a lifetime?

Overall, fashion brands need to make fewer garments and of higher quality, and we as consumers need to be more aware before we buy. The Black Friday hype can be very tempting, but if you’re going to partake this year think twice about whether you really need another dress for clubbing? Or could you find a bargain pair of Levi’s that will last you a lifetime?

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