With Black Friday adverts appearing everywhere, activists are calling on consumers to be aware of mindless overconsumption and the impact it has on the environment.
“People need to ask themselves if the purchase is driven out of a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’,” said Tamara Fenech, country coordinator of Fashion Revolution Malta.
Fashion Revolution is a global movement that focuses on creating awareness and educating consumers about the social and environmental impacts caused by the fashion industry.
According to the ‘Green Black Friday’ movement (a global movement standing against unconscious consumption) 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were churned out by Black Friday deliveries in the UK last year alone. And environmental data in the US shows that in 2017, roughly 13 million tonnes of textiles were thrown away, either dumped into a landfill or burned.
“The concept of Black Friday is not adequate for today’s world, which is seeing the true impact of climate change. It’s not easy, but we need to start understanding the damages that overconsumption has on our planet,” Fenech said. She said the aim of the group is not to shame consumers or companies, but to raise awareness to make the right decisions when purchasing items.
It’s not easy, but we need to start understanding the damages overconsumption has on our planet
Fenech is also aware that commercial outlets have suffered hardship in the past year and a half due to the pandemic. “We know that Black Friday is a sensitive issue for many; there are commercial outlets which are trying to pick up business, and for consumers who might have a lower wage, it is an opportunity for them to purchase items or Christmas gifts.”
But Fenech still advised consumers to reflect before their next purchase. “We need to understand the treatment of garment workers who have and are suffering poor conditions, how certain products simply end up as waste. We need to understand how we can look at consumption in a more sustainable way.”
Fenech said there are many small ways to reduce overconsumption, but the first important step is to stop and think if an item, outfit, or product is needed. “Do I really need it or just want it? If I can borrow it from a friend, I do not need to wait for sales to buy it. Attending ‘clothes swapping’ events to find new outfits is also a way one can move away from big clothing brands,” she said.
Are thrift shops on the rise?
After working in retail for a couple of years, Laura Bescancon began to witness the excess waste in the fashion industry. She also become more aware about garment workers’ exploitation and the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Bescancon, owner of ‘The Vintage Collection’, which sells second-hand and vintage clothes, said she has seen an increase in clothes swaps and more people thrifting in both physical and online stores. In 2019, she decided to start ‘The Vintage Collection’ beneath her small artist studio, selling vintage items and holding ‘swapping’ events. She said more consumers are becoming aware of the many problems associated with the fast fashion industry.
“I’ve had good response through my sustainable fashion project and have met some lovely people through it. Change is happening, slowly but surely. Brands need to think about how they are going to change to more ethical practices,” she said.
She sees Black Friday as a “hyper-consumerist event” and says consumers need to be more mindful when making certain purchases. “Do research on sustainable purchasing and practices. Ask your favourite brands about their practices. Buy second hand and support local. There is enough to go around, and some is even better than what is being produced today!”
Tonya Lehtinen, the brains behind the Gozitan second-hand shop ‘Vogue Xchange’ also suggested giving “experiences” rather than physical gifts. “Gifts such as experiences have a lower impact on the environment and are good for an individual’s wellbeing.
“Hand-crafted ‘slow’ items are also a good idea because they are not produced in volume and are more personal.”
Due to the lockdown, she has seen more people have a chance to re-engage with their wardrobes and their values. “When I started Vogue Xchange, my client profile was mainly over 50s, but now it is primarily generation Z, followed by millennials. I believe this is due to a media push on sustainability and awareness campaigns by activist groups like Fashion Rev, Żibel and myself, to encourage a shift in attitudes to buying pre-owned clothing.”
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