Black Friday for Waste Conscious Consumers

Nov 24, 2017

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Black Friday is expected to generate billions of dollars in sales this year. According to the National Retail Federation an estimated 164 million of us will be shopping this weekend. But this shopping bonanza also generates greater volumes of waste. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports on Hawai‘i’s conscious consumer and where they’re going to be shopping this holiday season.

As hordes of shoppers rush to stores for Black Friday sales, others are looking for shopping alternatives – outlets for that inner anti-consumerist.

Clothing racks at Plato's Closet.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“People are just in the mood to shop on Black Friday so just getting them in our door is kind of our goal,” says Sue Green, owner of Plato’s Closet, a popular Honolulu consignment shop.

The resale boutique is known for carrying trendy, close-to-new clothing and accessories for teens and 20-somethings that are sold for up to 70 percent off mall prices. For the past three months, Green has been setting aside some of her best donations and saving them for Black Friday.

“The past two weeks we’ve been posting them and tagging them in our Instagram feed,” says Green, “Black Friday all those items will be available.”

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And the strategy has been working the last three years. Customers are lined up outside her Piʻikoi Street boutique instead of malls and big box stores, because as Green put it, shopping second-hand is second nature to her customers.

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“They have never known a world where people didn’t recycle, and people didn’t think about the environment and think about the earth, and think about what we’re doing with this stuff that we are throwing in the landfill,” says Green, “So this concept of Plato’s Closet and selling your old clothes that are in excellent shape to make money and then buying used just fits right in with their mindset”

For the Salvation Army Thrift Stores, a familiar name as far as second-hand shops go, Black Friday isn’t really a money maker.

“I always feel like we always have great deals to offer so,” says Captain Jonathan Russell, Administrator of the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers on O’ahu, “But as far as it standing out as a premier day I would have to say no, not in our case.”

The proceeds from the thrift stores go to fund the centers’ operations. The stores carry a wide gamut of second-hand items from clothes to furniture, antiques and knickknacks for a fraction of the cost. But shopping there can be a hit or miss.

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“It’s like a treasure hunt isn’t it? I mean you never know on any given day what you’re gonna find in the store,” says Russell.

For April Bullis, manager of the Honolulu Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, second-hand shopping is her mantra.

“We divert over 125,000 tons of waste from our landfills and way streams every year,” says Bullis, “The landfills aren’t getting any larger. Just because it’s called a landfill doesn’t mean we have to fill it.”

The non-profit home improvement store takes in donated items and resells them at discount prices, with the proceeds going to fund Honolulu Habitat’s housing projects.

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“We have everything from building materials, furniture, appliances, housewares, doors, windows, hardware, and tools,” says Bullis.

April Bullis, Honolulu Habitat for Humanity Re-Store Manager, poses above the store's warehouse in Kalihi.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

The Re-Store began capitalizing on the Black Friday shopping frenzy last year, when they started Sustainable Saturdays – a 50 percent off store-wide sale that also includes educational workshops and booths promoting sustainability and recycling.

“Consumers spend and generate more waste during the holidays than any other time of the year,” says Bullis, “We chose to do it around this time of year because I really want people to rethink the way they look at the holiday season. I really want people to think second-hand first.”