How to Participate in Black Friday in a Sustainable Way

By Katie Greiss

It's no surprise that we at THE SLOW FIT are not huge proponents of Black Friday and hyper-consumerism. We are, however, realists and know it can be tough to avoid, especially when there are items you and your family need. That's why we've come up with a list of ways you can participate in Black Friday, with sustainability in mind: 

  1. Make a list, check it twice - and buy only what is on it. Have your personal shopping or gift list ready before the weekend and know exactly what you’re buying. It’s hard not to be tempted by all the discounted items you see in store or online, but worth it when you can get your shopping done quickly if you stay focused.
  2. Buy from small businesses. This year more than ever, small businesses need your support to stay afloat. Check if what you're looking for is being sold anywhere by an local or independent supplier and purchase directly from their website (instead of through the big conglomerates who get large kickbacks). If you know your loved ones will be shopping this weekend, tell them you'd prefer a gift purchased directly from a small business as well. 
  3. Shop ethical brands or secondhand! While the steeply discounted leggings from global fast fashion brands are tempting, support local businesses that put people and the planet first. The more consumers shift their shopping habits toward sustainability, the more the fast fashion giants will be forced to change their business strategy. Checkout a great list of Canadian sustainable and ethical clothing brands here. Our own secondhand inventory is curated weekly and $5 for each order during the week leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday will go to the Ottawa Food Bank.

Participating in Black Friday sales for the sake of affordability and holiday shopping isn’t inherently bad – but we as a society need to adopt responsible consumer habits for the future of our planet. Continue reading below for more information on the environmental impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Friday: The Environmental Impact

It is VERY easy to make impulse purchases of items we don't actually need when offered majorly reduced prices (...START THE CAR!). Unfortunately, this often leads to store returns, and we've recently learned how much cheaper it is for companies to destroy the product and send to the landfill, than it is for them to repackage and sell it.

Returns aside, Black Friday creates a ton of waste – especially this year. Because of the pandemic, more people are turning to online shopping with delivery promised from all corners of the world. Between that and almost-instant shipping, thousands more transport vehicles are put onto the road and into the air just for orders made over Black Friday weekend. This is in addition to all the packaging that is involved in online orders, which ends up flooding recycling centres, or becomes contaminated by other household products and must then be transported to landfills.

When clothing is on sale at a “too good to be true” price, it really is too good to be true. If a company can sell a pair of leggings for $15, what does that mean for the labourers who made those leggings? Or the methods used to extract and produce the materials needed for them? Buying clothes (or anything else) at these sale prices sends a message to these companies that it’s okay to keep doing this. As long as people are willing to buy their products, they will continue to exploit factory workers and precious land and resources to make them. It takes a major fashion CEO only four days to make more than a female garment worker in Bangladesh will make in her lifetime. By continuing to support these companies, we are sending the wrong message to them. One of the most impactful actions you can take, as an individual, is to vote with your dollar.