Eco Comment – Black Friday November 24 is about shopping, you can DO NOTHING about it!

23 November 2023

No, it’s not a mistake. ‘Buy Nothing Day’ is a kick back against the mass advertising of Black Friday which follows the American Thanksgiving Holiday.

This holiday, which started as a religious day of Thanksgiving for safe arrival on the coast of Virginia in 1619, was a few years later celebrating the harvest with the help given by the Wampanoag Indians in cultivating crops and surviving their first harsh winter in 1621. It was a shared meal which lasted for three days!

Nowadays, thanks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thanksgiving is held on the 24th November. This date was set because traditionally no advertising for Christmas was allowed before Thanksgiving, so now with this specific date set the commercial run up to Christmas could start!

The term Black Friday was coined by the police forces who had to control the massed crowds who came into the American cities looking for bargains, and that was before the advent of the internet and wall-to-wall advertising. So in the early 1990s, the campaign to Buy Nothing on this day was started.

As ever, what starts in the US comes here. The UK campaign to Buy Nothing was started in 2000 and the message has always been the same: ‘Shop Less, Live More’. Now, 23 years later, we all know we need to consume less! We know that ‘Recycling is Good but Reducing is Better’. However, we’re still lagging behind the forces of mass consumerism. Adverts for Black Friday have been around us in print, on the huge electronic billboards and on every TV, satellite and social media site going for weeks. The Buy Nothing adverts only started this week. Is this reverse psychology? Can we be persuaded to not follow the crowd?

It’s a sobering thought that in the UK there are now only 2 days out of 365 when we can’t physically go into a store or supermarket, and when supermarkets close for an extra day, they are being considerate employers for allowing their staff to have family time. Is this “Bah, humbug!” or a revival (if it ever went away?) of the Victorian work ethic? We might have to do other things at Christmas; Go to church? Go for a walk? Play games? Eat, drink and be merry … or we can scour the internet and shop online!

I got an email from ‘The Story of Stuff’ today. It, too, was advertising the notion that we should ‘Buy Less Stuff’ and have ‘More Joy’. It reminds us that every product we buy has an environmental and labour cost from long before it hits the store shelves to long after you toss it into the bin.

But back to Buy Nothing Day… how can you take part? It’s simple. You participate by not participating! Literally, doing nothing is doing something! Suggestions for specific actions include ending the addiction to:

  • Single use!
    Cups, bottles, packaging, ready meals and takeaway packaging. In the UK it’s estimated that 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are generated around Christmas time. Seasonal gifts with excessive packaging, single use plastic being used for food and toy packaging are among the worst offenders.
  • Take Action!
    Choose plastic-free or packaging-free gifts. Avoid wrapping paper with laminates, gold or silver foiling, coloured shapes and any type of glitter as none of these types of wrapping can be recycled. Worst of all is that if you do put them in the recycling they can pollute the whole container meaning that whole container has to go to landfill! ????
  • Kick bad fashion habits!
    Fast fashion is cheap and designed to be disposable – in the UK approximately 300,00 tonnes of clothes are burned or sent to landfill each year plus a staggering 93% of fashion brands don’t pay workers a living wage. ( So take action! avoid fast fashion and look beyond the label. Try upcycling, selling or donating clothes to local charities.

Can you buck the trend? Not be a lemming? Go against the flow?

Resist the temptation to spend!

Can you keep it up all weekend and resist Cyber Monday too?

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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