With Black Friday coming up this week (November 27), Environment Journal wanted to investigate the environmental consequences of this shopping frenzy.
We got in touch with Nicholas Robin, Environmental Audit Committee policy specialist and curator of Green Friday.
Mr Robin launched the Green Friday campaign, which is resistance against increased consumerism and instead to encourages more sustainable consumption patterns.
Can you tell me a bit more about Green Friday, where did the concept come from?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a growing pattern of overconsumption.
Personally, I’ve been fed up with black Friday for a long time, I feel as though it is encouraging the worst, most wasteful behaviours.
This year I felt it was time to do something about it, so I decided to curate Green Friday by tapping into the sustainable movement.
Green Friday is a non-profit, grass route’s initiative, it brings together designers and campaigners for three days of events in London to try and make a new clothing culture in the UK.
Why do you think it’s so important that we switch from a consumerist economy to a more circular one?
Fast fashion has accelerated our consumerist behaviour with multiple collections per year, often at extremely cheap prices.
But these cheap clothes come with a huge social and environmental price tag.
Over the last few decades, we’ve seen many of our biggest brands outsourcing production to countries with low pay, poor trade union rights and poor working conditions.
Growing cotton uses a lot of land and a lot of water and synthetic materials contribute to water pollution.
Then at the end of their life, a lot of these clothes end up in the bin.
Fashion is a highly materially intensive economy, we need to make the system more circular, and this is not just true for fashion but for all sectors of the economy.
More than 300 retailers have chosen to opt-out of black Friday for environmental reasons, can you comment on this?
I think this is really encouraging, people in the UK are increasingly being turned off black Friday, with people are beginning to recognise the sales pitches for what they are.
Black Friday is just a psychological trick telling you that you’re going to miss out, but really, it’s just that, a trick.
Last year, Boohoo was fined for having a sales clock which was designed to make you feel like you’re running out of time, but when it got to zero it went back to the top and carried on.
Until recently the impacts that fast fashion has on the environment were relatively unknown, why do you think that fashion companies have got away with this for so long?
I think a lot of people, including myself, used to only think of climate change with energy emissions.
With fashion, because the production has been outsourced, the issue has been out of sight and so out of mind.
People haven’t always been aware of the fact that every single product that we consume has an environmental impact.
I heard a shocking anecdote recently that in some areas of China, they know what colours are on trend in the West because that is the colour that the rivers run.
It’s high time that this issue comes to the forefront of Western consumers consciousness.
Sustainable fashion brands are often very expensive, and it can sometimes feel like ‘sustainability’ is just another marketing ploy. A lot of the Green Friday events focus on upcycling and mending clothes you already have. Can you talk about your decision to focus on this?
You’re right, a lot of sustainable fashion can be very expensive, they are often linked to high-end designer brands.
What we really need is for sustainable fashion to go completely mainstream.
Given the really stark warnings we face on climate, sustainable fashion can’t be a lifestyle choice for those who can afford it, it needs to be something for all fashion brands and retailers.
We need to make it so that being sustainable is the cheaper option, ultimately changing this is down to the government.
But with Green Friday we are trying to take a bottom-up approach, with an emphasis on repairing and upcycling clothes, because ultimately the most sustainable item of clothing is the one that you already own.
We need big changes from the government to make it cheaper and easier for brands to do the right thing, but also, we need a grass route movement to create change in consumer behaviour.
In the past decade, there has been a huge increase in fast fashion, who do you think is responsible for this huge surge in the fashion industry as we see it today?
I read a statistic that we buy five times more clothes now than we did in the 1980s and I think this increase is down to a combination of factors.
Globalisation has made it easier for brands to outsource production, allowing them to reduce prices and the convivence of online shopping makes it easier for people to shop for multiple items.
Ironically this hyper-materialism has led to a devaluing of material.
When you order a t-shirt on Boohoo or Misguided, it costs you as the as a burger and fries and therefore it has little value to you, it can be treated as a disposable product.
This culture has to change, fashion as-usual, has to change, with Green Friday, fashion can still be fun, but let’s buy less, share more, and upcycle.
Photo Credit – Pixabay