To shop or not to shop? That is the question for anyone who's trying to decide how to participate in Black Friday sales in a way that's mindful and not too damaging to the environment. Of course, there's now the Green Friday movement that advocates against consumerism altogether, but what if you genuinely need something? And even if you don't, but feel like treating yourself to something you've wanted for a while, it just makes sense to buy it when it's cheaper.
Because either of the two scenarios is just very common for a great many of us, Black Friday sales are here to stay. Which isn't to say there aren't ways to shop more ethically while taking advantage of all the offers. Here's how.
1. Buying a large appliance? Buy the very best
This goes for any large purchase, but is especially relevant for appliances: buy the very best you can afford so that it lasts longer. The pressure on landfills from large items like mattresses and washing machines is huge, so the less often you have to replace these big-ticket guys, the better. Of course, it's better for your wallet, too: a quality washing machine can last you 15 years instead of the near-standard five for cheaper machines; a quality mattress that is comfortable and well-made – at least 10 years.
So, while some of the really low prices on large appliances and furniture items during Black Friday may be tempting, our advice is to always do your research in advance (even just reading the online review helps) and only buy quality models that will last a good while.
2. Shop with independent retailers
One of the best ways to shop ethically during Black Friday is to shop locally – which, sadly, isn't really an option this year due to the pandemic – or with small and independent retailers online. There's a misconception that independent shops don't do Black Friday: while it's true that not all small websites can afford to offer huge discounts, many do offer their own versions of the Black Friday sale.
For example, this year, Etsy (opens in new tab) will be running a huge discount even between 23rd November and 2nd December, with participating Etsy sellers will be offering discounts of up to 60% off across all categories. This is huge, and you'll still be helping small and local sellers by buying fro them, even at a discount.
Other websites with an independent/ethical angle are already doing great offers without calling it Black Friday. Big Green Smile (opens in new tab) have discounts on Ecozone and Faith in Nature products, while Ethical Superstore (opens in new tab) are running a £10 for orders over £70 promotion.
It often is all about knowing where to look – and subscribing to the website's newsletter before you forget all about it.
3. Shop for sustainable products, even if you use major retailers
Don't fancy researching independent retailers, or maybe you're just fond of good old Amazon? We don't blame you: they are convenient, and the offers around Black Friday are very enticing. At the end of the day, it's less about where you're buying something than what you're buying, and all the major shopping destinations we know of have got much, much better at stocking sustainably and ethically made products, from plastic-free daily essentials to eco-friendly Christmas gifts. If you know what you're looking for, it really doesn't matter that much if you get it off Amazon in the end.
4. Buy second-hand
Whether it's furniture or books, buying second-hand wins hands-down every time if you want to shop sustainably. Of course, some things, like appliances, you will have to buy brand-new, and you don't have to buy all your furniture second-hand either (you night not want a second-hand bed, for example). However, sometimes it really does pay off to buy vintage furniture, especially if it's made from solid wood.
Also, if you're thinking of buying books, consider second-hand websites such as World of Books (opens in new tab) – most books are in near-new condition anyway, and they're run independently, which means second-hand booksellers get more of your money.
5. Choose brands that give back
Some brands adopt a 'earn to give' strategy, donating part of their sales to important causes. So, you don't have to say no to more indulgent purchases like makeup or scented candles when there are companies that give part of their profits to wildlife conservation (we love Chantecaille (opens in new tab) for that reason) or support bees (Beefayre (opens in new tab) is one of our favourite ethical candle makers). it's easy to find such brands these days, as they always make the ethical angle prominent in their marketing campaigns.