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Black Friday: Alternative places to shop sustainably that aren’t Amazon

In this Nov. 19, 2015 file photo an employee works in the distribution center of the online retailer Amazon in Leipzig, central Germany.
In this Nov. 19, 2015 file photo an employee works in the distribution center of the online retailer Amazon in Leipzig, central Germany.   -   Copyright  Jens Meyer/AP
By Julie Gaubert

Black Friday is an opportunity for consumers to take advantage of monster deals on all manner of consumer items. With the new expectations of shoppers to be more sustainable, some brands have decided to hijack it to conform and make it more responsible.

Back Friday is traditionally held on the Friday following Thanksgiving in the United States. As a day off for most Americans, it’s typically an opportunity for them to focus on finding discounted items for the holiday season.

Some retailers offer up to 75 per cent off their products (including clothing, game consoles, makeup, and many more). Today, the tradition of Black Friday (or "Crazy Friday" as it’s sometimes known) has become widely popular around the world.

The demands of European consumers however have increased considerably in recent years, both in terms of quality and product origin.

According to the European Consumer Payment Report 2020, the interest in limiting spending due to sustainability is highest among young adults and women with 49 per cent respectively.

Among the European adult population, who seem to be setting an example for their children, as many as 67 per centare increasingly fixing or recycling items rather than buying new things

More and more, consumers prefer local, organic products and, if possible, products from factories that are careful about their environmental impact. And brands are beginning to understand this.

That’s why this year, some have taken the initiative to offer alternatives to the traditional Black Friday frenzy.

Find refurbished electronics at Back Market

Launched in 2014 by three French entrepreneurs, Back Market is a marketplace focused on bringing thousands of refurbished electronic devices and appliances from certified professionals to consumers.

The company currently operates in five European countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium - and launched in the US at the beginning of 2018.

All products on the site come with a minimum one-year warranty, and the company wants to bring its consumers “closer to the experience of buying new, but without an environmental impact”.

“Purchasing electronics products, especially used ones, can be stressful and tedious,” Thibaud Hug de Larauze, founder and CEO of Back Market, said.

“With extended warranties, a money-back guarantee and helpful customer care professionals - we are making it safe, easy and risk-free to buy refurbished electronics”.

Onbuy.com, the alternative online marketplace

This UK-based start-up aims to ensure a fair, transparent and ethical approach. OnBuy has a process in which sellers are vetted and verified before they are able to join the platform as a seller.

There are many cases where OnBuy will request invoices from a seller to verify their right to sell certain goods.

In an interview back in April 2020, OnBuy founder Cas Paton explained how his website could compete with Jeff Bezos’ retail titan.

“Amazon controls around 29 per cent of the e-commerce market in the UK but that leaves a good 70 plus per cent that is not Amazon,” he said.

For Paton and his ever-expanding team, OnBuy’s success is proof positive that ethical eCommerce, a commitment to supporting online retailers and providing a fair deal for everyone is what the industry needs.

Buy your books around the corner

Books are the easiest items to source when looking for alternatives. Supporting your local bookshop could be the best alternative to buying via Amazon, as well as helping you create a spirit of community.

If you’re based in the UK or Ireland, this website can help you find the nearest bookshop.

Many independent shops are offering deliveries and a lot of them will order titles for you even if they don’t have them in stock.

You can also take a look at Oxfam Shop and other charity shops for random research, or use this ethical book search tool provided by the Ethical Revolution website.

Take ecofriendly care of your home

As an alternative to Black Friday, EthicalSuperStore.com, the leading ethical online retailer in the UK, is once again launching the Food Bank Friday campaign. The online store donates an item directly from its stock with every order over £30 (€35).

Since it started this initiative in 2015, 26,701 items were donated to the Newcastle West End Food Bank worth over £41,000 (€ 48,728).

“Black Friday is one of the busiest days in the shopping calendar and it’s easy for us to forget the daily struggles that many of us face,” John McCorry, chief executive at Newcastle West End Foodbank, said.

“The West End of Newcastle is populated with large areas of poverty so we always encourage and welcome any form of support”.

EthicalSuperstore say its objectives are to “empower consumers to support alternative brands, that promote concerns like fair trade, organic farming, sustainability and the preservation of Earth’s natural resources”.

A map to spot the closest eco-friendly shops and initiatives

Imagine a database of 12,000 businesses committed to sustainability, built and enriched daily for 10 years.

This French collaborative referencing system is called Près de chez nous (Close to your home) and uses open-source software.

This map will help you find all the good addresses of organic shops, vegan restaurants, independent cinemas or eco-craftsmen near where you live in one click.

And for most of the referenced shops, a delivery system is provided.

Mainly based in France, you can suggest more places or potential international collaborations to expand the network on this Open Atlas-made website.