Black Friday 2017: All your crappy bargains are destroying the planet – do you really need them?

That’s why this winter, instead of the Black Friday bargains, I’m proposing something different

Bea Xu
Thursday 23 November 2017 11:59 GMT
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What is Black Friday?

It’s a tradition as entrenched as mince pies and carol singing – Black Friday is here yet again. What better way to check a few names off the old Christmas list than with a quick splurge on the sales?

There’s a Black Friday bargain for everyone: for your little cousin, there’s this year’s must-have stocking filler, a £135 FurReal Roarin’ Tyler tiger soft toy. This hefty price tag is justified by the fact that it’s “lifelike”. This way, children will be able to gaze deep into Tyler’s adorable eyes and pretend that his real world brethren aren’t being sucked into Earth’s sixth mass extinction (along with humanity when climate change engulfs us all).

What about your partner, the one saddled with crippling student debt? Get them an Amazon Echo, so an artificially intelligent system can have a go at listening to them sob into their pillow after you’ve left for work in the morning. Spawned from the sticky lap of the online giant that originally imported Black Friday to Britain, this genial Eye of Sauron is set to be another best seller this year – so every sad sap in our green and pleasant land can get in on its panopticonic fun.

Yet, I’m left with the question: do we really need all this stuff? In an era where we’re choking our oceans with plastic waste, poisoning the air with exhaust fumes, and setting the planet alight with over consumption, perhaps there are more resourceful ways of engaging in the ritual of gift exchange.

How about spending good, old-fashioned quality time with other people? It is indeed a vintage – even quaint – concept, but when reports show that modern British families are only spending 38 minutes of quality time together on an average weekday, you do start to wonder if we’re doing something wrong.

Christmas nostalgia may hark back to a childhood spent salivating over shiny boxes and amorphous shapes under conifer trees. But after the mystique of the nameless delights had passed, how long did we hold onto these new objects before they lost their lustre, to be consigned to storage cupboards, charity shops and landfill forever more?

Could it actually be that the magic of Christmas resides in languishing at home, temporarily relieved of the stresses of work, in the company of those we love – but often work hard to tolerate? After all, it increasingly seems that beneath all the (sleigh) bells and whistles of advertising, the most precious commodity of all is time.

That’s why this winter, instead of the Black Friday bargains, I’m proposing something different.

I’m gifting each of my nearest and dearest a bespoke investment of the irreversible stuff – like cooking a nice meal with my neighbours or taking my dad on an overnight road trip. Perhaps those memories will last longer than the printer cartridges he gifted me when I was sixteen.

Bea Xu is a campaigner for Swap Shopping at 10:10 Climate Action. She has previously campaigned to promote sharing economies between neighbours and is a climate change activist, writer and artist

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