People love to spend; we thrive on the endorphins and pat ourselves on the back for finding a good bargain. Even in a year like 2022, with record levels of inflation impacting millions of lives, Black Friday will still inevitably result in the drastic uptick of both in-store and online spending that it is known for.
Despite having originated in the US, Black Friday is now observed in countries across the globe, with the UK being a particularly avid fan.
However, whilst commonly viewed as a day of festive excitement and impressive bargains, Black Friday, alongside Cyber Monday and the weekend of consumerist indulgence sandwiched in between, are inextricably linked to overspending, waste, and environmental damage.
As Phil Purnell, a professor within the School of Civil Engineering at the UK University of Leeds, says, “Black Friday is an extremely worrying trend.” This stems in large part from the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are produced by the production, shipping, and in many cases the returning of goods purchased in the rush.
With online shopping being many buyers’ preferred format, in the UK the deliveries alone of products bought today are expected to release around 429,000 metric tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to 435 return flights from London to New York.
We are currently using up the world’s resources 75% faster than the Earth can replenish them, and accelerating this rate of consumption for an endorphin lift, or to treat yourself to a new holiday outfit that will likely be abandoned at the back of the wardrobe by January, simply cannot continue in good conscience.
happy black friday pic.twitter.com/GYP5kx9XzN
— Gregor (@LoadingArtist) November 25, 2022
Numerous companies have already turned away from Black Friday in favour of alternatives such as “Green Friday,” an event that promises mindful shopping and appreciation of the environment.
Patagonia has taken its own stance and will be impressively following up on its founder’s decision to donate the $3bn company “to planet Earth”, by directing the profits of 100% of its sales over the weekend to environmental causes.
There are also many businesses that keep the environment at their ethical core throughout the year. A list of some of the best, categorised to allow for easy holiday gift-buying, can be found here.
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Unfortunately though, these eco-conscious alternatives to Back Friday shopping still pale in comparison to the number of stores that welcome the day of reckless spending despite its consequences, and so it is easy to be tempted into making less environmentally friendly decisions.
In these cases, it is worth fighting the urge to impulse buy, strengthened by the time limitations tied to reduced prices. While you may not be able to consider the purchase over a few days, it is still worth taking a few moments to question why you want this item, what value it will add to your life, and whether it will last the test of time.
These checks will not only save you money by steering you away from unnecessary purchases, but they will also prove greatly beneficial to the environment. This is not solely because less items will be made and distributed, but because the harmful process of returning items will be cut down.
In fact, since handling returns is now costing UK retailers over £20bn, many businesses are opting for the more economical option of sending the returned items to landfill, rather than preparing them for resale. This choice is disappointing though perhaps not surprising, as to remain afloat stores are having to search for increased profit margins in every area possible.
— Trevor Donovan (@TrevDon) November 25, 2022
In 2019 a record high of £7.8bn was spent on Black Friday in the UK alone, but this quantity has been slowly dwindling since.
This decline has most likely resulted from the tighter budgets that came as a consequence of Covid19 and the recent inflation. However, it might also be the case that word is spreading regarding the real impact Black Friday has on our planet.
As Mathis Wackernagel, founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, says, “Every euro we spend on something that doesn’t help us make our lives more valuable in a world of climate change and resource constraints, is spent on building our own demise.”
So, throughout this weekend of hyper-consumerism, it is vital to keep our purchases purposeful, avoid unnecessary returns and, where possible, direct our money into the companies that will use it most wisely.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Black Friday Crowds in the National Museum of American History. Featured Photo Credit: Mr.TinMD.