Let’s state the obvious right up front: Black Friday isn’t all that great for the environment. 

Not only does it encourage the mass consumption of cheaply made consumer goods, but the sales can 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 a little extra effort on your part to show your love for the earth.

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Is an Eco-Friendly Black Friday Possible?

Depending on who you talk to, the answer can be a resounding “No.” 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. 

Black Friday can be harmful for many reasons:

  • People drive too much and burn fossil fuels.
  • The items for sale on Black Friday usually have a large carbon footprint and don’t last very long.
  • The people working in stores deserve to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their loved ones.

That last one proved especially true in the mid-’10s when big-box retailers started opening their doors to Black Friday sales at Midnight Friday morning and then creeping into Thanksgiving Day proper.

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

1. Listen to What They Want

If your friend or family member is genuinely eco-conscious, they will have specific items on their holiday gift list. These folks already pay attention to their carbon footprint, so they will have a clear idea of brands, products, and stores that put the environment first in all they do. You might have a penchant for giving wacky gifts, but maybe you should stay away from cheap tchotchkes this year if you want to honor their eco-friendly values.

 2. Stick with Trusted Brands

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

  • Patagonia
  • REI
  • S’well
  • Burt’s Bees
  • JanSport
  • Outerknown
  • Nisolo
  • Everlane
  • Baggu
  • Allbirds
  • Alpyn Beauty
  • Lush
  • ASOS
  • Reformation
  • Avocado Mattress
  • Eileen Fisher

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. Shop Local

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

Many of those discount shipping companies might offer reduced shipping fees and quick delivery. Still, 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 a Long Life

The most underappreciated part of the 4 R’s of green living is the “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 use just about forever? 

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 the average public, especially on high-demand pseudo-events like Black Friday. Thus, you must stay in the loop to learn when they offer deals, and 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 audience emails usually contain times, codes, and special perks designed exclusively for loyalists, even if you’re buying for someone else and not yourself.

You Can Find Sustainable Deals on Black Friday

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 on the earth. Thus, you probably won’t find an eco-friendly gift on the sale rack at a big-box store on the morning after Thanksgiving. Sorry — let’s just face the facts. 

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 2020 and beyond — especially if you shop on Black Friday — then you must make the effort to learn about the companies making products that do keep the health of our environment front-and-center.

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