Black Friday has become a retail phenomenon during the past 20 years, and most people will by now have heard of it and perhaps even snapped up some deals. It was originally used to describe the day following Thanksgiving for the first time in 1961 in Philadelphia, when crowds and traffic in the city were at their busiest. It has only been during the 21st century that Black Friday has hit the UK and the wider world.


When is Black Friday and Cyber Week?

This year Black Friday falls on 26 November, with an extended deal period before and after, known as Cyber Week (19–29 November).

Why do some people choose to avoid Black Friday sales?

These days, Black Friday is synonymous with frenzied shopping sprees, people queuing at stores or staying glued to screens to bag items at discounted prices that they don’t necessarily need, which often end up as landfill. And with scenes of pandemonium in high street stores as customers race to grab cheap goods going viral on social media and being shown on national news, it's safe to say that many believe that Black Friday doesn't tend to bring out the best in humanity.

What is Green Friday?

Refreshingly, there is a counter culture movement known as Green Friday, which encourages consumers not to make impulsive buys and instead to make conscious choices that will have a positive impact on the planet, such as buying sustainable brands, donating to charity or volunteering to do conservation work to offset the negative impact the unnecessary consumption of Black Friday has on the planet.

How do I participate in Green Friday?

There are a number of ways you can contribute to this countermovement, whether shopping ethically, donating to a charity, buying second-hand or even using a giveaway app. Here are our top choices for ethical purchases this Green Friday.

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A man stands purposefully looking at the camera with rows of secondhand books behind
Buy secondhand and support local businesses for bargains that benefit everyone. /Credit: Richard Drury/Getty Images.

Buy from companies that are donating

Increasingly, a few brave brands out there are choosing not to join the discounts bunfight, but to donate instead. Outdoor footwear brand Keen is running a ‘You Buy, We Donate’ initiative, giving €5 of each purchase made on its website during the Cyber Week period (19-29 November) to EOCA, the European Outdoor Conservation Association. The company is running a campaign to choose from three worthy conservation causes – see here for more information and to vote.

Other brands have also taken up the mantle. Premium outdoor brand Jack Wolfskin is instead providing €100,000 to a forest conservation project to ensure the protection of 25,000 sq metres of ancient beech forests in central Europe through a corresponding 50-year lease. Keela is donating 15% of all web sales to the children's charity Cash for Kids during Cyber Week for the third year in a row, while Montane is donating its Black Friday marketing budget (£2,500) to the Lake District’s Fix the Fells programme, which aims to help preserve the Lake District’s worn-down paths and landscapes.

Cornish outdoors brand Finisterre is donating £2.50 from each sale on 26-28 November to 'The Wetsuit Project' to provide and alter wetsuits for people who face barriers in accessing the sea.

A good quality set of kitchen knives not only makes cooking joyful whatever mood you’re in, but is arguably a lifelong investment. TOG knives are crafted in the Samurai sword tradition using the highest quality Japanese steel, with Kebony maple handles. TOG doesn’t offer discounts, however on Black Friday 2021, for every order over £100, it will donate £20 to FareShare, a charity that finds perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributes it to vulnerable children and families. Every single order will buy 80 hot meals at lunch clubs for older people, domestic violence refuges, children’s breakfast clubs, community cafes and homeless shelters.

A Japanese knife in front and some colourful pumpkins
Tog Knives are known for their exceptional quality./Credit: Tog Knives.

Shop deals with a difference

It is possible to make the most of deals that do good as well as saving you a buck or two. You’ll find discounts and deals for brands such as Halfords, The North Face and Oakley at online voucher network BravoVoucher. For every purchase made between Black Friday and Christmas, BravoVoucher will plant a tree in collaboration with Eden Reforestation Projects, an international non-profit organisation which provides local people with a fair wage to plant, cultivate and protect trees. The initiative was launched to promote an eco-sustainable philosophy, even in the world of online shopping, and BravoVoucher aim to plant 500,000 trees over five years in Kenya.

At one-stop green shop, Always Forever Green you’ll find everything from fairly traded fashion, handmade furniture plus ethical jewellery and gifts to reusable nappies and natural beauty and cleaning products. As well as exclusively stocking sustainable brands, you can shop according to your values and every purchase has a purpose, as you are awarded five tokens for every £1 you spend and your token tally can be redeemed towards planting and protecting trees or ocean clearing. On Green Friday, they are offering 10% off all their products when you use the code: GREENFRI10.

Host a preloved swapping party

If you don’t want to miss the endorphin rush of finding a new outfit or device, host a Green Friday preloved items swapping party. One person’s trash can be another’s treasure, whether that’s a jumper that no longer fits or an old phone that’s just been upgraded. Simply gather up any items that are still in good nick, invite your guests to do the same, ask them to bring a dish and their beverage of choice and get swapping. Any items that don’t find a home can be taken to the local charity shop. If hosting is not your bag, head to your local charity shops for a browse, or shop online at Oxfam, Vinted or try Olio – a giveaway app that’s aimed at combating food poverty.

Shop independent

Countless small businesses suffered during the last year as many were forced to close due to the pandemic, and they need all the help they can get. So walk, cycle or take the bus to your local independent shops or farmer’s market and spend your money there. Talk to the business owner to find out if they stock any ethical or locally made items. Stop for a cuppa and a slice of homemade cake at your local independent cafe while you’re at it. It’s not all bad this shopping malarkey.

Buy up some rainforest instead

If you have the urge to splurge, donate to a conservation charity instead, such as World Land Trust, whose patrons include Sir David Attenborough, Steve Backshall and Chris Packham. Since the charity pioneered their Buy An Acre concept of buying land for conservation in 1989, they have been instrumental in the purchase and protection of more than 2,222,247 acres of tropical forest and other threatened habitats.

For £100 you can save an acre of habitat to give wildlife room to roam in South America, and for as little as £25 you can plant a native tree to help restore forests in Brazil, Borneo, Kenya and India or sponsor a Keeper of the Wild, rangers working on the frontline for conservation.

Save your money and give your time

Help preserve our green spaces by giving your valuable time and energy to The Conservation Volunteers. They bring people together to create, improve and care for green spaces, from local parks and community gardens to local nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest. TCV’s vision is to create happier, healthier communities for everyone and to connect people and green spaces to deliver lasting outcomes for both. They have teams of volunteers that work with local communities across the UK and also offer training, green gyms and nature-based activities, such as woodwork and willow weaving. Visit their website to find your nearest local community group.

Close up of woman weaving a basket in weavers workshop
Try your hand at a new skill such as basket weaving with The Conservation Volunteers./Credit: Mint Images/Getty Images.

Make the most of the distraction

While many people are busy watching tech deals on eBay, the most beautiful parts of the country may even be a little less busy. The perfect time, then, to head out on a favourite walk, find a new one further afield, or make the most of your National Trust or English Heritage membership. Let the others grapple for the latest gadget or designer gear, while you enjoy the view and take a few uninterrupted photos while you’re at it.

Hikers on Whiteoak Moss, Lake District
Enjoy having the view all to yourself./Credit: Whiteoak Moss, Lake District ©Jake Graham.

Closer to home, now is the time to become more self-sustainable by planting some onion, garlic and shallot sets, asparagus crowns, rhubarb and raspberry plants in your garden or allotment.


Tanya Smale is a freelance writer and yoga teacher. She lives in Kent and enjoys hillwalking, running and walking in the surrounding countryside, maxing out her National Trust membership with her daughter and visiting areas of natural beauty.