There’s no doubt Black Friday is hurting the environment. But we can change.
Turn to any online used goods platform and the truth begins to set in. There’s A LOT of stuff out there! And much of it is still in great, usable condition. Nonetheless, each year on Black Friday we line up for hours on end to get the very latest gadget or gizmo for the best price around. So can we have an eco-friendly black Friday?
How did it all start? Black Friday has its roots in many points in history. By doing a little research it soon becomes clear that it’s difficult to draw a direct line to one particular day.
Some say the term “Black Friday” dates back to the late 1860s when a huge dive in gold prices caused a crippling market crash in the US. Others cite the term’s beginnings as being in Philadelphia during the 1950s and 60s. Traffic police there invented the saying because, similar to today, on the day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas shopping season began in earnest. Mobs of people crowded the stores in the city center, causing festive chaos as they began their mission of getting everything on their list in time for Christmas day. “Black Friday” described the gridlocked traffic.
Today, Black Friday brings to mind huge sale events. Black Friday marks the day retailers showcase their best discounts of the year, leading to crazed shopping frenzies both in-person and online.
It’s easy to see the allure. With coveted best selling items being sold at 50% to 60% off, who wouldn’t want to line up at 3AM just to get inside the store?
But, do you really need all this stuff? Or are we stuck in a marketer’s dream mindset?
The impact on the environment
The statistics are alarming. Some of the most popular items sold on Black Friday in 2020 were the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and the ever-captivating Apple Airpods ear pieces. Black Friday marks the beginning of a marathon up to Christmas during which over 900 million packages were delivered through the US postal system in 2019.
In the UK, the scene is similar. During the same year, people in the United Kingdom spent £8.6b on Black Friday, the highest amount spent by many European countries. Per person, the average Black Friday spend in the UK in 2018 was £346, with fashion and luxury items spiking 437%. While spending dipped during 2020 due to the pandemic, it’s expected to make a rebound this year and scale up once more to enormous proportions.
Of course, all this frenzy doesn’t come without a cost. As a post on National Geographic.com points out, for most buyers, Black Friday simply perpetuates the beliefs and actions of a consumption-oriented society.
But does buying something online make it greener? Yes and no. National Geographic describes how a study from MIT in the US found shopping online had a lower carbon footprint compared with shopping in a physical store. Other studies have shown this benefit unfortunately drops to the wayside when consumers use expedited shipping.
More diesel-using trucks are required to transport the goods quickly on the ground with expedited shipping, adding up to increased levels of pollution and less consolidation.
And there’s always the unavoidable fact that what we purchase ends up as waste later on. Statistics show that only about 20% of electronic waste is recycled and so toxic substances like lead and mercury are getting into our soil and water. These substances and others are bad for humans and particularly for children, as they develop. Everything ends up in landfill. Is there another answer?
An eco-friendly Black Friday
Yes, there is! Black Friday presents the perfect opportunity for promoting sustainability in retail. This year, instead of looking for a bargain, we ask you to stop and think if you really need it. Boycott Black Friday, and instead participate in Buy Nothing Day, which just so happens to fall on the same day! It’s a day specifically dedicated to being a 24 hour detox from consumerism and the perfect opportunity to ponder upon the impact our shopping habits have on our planet. Participating is simple… You just don’t buy anything. Highlighting that doing nothing can still be something when it comes to protecting our environment.
Take a leaf from Patagonia’s book, they no longer take part in black Friday sales as this just encourages people to spend time in shopping centres, instead they encourage people to use the day to get outside in nature.
Or use the time to create something. Bake. Make your own candles. Make chocolates. Draw. Upcycle some furniture or fabric. Write a story or a letter to an enderly relative. Pay it forward with the promise to take a friend or family member to lunch or dinner at their favourite restaurant and consider giving experiences like theater tickets, concert tickets, and event passes.
Go for a hike with a loved one to spend some time together. Attend clothing swaps. Have a long overdue chat on the phone or in-person. There are so many ways to create an eco-friendly Black Friday and the planet will thank you for it.
If you do shop this Black Friday
At Y’earn we believe in #MoreLoveLessWate and so we ask people to slow down their consumption habits and look at alternatives to always buying new. That said, we always need to buy things and if you plan to shop this Black Friday here are some tips to make it a little more eco-friendly:
- Buying items that you have wanted or needed to buy before Black Friday, not just because there’s a sale.
- If possible, opt for brands that are sustainable and items which are made to last.
- Try to purchase as many items from a single retailer as possible.
- Pick the most eco-friendly delivery option. Some examples are standard, no-rush delivery, carbon-offset, and carbon-neutral (or better yet, shop local!)
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