As I write this month’s column, we are approaching Black Friday, invented by American retailers to get consumers to part with their cash even earlier than the few weeks before Christmas. A friend, who runs a Fair Trade clothes shop in Brighton, told me about the movement that’s trying to disrupt this feeding frenzy of consumerism.
I was really heartened to find out that it’s not just about the usual suspects telling people not to buy anything. Rather, it encourages people to spend time making something for others on Black Friday, or to ‘buy something for good.’ That could be something Fair Trade, or something that someone needs, or an item that will last for a very long time.
This idea of buying something of value appeals to me. With the spotlight shining even more brightly on single use plastics and throw-away fashion, a stainless-steel reusable water bottle or a beautifully made scarf from natural materials that can be patched, mended and eventually recycled make perfect sense.
I was surprised to see that some big companies are also subverting Black Friday. In 2016, US clothing brand Patagonia donated the entirety of its $10m Black Friday sales total to grassroots environmental organisations. And another US company shut its doors on Black Friday last year and gave every one of its 12,000 staff a paid holiday. How cool is that? It’d be great to see that kind of thing happening here in the UK as well.
This all got me thinking about Christmas. Being the kind of person who cares about the environment doesn’t mean that you have to turn your back on giving and receiving gifts. I think the message from those of us working to disrupt Black Friday is really positive. Spending money on things that last, things that are useful or things that are homemade is a wonderful way of showing someone how much you love them.
Published in Keynsham Voice, December 2018, www.keynshamvoice.co.uk