Instead of ‘Black Friday’, why not do ‘Buy Nothing Day’?

Black Friday is a blight for the environment. Why not do something different, like buy nothing or go on a pleasant outing with family or friends, suggests Nick Meynen.

Black Friday is that day of the year when marketeers, primarily in America but also increasingly in Europe, can finally sit back, relax and get high on watching the buying spree unfold.

In addition to the iconic stampede of shoppers associated with American Black Friday, this bizarre human experiment has led to people shooting others for access to cheap toys, shoppers pepper spraying their way to discounted products. According to the Black Friday Death Count, the current tally is 12 deaths and 117 injuries resulting from Black Friday since 2006. That’s before the 2019 edition has even started.

Although this shopping madness has spread across the Atlantic, many shops in Europe are trying to distance themselves a bit from the black day for the climate that Black Friday boils down to. Some organise White Friday, pledging to donate to good causes if you buy from them that day.  Others even go for Green Friday, pledging to plant trees. But they all still try to sell more stuff.

Anyone who is even remotely concerned about the climate emergency or mass extinction and who has done a bit of reading on the subject probably knows that there’s no “green consumption pathway” out of the mess we are in. As George Monbiot wrote years ago: “Consume more, conserve more: sorry, but we just can’t do both”.

Shopping is sold by economic growth proponents as an act of civil duty. Consumer confidence is talked about on TV as if our lives depend on it. Meanwhile, scientists publish a constant stream of damning proofing, including a major report by the EEB, that economic growth cannot be sufficiently decoupled from environmental harm at all. Consuming more is not contributing to any common good, it is eating up the commons.

But we all consume, including this author, and we can’t do more than greening our consumption, can we?

Goodbye to good buys

Well, actually we can. All over the world, citizens groups are organising actions around what they call ‘Buy Nothing Day‘. In France, citizens started a challenge that went pretty viral through social media. Under the hashtag #RiendeNeuf (Nothing New), Zero Waste France launched a campaign and website urging people to pledge to buy nothing new for a whole year, which has, so far, been signed by over people 25,000 people.

“At present, almost nine in 10 French people would like to live in a society where consumption takes up less space. More than one in two think that ‘we must completely review our economic model, and get out of the myth of infinite growth’,” says Arnaud Schwartz of France Nature Environnement, “So beyond changes in habits and individual purchases, when will our governments start collective planning to reduce our material impact on ecosystems?”

Sustainable production and consumption are a major focus of the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 12). The EU-funded Make Europe Sustainable for All (MESA) project, which is led by the EEB, has been working to raise awareness of and campaign for this, among other things, in Europe.

This coming year, MESA is focusing on the textile sector, a major polluter, with a campaign entitled #WardrobeChange. Among the behaviour changes it will promote are buying fewer clothes, wearing them for longer and purchasing second hand.