Black Friday. A day when unbridled consumption is fetishised and celebrated. When what we buy isn’t about need or utility, but bargain basement prices. When crowds brawling over heavily discounted goods goes viral and is treated as entertainment.

A refuse truck dumps waste at a landfill site ©Leigh McAlea

As awareness of the climate emergency grows, the gap between the actions we must take collectively and as individuals to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, and what we are actually doing, is becoming bigger.

A new United Nations report states that greenhouse gas emissions have risen steadily for a decade and that there is ‘no sign of emissions peaking in the next few years.’ Its bleak conclusion is that the gap between how clean global economies need to be to avoid the worst effects of climate change, to how clean they actually are – the ‘emissions gap’ – is growing, not shrinking.

In the context of the seriousness of the global situation that is negatively effecting millions of people, wildlife and ecosystems right now, the very fact of Black Friday seems not only bizarre and wrong, but a strange form of collective denial.

Yes, the scale of the problem is huge. But we need to move past denial to challenge the norms which are harming our living planet – like the production and consumption of unnecessary stuff – and we can begin with our everyday lives.

As a charity working to keep wearable clothes in use for as long as possible, TRAID’s starting point for affecting change is fashion. And for good reason. It’s an industry with one of the worst environmental impacts and a massive contributor to climate change pumping out an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) – that’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

On Black Friday, fashion is the second most purchased product after electrics / technology, and much of it is cheap fast fashion which will be worn little and quickly disposed of. To give this disposability of our clothes some context, the Ellen McArthur report, A New Textiles Economy, states that every second, the equivalent of one rubbish truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated. Every second.

So, what can we do? We can stop and really think about what and who drives us to buy. We can make different choices and take action to stock our wardrobe more sustainably. For the last few years, TRAID has marked Black Friday by encouraging people to take our #secondhandfirst pledge – a commitment to source more of your wardrobe second-hand, rather than new.

The environmental benefits of increasing our use of second-hand clothes are tangible, immediately reducing our carbon, water and waste footprint. Second-hand also helps us challenge and transform the social norms that encourage us to buy fast fashion and has the potential to transform us from individual consumers into collective citizens.

Second-hand connects us to communities and people rather than material objects, loosens the grip of advertising and brands on shaping our style and identity, and ultimately, is a line in the sand to refuse to accept over-consumption and its terrible socio-environmental consequences as normal, acceptable or unstoppable.

Take the #secondhandfirst pledge here.