It’s that time of year when the Black Friday specials start trending online, littering our email inboxes and polluting our social media feeds. Black Friday, on 23 November, originally an American tradition, is the biggest US shopping day of the year. With widespread sales, the day marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Over the past few years, it has found its way to South Africa, becoming bigger and more garish every year.
Consumerism is trashing our planet, making us sick and mentally unwell
Instead of supporting Black Friday, I support Buy Nothing Day, a day of global protest against this crazy consumerist day. It is not that I don’t like a good deal. I am against the relentless consumerism which Black Friday perpetuates. Consumerism which is trashing our planet, making us sick and mentally unwell.
I’ve been there. Seduced by manipulative marketing campaigns and bright lights. I attempted to “buy my feelings” and ignored the fact that my persistent purchases were funding a model of modern slavery and environmental destruction… until I couldn’t anymore. I changed my life.
We cannot only buy better – we need to buy less
Last year, I was disappointed to see many of the sustainable retailers jump on the Black Friday bandwagon to promote “conscious consumerism”. But this isn’t the answer either. We cannot simply switch to ‘green’ products while trying to maintain the same break-neck pace of production and buying patterns. We cannot only buy better – we need to buy less.
In writing this column I decided to take stock of what I had bought over the last year. I realized that besides one pair of recently bought second-hand shorts, I hadn’t bought a single item of clothing. I was quite surprised at exactly how seriously I had taken the decision to change my life.
The decision to buy less started out as a way to vote with my wallet for a better world, but has ended up having massive personal consequences. I feel lighter, happier and more closely connected to what life is really about.
I stopped worrying about falling out of trend and embraced my own style. I stopped trying to cover up my insecurities with the latest makeup and started enjoying makeup less often, as a form of expression. I stopped waiting for the latest iPhone and started spending my money on giving back or experiences like local travel, good food and theatre. I started seeing through the marketing messaging and the pretty displays and saw the real truths that lay beneath everything on the shelf and the multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns.
Do I truly need this? Will this really add value to my life? Can I do without it?
Sometimes I still get tempted by conscious consumerism. Put me in a store that sells books, second hand, local and ethically-made or organic things and my pockets start to burn. When they do, I now ask myself three questions: Do I truly need this? Will this really add value to my life? Can I do without it?
More often than not, I put it back on the shelf and I am better off for it.
*Sarah writes a monthly column for Twyg, Talking Rubbish. Follow her on Instagram @SustainableSarah
*Image credit: Unsplash