How to shop responsibly on Black Friday

Only 1 day till the biggest consumption feast of the year, Black Friday, kicks off!

An American invention, the term Black Friday was originally used to describe the 'congestion' in the stores on the day after Thanksgiving when many people celebrated their day off by going shopping. Today, Black Friday is spreading across the globe and associated with big discounts on especially clothes and electronics – and with consumers spending vast amounts of money.

While Black Friday is seen by many in the sustainable community as irresponsible overconsumption, there is also some good in it. It is a way for people on lower income to be able to buy bigger Christmas presents for their loved ones and get more value for their money on things they have been saving up for.

And this is the key: Black Friday CAN be a good thing if you only buy a few things that you truly need or things that you or your loved ones have been wanting for a long time. Purchases that genuinely make you happy and last long.

Unfortunately, Black Friday often turns into a shopping frenzy, with people hoarding and fighting over offers. It is as if the 50% off signs trigger a need that doesn’t exist, leaving people to come home with all sorts of stuff and presents that will never be used. And this is of course exactly what the businesses participating in Black Friday is after: getting consumers to buy as much as possible through clever marketing.

It is important on this day to remember that there are people and valuable natural resources behind every single product made. Water, energy, animals, workers and nature; all or most of these have been impacted by the production of each individual product.
The retail price may be low, yet the price they pay is high. A lot of the products are bought in bulk specifically with Black Friday and the discount in mind, and it is not uncommon for big brands to negotiate lower cost prices with their suppliers in order to protect their profit margins. Someone else along the supply chain will take the hit…

Regardless, some of us may have our eyes set on a good offer that we couldn’t otherwise afford. How can we participate in Black Friday and still be responsible consumers?
First of all, only buy things that have been on your wish list (or your loved ones') for a long time and that you genuinely need. Secondly, buy fewer things of better quality instead of lots of cheap substandard items. And finally, if you have the option, buy something that is made with people and planet in mind.

As most sustainable brands distance themselves from Black Friday, the latter can be a challenge. Partly because they (we) want to discourage overconsumption, and partly because they operate with lower margins - a result of paying their suppliers fair prices combined with the desire to offer an affordable product to their customers. Rather than offering big discounts on Black Friday, many of them therefore offer to donate either their sales or profits on this day to charities.

This year, VILDNIS pledge to donate 100% of the profits made on Black Friday weekend, the 24th-26th November 2017, to Friends of the Earth UK and doubling them via The Big Give Christmas Challenge.


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