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Turning Black Friday Green

Black Friday is a phenomena that has permeated throughout the world. Originating in the US, it falls over the weekend of Thanksgiving and, ironically, causes many to leave their families during one of America’s sacred family holidays to go out and, sometimes literally, fight mass crowds to shop at huge discount prices. As the Black Friday hangover settles over us, we at Sealand feel it is a good time to reflect. Through a discussion around the history of Black Friday and what it represents, we aim to pull the well curated mask off the event. It is against this context that we will end on a positive note and explore organisations and movements that have turned Black to Green.

Through some clever marketing and advertising campaigns, the history of Black Friday that we are fed paints a positive picture. It is said that after a year of operating at a loss (‘in the red’) retail stores would finally turn a profit (‘in the black’) following the surge in spending over the Thanksgiving weekend. This, of course, is the American Dream. It is the story of hard work and patience resulting in economic success on the back of a wholesome family holiday. The true story behind Black Friday is not as romantic. In the 1950s, the police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued the day after Thanksgiving. Crowds would flood the city in  anticipation of the Army-Navy football game that took place on that Saturday every year. Many would take advantage of the mayhem in the stores and steal merchandise. As a result of having to control the crowds, while missing out on the family holiday, the Philadelphia Police despised the day and dubbed it “Black Friday”.

Photo Cred: Jonathon Harrison / Unsplash

As with the story behind Black Friday, there is a disconnect between what we are it told it represents and reality. The truth is that Black Friday is bad for you and for the environment. It is bad for you because it encourages over spending, rash buying decisions and an unconscious lowering of quality standards. It is bad for the environment because it represents consumerism in its purest form. It generates huge waste and pushes a throwaway culture. Consumers enthusiastically throw away their purchases of the previous year in anticipation of buying the latest edition of the current year. They happily settle for a lower quality at a lower price because they intend to discard the product the following year when they buy its latest edition during that year’s Black Friday specials. While this may seem like a rejuvenating cycle to the consumer, it is a suffocating cycle of waste creation to the environment. In recent times, however, fresh air has been breathed back into the environment through anti-Black Friday initiatives.

Photo Cred: Nicolai Bernsten / Unsplash

Many have woken up to the negative personal and environmental impact of Black Friday. Around the world we have began to see movements leveraging the hype surrounding Black Friday to turn the conversation to sustainability. The #OptOutside Movement is pledge taken by many retailers around the world to close their store on Black Friday. Participants pledge to take a stand against Black Friday by engaging in outdoor activities and appreciating the natural world. The #buynothingday movement challenges people to protest consumerism by not spending a cent for the 24 hours of Black Friday. The Fair Tuesday movement falls on the day after Cyber Monday. It encourages consumers to save their money over the Thanksgiving weekend, and to spend it on fair trade and eco friendly products.

At Sealand we held the Green Weekend initiative for the second consecutive year. We raised R7 350.00 by donating 10% of all sales over the weekend to the Beach Co-Op, an organisation who is doing incredible work to keep our beaches clean. We have worked with them before and are excited to contribute to their work in anyway we can. We held a competition which incentivised the general public to get out and play their part in cleaning up our beaches. Since we do not generally discount our products we wanted to give back to our loyal customers, and encourage sustainable shopping over the weekend, by offering a 20% discount on all our products and an upcycled Shopper bag for those showing the most support.

Photo Cred: Johannes Ludwig / Unsplash

Black Friday is detrimental to the environment. Out of this anti-environmental weekend, however, we have seen the sustainability flag flying higher and brighter every year. These movements and organisations are proof that sustainability is always an option and that the more who choose that option the stronger the movement will grow. We know that the direction of the natural world rests on our shoulders and to turn Black Friday green is part of accepting that responsibility. The other part is consistently and unwaveringly choosing the sustainable option in all that we do.

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