“It’s not a day. It’s a synonym for “sale.” And it needs to change.” NY Times on Black Friday 2019


One truck of textiles and clothing is landfilled or burned every second. On Black Friday in 2011, Patagonia released an advertisement in the New York Times asking people not to buy their jackets. Why?

“Everything we make takes something from the planet we can’t give back. Each piece of Patagonia clothing, whether or not it’s organic or uses recycled materials, emits several times its weight in greenhouse gases, generates at least another half garment’s worth of scrap, and draws down copious amounts of freshwater now growing scarce everywhere on the planet… It’s part of our mission to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. It would be hypocritical for us to work for environmental change without encouraging customers to think before they buy.”

The statement has since been heralded a stellar example of responsible marketing, and a hugely successful brand strengthening piece. In fact, ironically, this responsible approach resulted in some of its best sales ever. Many more brands - especially clothing retailers - have since adopted a similar approach to show how their mission is bigger than maximising sales. For example, for 24 hours this Black Friday, Grown Clothing have removed all their stock from their site and are only selling trees.

While intense shopping is still predicted to happen, we’ve been talking about Black Friday being ‘dead’ for a number of years. There is increased youth support for the backlash against Black Friday is evident as sustainability goes mainstream. With this, naturally, comes the expectation for increased transparency and confirmation of ethical practises (around people and planet). For instance, our Youth Culture Uncovered Report 2019 found that 79% of Irish 16-24 year olds are annoyed that brands keep trying to sell them stuff that is bad for the planet. 69% also claim that a “lack of access to sustainable products and services” is a big challenge to personally adopting more environmentally friendly behaviour. Apps like Good on You and platforms like Net Sustain help people to make better purchasing decisions based on pre-vetting brands and retailers on a number of themes.

#TakeBackBlackFriday & GREEN FRIDAY

#TakeBackBlackFriday sees organisations like EcoAge, Climate Queens, Global Fashion Exchange, Fashion Revolution and Nu Wardrobe ask their online communities to abstain from discounts that drive overconsumption.” Nu Wardrobe encouraged their followers with an empowering Instagram post reminding them that no act of protest is too small:

“A survey by reported that 1 in 5 Brits even regret their Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases. Black Friday weekend will see 82,000 diesel vans and trucks on the UK roads as a result of 81% of purchases including a home delivery. We must take a stand, together we can empower and ignite change. So make sure to post in digital protest this weekend! It can be absolutely anything, from posting your borrowed Nu item you are wearing to work or taking out on a night on the town. 💃 It could be an item of clothing you have given #30wears too.” Nu Wardrobe

These initiatives recognise the strength it takes to break free from societal norms around shopping:

“Of course, these are habits that have been ingrained in our society, and when the day comes we act like pavlovian puppies hungry for the few frilly frocks. Now, trust me, I get it. I really, really do! I DO love a good deal, and I also love to play dress up and hunt for a bargain BUT I also know that there are alternatives and that we can TAKE BACK the day that has turned us hungry, pushy, sweaty, ruthless and desperate to get a deal.” Patrick, Fashion Revolution

The struggle is real. But, abstaining or protest comes in other forms too. A national campaign in Ireland has launched ‘Green Friday’ that sees 300+ small retailers teaming up for Green Friday to encourage people to “consider the environment and other factors when making purchases in the run-up to Christmas.” Their message is if you are shopping on Black Friday, choose local retailers.


“Depop is primarily aimed at millennial and Gen Z consumers. The company said that about 90% of its active users are under the age of 26, and in its home market of the U.K. it’s seen huge traction, with one-third of all 16 to 24-year-olds registered on Depop… Depop notes that the average daily user opens the app “several times per day” both to browse things, check up on those that they follow, to message contacts and comment on items and, of course, to buy and sell. On average, Depop users collectively follow and message each other 85 million times each month.” TechCrunch

From bargain hunting in vintage shops to resale culture online, outside of this one day these responsible consumption trends are bigger part of youth culture. The rise of Depop alone has led to a growing awareness of the opportunities that come with consuming differently:

The magic of this product is it is usually one on one. No one else is going to get anything else exactly the same as what you just purchased. And young people are more conscious about the future of the planet. Recycling and buying vintage clothing is contributing to to consuming clothes in a better way.” Caitlin Young, Depop seller

The concept of the ‘bedroom entrepreneur’ has been a natural progression from influencer and Instagram culture. Young people are quick to recognise ways to achieve wealth stealthily, understanding that there are more efficient and clever ways to use the products they have access to.

The secondhand market is set to become a bigger market than luxury by 2022. Younger generations are leading this charge, with millennials and Gen Z adopting secondhand 2.5x faster than other age groups, and they’re not compromising on style. From rental sites like HURR and apps like Vestiaire Collective the future for these efforts looks extremely bright and luxury is a growing part of this conversation. Loaning and service-orientated businesses certainly appears to be the way of the future over ownership models, not just for sustainability - but because through tech it’s easy, and it makes sense.


Knowing the damage that it is doing to our environment (and to people), it is longer morally acceptable - or commercially wise - to promote unconscious consumption, no matter what the day is. This doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding Black Friday or Cyber Monday completely- but helping more people to reimagine it in new ways. Use its relevance to spark new conversations.

Despite growing good intentions, young people still need help to make the right choices. How can you make it easier for young people to make more responsible purchasing decisions - for example, via the likes of vetting products?

The scrutiny on ‘green marketing’ claims is only rising. If there are gaps, ensure transparency in communications while you work to mend them.

See also

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