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Opinion: Why I’m boycotting Black Friday for climate action

Protest mass consumerism, strike with Fridays for Future
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RILLA WANG/THE VARSITY
RILLA WANG/THE VARSITY

Black Friday has become a popular holiday in Canada. In a 2018 McKinsey & Company survey, 81 per cent of surveyed Canadians planned to take part in Black Friday sales. However, while these sales may benefit some lower income Canadians, the trend toward consumerism also has negative implications for the environment.

Of course, the desire to take advantage of the deals is understandable. The Canadian Payroll Association’s 2018 survey found that 44 per cent of Canadians lived paycheck-to-paycheck at the time. However, the previously mentioned McKinsey survey also showed that Black Friday purchases tend to be spontaneous.

Furthermore, the mob mentality of mass-consumerism works to benefit companies, but to the detriment of individuals who may not have the budget for these spontaneous purchases.

In the past, clothing was made to last, and people repaired clothes once they wore out. Now, we keep items of clothing for half as long as we did 15 years ago. We rely on a system of fast fashion.

Fast fashion refers to the modern phenomenon of the rapid change in trends, resulting in cheaply made items. This clothing tends to be lower quality, and efficiency is placed above durability. The most common fabric used in the fashion industry is polyester, which makes up 51 per cent of the textiles used in clothing. Polyester is made from plastic — but why should we be concerned about plastic in our clothing?

In 2018, The Independent described the damage that polyester has on our environment through its creation of microfibres. Polyester breaks down into microplastic fibres, which do not biodegrade, and move through our sewage until they eventually reach the ocean. As sea creatures eat the microfibres, they eventually move through the food chain, and are eaten by humans.

Furthermore, in 2015, polyester production emitted a total of 1.5 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases. This is the equivalent of 185 coal-fired power plants’ annual emissions. Overall, the fashion industry makes up eight per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, and these numbers are rising.

These trends are only exuberated through sale events like Black Friday, and the ease of online shopping. The desire to purchase more products which we do not need is directly correlated with an increase in fast fashion as the societal norm. The 2017 Global Fashion Agenda estimates that the fashion industry’s carbon emissions will increase by more than 60 per cent by 2030.

Alternatives Journal found that the average Canadian throws away 32 kilograms of textiles pre year. This could be because of cheap quality of clothing, or it could be due to the nature of fast fashion, where trends come and go quickly. Either way, much of what enters our landfills ends up in the ocean, leading to the microplastic phenomenon.

Canada is a country which claims to care about the environment, but we are not on track to meet our Paris Agreement targets, and the government continues to enact little impactful change in the face of the climate crisis.

But there is still hope.

It is not too late to stop the climate crisis. It is up to students and youth to fight to save our future. We must continue to strive for change, even when it seems like our voices will not be heard. It is our future that we are fighting for, and we must show our representatives what we care about.

Fridays for Future, the organization which has led to millions of students to strike worldwide, is holding its next climate strike on November 29, at Queen’s Park on Black Friday. The Toronto branch, led by U of T student Allie Rougeut, posted about the strike on their Facebook page: “We invite all Canadians, regardless of how they cast their votes, to help us demand justice for our youth and for those who will suffer the most from the climate crisis by joining us that day.” 

“You are in the midst of a climate crisis. Only mass action can save us now.”

By boycotting Black Friday, and joining the Fridays for Future strike instead, you can help pressure the corporations that are damaging our environment and putting our futures at risk.

Millions of youth across the world are protesting to save the future of humanity. Your individual actions, whether by striking or by boycotting fast fashion, have an impact. It was, after all, just one young girl in Sweden who began the student-led movement which has brought a platform to millions of voices worldwide.

Emma Ellingwood is a second-year History student at UTSC.