It’s Important to Know What You’re Buying —  and How it Affects the Earth

Let’s state the obvious right up front: Black Friday? Not that great for the environment. 

Not only does it encourage the mass consumption of cheaply made consumer goods, but the sales incentivize people to drive all over town, guzzling gasoline (a fossil fuel) while they’re at it. 

Luckily, you can take advantage of sustainable Black Friday deals and still be eco-friendly. It requires little more than a bit extra effort on your part to show your love for the earth.

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Can You Make Black Friday Eco-Friendly?

It may not seem like it, but the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Environmentally conscious companies like Patagonia and REI have made waves in recent years by completely closing their physical stores and online outlets on Black Friday as a protest of what they see as celebrating over-indulgence.

Over-indulgence isn’t the only issue with Black Friday, though:

  • People drive too much and burn fossil fuels.
  • Black Friday sale items usually have a large carbon footprint and don’t last very long.
  • Employees often aren’t able to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their loved ones.

That last one proved especially true in the mid-2010s when big-box retailers started opening their doors to Black Friday shoppers at midnight Friday morning and sometimes even earlier, creeping into Thanksgiving Day proper.

Luckily, you have a few options if you want to save green when buying green holiday gifts for the environmentalists in your life.

1. Get Their Wishlist

If your friend or family member is genuinely eco-conscious, they will already have specific items on their holiday gift list. These folks pay attention to their carbon footprint, so they will have a clear idea of brands, products, and stores that put the environment first. Honor their eco-friendly values.

2. Buy From Trusted Brands

Start searching the internet for sustainable gift ideas — especially for the fashion-conscious — and you’ll quickly see the same brands popping up in every green gift guide. Read those lists very closely, especially if they coincide with what you learned about your loved ones in tip #1. Our favorite sustainable brands include:

  • Patagonia
  • REI
  • S’well
  • Burt’s Bees
  • JanSport
  • Outerknown
  • Nisolo
  • Everlane
  • Baggu
  • Allbirds
  • Alpyn Beauty
  • Lush
  • ASOS
  • Reformation
  • Avocado Mattress
  • Eileen Fisher
  • The Little Market
  • Thrive Market
  • Petit Vour
  • Ten Thousand Villages
  • Green Eco Dream
  • Anne Mulair
  • Humanscale

For these brands, it’s all about ethical sourcing of materials, fair wages for employees, and creating timeless, durable products made as environmentally friendly as possible.

3. Stay Local

We always recommend buying local goods and services. The further they have to travel, the lower the carbon footprint of that purchase. But if you must buy from an online retailer, make sure you buy from the brand itself and not a third-party distribution center using a discount shipping company. 

Many of those companies might offer reduced shipping fees and quick delivery, but they often reject eco-friendly practices in their facilities so they can reduce their overhead to provide you with that discount.

That’s a tip for sustainable shopping in general — if you see a common item sold for much cheaper in one place than in others, that cheaper retailer is probably cutting corners in terms of the environment and employee care.

4. Purchase Items with Longevity

The most underappreciated part of the 4 Rs of green living is “reuse.” We’re all rightfully taught to use less stuff, recycle as much as possible, and upcycle old stuff into other items. But what about buying high-quality items you can continue to use long-term? 

Such items are usually crafted with care by trained artisans with as little waste as possible. And because you can buy something once without needing to repurchase it for decades, you are living a sustainable life, even if that item isn’t necessarily “sustainable” in the green sense.

5. Sign Up for Email Lists

Hear us out. Many top sustainable companies don’t offer regular sales to everyone, especially for high-demand pseudo-events like Black Friday. You have to stay in the loop to learn when they offer deals. The best way to do this is to get on the email lists for your favorite brands. 

Not only is this eco-friendly on your part (electronic mail is greener than printing random catalogs from paper), but you’re joining the core audience for the brand, and those are the people who mean the most to the company. These sale emails usually contain times, codes, and special perks designed exclusively for fans, even if you’re buying for someone else and not yourself.

Sustainable Deals on Black Friday Do Exist

You just have to know where to look.

True sustainability is intentional and purposeful. It requires you to make specific choices that benefit the planet and your fellow humans. You probably won’t find an eco-friendly gift on the sale rack at a big-box store on the morning after Thanksgiving — as much as we wish that wasn’t the case. 

You’re much better off looking for specific items made by companies that actually practice sustainability instead of major retailers offering a vaguely “eco-friendly” product because they want to cash in on the green trend.

If you want to go green with your holiday gift-giving in 2021 and beyond — especially if you shop on Black Friday — then you must make the extra effort to learn about the companies making products with the health of our environment front and center.

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