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In recent years, the last Friday of November has immersed the globe in a shopping frenzy known as Black Friday. While consumers worldwide rush to snag deals and promotions, a critical shadow looms over the sustainability and ethics of such widespread consumption. Emerging from the shadows of this commercial spectacle is Green Friday—a robust response advocating mindful and eco-conscious purchasing.

Originating as “Buy Nothing Day” in Canada in 1992, Green Friday has evolved into a global movement that challenges the traditional shopping habits endorsed by Black Friday. Its ethos resonates with an urgent call to action: to consider the environmental and societal impact of our consumption. From the massive carbon footprint of online shopping to the detrimental effects of fast fashion and e-waste, the repercussions of unchecked consumerism have become glaringly evident. In stark contrast to Black Friday’s message of buy-more-for-less, Green Friday encourages us to reflect, reconsider, and invest in sustainable choices that are kinder to our planet and its inhabitants.

As we stand on the precipice of another shopping season, Green Friday presents an alternative path—one that values quality over quantity, sustainability over disposability, and conscious choice over impulsive buying. Through this introduction, we delve deeper into the Green Friday movement, highlighting its significance, its objectives, and how it’s reshaping the narrative around the world’s biggest shopping event.

Photo by Photo Boards

From Philadelphia to the World: The Evolution of Black Friday

“Black Friday” might evoke images of bustling malls, massive discounts, and shoppers scrambling for the latest deals. However, its origins are far removed from the global shopping frenzy we know today. Tracing its evolution offers insight into the changing dynamics of commerce, consumerism, and the powerful pull of tradition.

Black Friday’s roots can be traced back to Philadelphia in the 1960s. The term was initially not associated with shopping or sales. Instead, it was used by the local police to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. The name captured the chaos, traffic jams, and the general “black” mood among the officers forced to work extended hours to manage the situation.

This surge in activity was primarily because the day after Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Furthermore, the Army-Navy football game, a yearly spectacle, was held in Philadelphia on the weekend following Thanksgiving, drawing large crowds and intensifying the post-holiday rush.

Retailers soon realized the potential of this day. It was a day when consumers were already primed to spend, setting the stage for a new retail tradition. They began offering significant discounts, turning this informal start of the Christmas shopping season into an official retail holiday. However, the negative connotations of “Black Friday” posed a challenge. To reframe it in a more positive light, a new narrative emerged in the 1980s. Retailers propagated the idea that the day represented the point in the year when they moved from “the red” (losses) into “the black” (profits), due to the surge in holiday shopping.

Photo by sarah b

Fast forward to the 21st century, and Black Friday has transformed into a global phenomenon, far surpassing its Philadelphia origins. The advent of the internet gave birth to Cyber Monday, a day dedicated to online shopping deals. This digital shift amplified Black Friday’s reach, with deals becoming accessible to a global audience, pushing international retailers to adopt this distinctly American tradition.

Today, Black Friday is more than just a day; it’s an entire shopping season. Deals start rolling out weeks in advance, and the event has extended through the weekend into Cyber Monday. It’s become a strategic play for retailers, leveraging the allure of hefty discounts to drive sales and clear inventory.

However, the rapid growth and commercial success of Black Friday have also led to criticism. The day has become synonymous with overconsumption, environmental concerns, and occasionally, chaotic and dangerous in-store situations. This has sparked counter-movements, like Green Friday, urging consumers to rethink their buying habits.

In conclusion, from its humble and rather chaotic beginnings in Philadelphia, Black Friday has evolved into a global retail event. Its journey from local traffic headache to an international shopping tradition underscores the powerful interplay of commerce, tradition, and consumer behavior.

Green Friday: Rethinking Consumerism in the Age of Sustainability

In an era marked by environmental consciousness and a push towards sustainable living, “Green Friday” has emerged as a counter-movement to the frenzied consumerism of Black Friday. While Black Friday celebrates shopping sprees and deep discounts, Green Friday challenges consumers to reconsider their buying habits, urging for more mindful and eco-friendly choices.

Green Friday’s ethos is grounded in “buying less and buying better.” Instead of succumbing to the allure of fleeting deals, it encourages consumers to invest in quality products that last longer, reduce waste, and have a lesser environmental impact. The day advocates for a shift from a throwaway culture to one that values sustainability, longevity, and ethical production.

Photo by Edward Howell

Several initiatives exemplify the Green Friday philosophy:

  1. Buy Nothing Day: Originally founded in Canada in 1992 and now observed globally, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated on the same day as Black Friday. It encourages consumers to halt their purchases for 24 hours as a form of protest against overconsumption.
  2. Upcycling and DIY Workshops: Some communities and organizations host workshops on Green Friday, teaching skills like upcycling old items or creating DIY gifts. These initiatives promote the idea of giving new life to old items, reducing waste, and emphasizing personal effort over store-bought goods.
  3. Tree Planting: To offset the environmental impacts of consumerism, several Green Friday campaigns focus on planting trees. For every item purchased or for every transaction made, certain businesses pledge to plant a tree, ensuring a tangible positive environmental impact.

