On 25-26 November 2022, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO launched “Blue Friday”, an ocean-friendly alternative to Black Friday. The initiative aimed to promote sustainable consumption and protect the Mediterranean Sea and the ocean. Over 2 days, different cultural activities were organised, including a panel on responsible consumption, visits to artisanal ateliers, and book and theatre presentations, raising awareness of the impact of the choices we make on the ocean.
The day following Thanksgiving, commonly referred to as Black Friday, has become one of the year’s busiest shopping days. Behind the apparent convenience, Black Friday negatively impacts the planet. Purchases are often motivated by impulse, by fear of missing a good deal. Yet, up to 80% of the purchases are thrown away after one use or even none. Black Friday causes spikes in air pollution and plastic waste; this year, it cost Italy an increase by 34% of pollution in urban centres due to urban congestion and plastic production soaring.
In the context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the IOC Project Office of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe launched “Blue Friday” as an ocean-friendly alternative to Black Friday. The aim was to promote responsible consumption and support the conservation and regeneration of the marine and coastal environment, prompting us to reflect on how individual and collective choices impact the ocean.
"The Blue Friday is a call for action aimed at citizens, institutions, companies and research centres to turn the blackest Friday of the year into a time to safeguard and regenerate our Mediterranean Sea through Ocean Literacy initiatives for all. We want to show that we can change the course of things, by placing a focus on the environment, not on consumption." - Francesca Santoro, Senior Programme Officer, IOC-UNESCO.
On 25 November, the first day kicked off with the in-presence event “Blue Friday vs Black Friday”, a panel on responsible production and consumption patterns to encourage conscious consumerism.
The panel was moderated by Giacomo Talignani, a journalist, who highlighted the importance of a “revolution from below”. Fashion entrepreneurs at the national level included Fabio Murzi (Acqua dell’Elba), Eva Geraldine Fontanelli (gOOOders), Giusy Bettoni (C.L.A.S.S.) and Ettore Pellegrini (Bemberg by Asahi Kasei). The concept of consumer-oriented sustainability communication was approached. Communication plays a critical role in fashion and must be a driving force for fashion to contribute to the goals of the Agenda 2030 towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
Sustainable alternatives strictly linked to the Venetian reality were illustrated by Raffaele Dessì, Gioele Romanelli (Inside Venice), Laura Scarpa and Lorenzo Cinotti (Venezia da Vivere), Chiara Pavan (Venissa) and Karin Friebel and Luciano Marson (Pieces of Venice). The discussion focused on the importance of cultural change at a local level.
On 26 November, hosted by the UNESCO Regional Bureau, the second day continued with activities for all promoting Ocean Literacy. Giacomo Talignani presented his book As Whales in a Bottle. Francesca Santoro and green-friendly journalist Diana de Marsanich dialogued about plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, invasive alien species and climate change.
It was an introduction to the theatre performance by Alessandro Vanoli, “The History of the Sea”. When the planetary pandemic broke out worldwide, a whale was born in the heart of the ocean: Wally. It had a mission of reaching the Arctic, eating and going home. But, due to the climate crisis, the cub was first separated from its mother and then lost in the pole until it reached warmer, more polluted seas with new dangers. This is the story long adventure to find one’s way home, a journey to discover the fragility of a threatened planet. Participants got closer to the reality of the city and its environmental issues. In particular, "Atelier Aperti" with 'Venezia da Vivere' allowed participants to discover artisan techniques and understand how a small business structures its sustainability. Closer contact with the city was also explored during a boat tour organised by 'Fie a Manetta', an association that promotes a more aware and respectful use of the lagoon.
Blue Friday was an essential reflection on the meaning of sustainability and what lies behind it. Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Blue Friday is an invitation to a more eco-responsible economy and lifestyle to help protect and restore the ocean. Its health is our health.