How can you avoid buying things you don’t need this Black Friday?
Spending on Black Friday (25 November) this year could exceed the £1 billion spent back in 2015, but many in the UK are worried about the impact the shopping frenzy has on the environment, as well as their bank accounts.
Black Friday is an annual sales event where retailers offer discount prices on goods during extended opening hours, often opening very early in the morning. The day originated in the US (it takes place the Friday after Thanksgiving) and was brought to the UK by Amazon in 2010. Many consumers here now see it as an opportunity to make savings on presents in the run up to Christmas.
However, recent research released by environmental charity Hubbub shows that people are increasingly concerned by the financial and environmental strain Black Friday places on Britain.
According to the charity’s findings, nearly two-thirds of people don’t enjoy taking part in Black Friday, while half feel ill at ease with the entire idea. Pressure to spend is felt most keenly by those under 35, half of whom said that Black Friday encouraged them to buy things they don’t need, while 45 per cent said they had spent money they could not afford. Moreover, seven out of 10 reported buying things that they have never used.
Aside from concerns about its contribution to UK household debt, half of consumers said that they were worried about the environmental impact of their actions on Black Friday.
Clothing and shoes top the list of items that shoppers regret buying. With an estimated 350,000 tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill every year in the UK, and textiles making up five per cent of the UK’s total carbon and water footprints, the pressure to spend beyond one’s means on Black Friday aggravates the waste problem in the UK.
This problem is further compounded by the quantity of electrical goods purchased on the day. According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), every year the UK buys 1.4 million tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment, with an equivalent amount discarded, a third of which goes to landfill. With an anticipated rush to purchase discounted electrical goods, the environmental impact of these purchases is likely to increase.
This year, environmental organisations are acting to mitigate the negative environmental effects of Black Friday. WRAP is encouraging consumers to reduce their environmental footprint through its SMART initiative, advising that consumers should:
- Shortlist their intended purchases, ensuring that the product is fit for purpose;
- Make a decision based on value for money and the product’s environmental impact;
- Act according to their plan and don’t get carried away;
- Register their purchase online when they get home so that any faults can be fixed; and, finally,
- Trade-in or recycle their old appliances to avoid them going to landfill.
Sarah Clayton, Head of Products and Services at WRAP, said: “We’re working closely with leading electrical manufacturers and retailers to transform the industry and generate value through sustainability. But there’s a lot you can do as a consumer too, to ensure you are switched on to value and getting the most out of your electrical items, which includes buying only those you will use.
“SMART buying is all about buying better, sensibly, and sustainably. Keeping a cool head, and our guide in mind, before you even step inside a store, or enter an online shop on Black Friday, should help you make the right buying decisions.”
Furthermore, Hubbub, in response to the research that also says that 96 per cent of people would rather do something else on Black Friday, have launched its #BrightFriday campaign, supported by public figures such as Caroline Lucas MP and fashion designer Christopher Raeburn.
Regarding the detrimental environmental impact of Black Friday, #BrightFriday also encourages people to save and reuse their old items of clothing and shoes through creating new outfits by restyling or borrowing or swapping with friends.
Trewin Restorick, Founder and CEO of Hubbub, said: “It’s a real concern to see the pressure that people feel to join in with Black Friday when so many are already in debt. We’re keen to reassure people it’s OK to opt out and do something more enjoyable instead – spend time with friends or try something new. The best moments in life can be made, not bought.”
In addition to an online platform full of ideas on what to do as an alternative to Black Friday, the #BrightFriday campaign is running a series of events in Brighton city centre, from a pop-up art installation to workshops on how to make and mend your own clothes.
Speaking about the series of events, Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Sustainability and Transport Committee, said: “An art installation is an exciting and effective way to promote a serious message, and reducing waste and encouraging recycling are among the council’s biggest priorities. I hope the #BrightFriday initiative will help encourage residents to think before they buy, avoid expensive mistakes and encourage them to reuse and recycle.”
More information about #BrightFriday and the #BrightFriday festival in Brighton, as well as ideas on how to reuse, repair, and swap clothes can be found on Hubbub’s website.