Many brands, recognizing the changing consumer sentiment, have started to support Green Friday:

  • Patagonia: In a bold move in 2016, Patagonia pledged to donate 100% of its Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental organizations. It ended up raising $10 million, far surpassing expectations. This initiative bolstered their reputation as a brand committed to environmental and ethical standards.
  • REI: The U.S.-based outdoor retailer started the “#OptOutside” campaign, choosing to close its doors on Black Friday. Instead of promoting sales, they encouraged their employees and customers to spend the day outdoors, emphasizing experiences over materialism.
  • Ecosia: The search engine, which uses its profits to plant trees, sees a surge in usage around Black Friday. They utilize this period to raise awareness about deforestation and promote sustainable choices, steering the narrative towards reforestation and green initiatives.

Green Friday represents more than just an alternative to Black Friday; it embodies a broader cultural shift. As the impacts of climate change become more pronounced and concerns about ethical production grow, Green Friday serves as a reminder that every purchase is a vote for the kind of world consumers want to live in. Through Green Friday, there’s hope that the feverish pitch of Black Friday can be transformed into a day of reflection, responsibility, and sustainable action.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo

A Green Friday for a Sobriety of Grown and a Hard Sustainability

In the evolving discourse on sustainability and economic progress, concepts like “sobriety of growth” and “hard sustainability” emerge as crucial paradigms. Both challenge traditional notions of development, urging societies to look beyond mere economic indicators and acknowledge the planet’s finite resources. Before diving deep into these concepts, it’s essential to understand their foundational principles and how they advocate for a more holistic, ecologically conscious approach to progress.

Sobriety of Growth

Sobriety of growth is an economic philosophy that challenges the conventional idea that continuous economic growth is always beneficial or feasible. Rooted in concerns over resource depletion, environmental degradation, and social inequalities, proponents of this concept argue that societies should prioritize well-being and ecological balance over unchecked economic expansion.

The core tenets include:

  1. Recognizing the planet’s ecological limits: Endless growth might exhaust finite resources and harm the environment.
  2. Promoting equitable distribution: Instead of focusing on creating more wealth, emphasis should be placed on distributing existing wealth more fairly.
  3. Valuing well-being over materialism: Societies should prioritize overall well-being, which might not always align with increased material consumption.

Hard Sustainability

Hard sustainability is a stringent approach to sustainable development. Unlike soft sustainability, which believes that human-made capital (like technology) can substitute for natural capital (like forests or mineral resources), hard sustainability posits that specific natural resources and ecosystems are unique and irreplaceable. Once depleted or destroyed, they cannot be replaced or replicated by technological solutions.

For example, while we might develop technologies to purify water, the loss of a unique aquatic ecosystem, with its biodiversity and ecological functions, cannot be compensated for by any technological means.

Critical points of hard sustainability are:

  1. Threshold levels: There are certain thresholds beyond which the depletion of natural resources and damage to ecosystems become irreversible. Crossing these thresholds jeopardizes the planet’s ability to support life.
  2. Non-substitutability: Certain natural assets, especially those related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, are non-substitutable. Human-made alternatives cannot compensate for their loss.
  3. Intergenerational equity: Hard sustainability places a strong emphasis on ensuring that future generations inherit a planet where natural capital is intact, emphasizing that we don’t have the right to deplete resources to a point where future human life quality is compromised.

In summary, both sobriety of growth and hard sustainability challenge the dominant paradigms of continuous economic growth and technological optimism. They advocate for a profound respect for the planet’s ecological boundaries and the irreplaceable value of its natural resources, urging societies to reconsider the true meaning of progress and well-being.

In conclusion,

As Black Friday approaches, we are faced with a pivotal decision: to indulge in the siren call of deals and discounts or to stand firm in our commitment to a sustainable and thoughtful future. The lure of a good bargain can be intoxicating, but at what cost? Every unnecessary purchase made contributes to the ever-increasing toll on our environment, from the mountains of waste in landfills to the carbon footprint of manufacturing and shipping.

Consider this: The short-lived euphoria of snagging a deal pales in comparison to the long-term impacts of overconsumption. The products we buy often come with hidden costs, be it the exploitation of underpaid workers, the degradation of our ecosystems, or the promotion of a culture that values possession over purpose.

Choosing to abstain from Black Friday shopping isn’t just about refusing a sale; it’s a powerful statement about the kind of world we want to leave for future generations. It’s a call to prioritize lasting values over fleeting desires, to recognize the worth of what we already have, and to cherish experiences over excess.

This Black Friday, let’s challenge ourselves and those around us to resist the pull of rampant consumerism. Instead, we can invest our time and energy in things that truly matter: connecting with loved ones, cherishing memories, and fostering a mindset of gratitude and contentment. By making the conscious choice not to buy, we are not only safeguarding our planet’s precious resources but also setting a precedent for a future where well-being and sustainability are held above all else.

In a world driven by relentless consumerism, choosing to step back and not participate is a revolutionary act. This Black Friday, let’s be revolutionaries. Let’s select purpose over purchase.

José Amorim
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