Discounting Our Planet
The darkest time for retail is upon us and people are fired up to start the excessive shopping extravaganza that graces the world each year. This spectacular event, known as Black Friday, was brought to the UK by none other than Amazon (thank you, Jeff), 10 years ago, and people are eagerly anticipating the whopping price deductions to buy things they don’t know they want yet. Inevitably, as with most human festivities, the environment will fall victim to the hands of materialism.
This year, Black Friday presents itself rather differently. Amidst a lockdown, people are prevented from physically queuing for their much wanted discounts, and it will be the speed of wifi, not the speed of the queue that impacts purchasing. The lockdown is not slowing the spend though, with sales up 61% in the first week of November compared with the same period of time last year. Following these online sales, comes the environmental cost, with more vans, more returns, more packaging, and inevitably, CO2 emissions; a domino effect piloted by our growing appetite for convenience and avarice.
“THE LOCKDOWN IS NOT SLOWING THE SPEND THOUGH, WITH SALES UP 61% IN THE FIRST WEEK OF NOVEMBER COMPARED WITH THE SAME PERIOD OF TIME LAST YEAR.”
The problem with Black Friday is that people buy for greed over need. Ironically, in the US, Black Friday is the Friday which follows ThanksGiving, so people are thankful for what they have, then decide it’s not enough. Well, ‘lucky’ for us and them, Black Friday is no longer restricted to a 24 hour period, and we are given weeks or even months to buy those unnecessary purchases we had no previous desire of buying. With Amazon and Boots on the front line, slashing prices as early as October, we witness another day snatched up and exploited by large companies hoping to reap the benefits of pointless consuming. The sad truth behind the items bought over the Black Friday period though, is that 80% of them end up in landfill, incineration or (at best) left to low quality recycling after a small period of time, (Green Alliance, 2019).
“THE SAD TRUTH BEHIND THE ITEMS BOUGHT OVER THE BLACK FRIDAY PERIOD THOUGH, IS THAT 80% OF THEM END UP IN LANDFILL, INCINERATION OR (AT BEST) LEFT TO LOW QUALITY RECYCLING AFTER A SMALL PERIOD OF TIME, (GREEN ALLIANCE, 2019).”
The war against consumerism is not lost though, with some companies and organisations championing sustainability over our materialistic urges. Environmental activists, tired of our throwaway culture, are promoting people to support anti-consumerism, to change the distopican phenomenon, and escape the shopocalypse. In 1992, a movement began fighting against consumerism over this time, people were encouraged to boycott the weekend's urge to splurge. ‘Buy Nothing Day’ was started by Ted Dave, a Canadian activist who wanted people to take a holiday from spending and to take a 24 hour detox from consuming - if only now it was as simple as 24 hours. The mission of the movement is still relevant though; rather than joining the frenzy, the easiest possible way to help the environment, is to do nothing at all.
Buy Nothing Day has now been expanded to Green Friday, which emphasises the ecological perspective.“The Green Friday movement is all about giving, investing in the things that really matter and make life more fulfilling, worthwhile and even beautiful,” (Green Friday, 2020). The movement pushes towards spending time in nature, enjoying the company of family and friends, getting active, practising mindfulness or supporting a local charity. The altruistic ethos encouraged with this movement is promoting a new cultural wave to appreciate the world around us and the people living in it, rather than the materialistic goods that destroy it.
There are also companies that are challenging the motives of Black Friday. Patagonia is one of them and does not participate in the period of mass shopping. Aligned with ethical consumerism in 2016, they previously donated 100% of sales from the season to grassroots environmental organisations. Patagonia’s emphasis on preventing unnecessary harm allows there to be an alliance between business and the environment. They are driven to inspire and prioritise minimum impact, and with this, pave the way for corporate responsibility and conscientious consumption. This year they are not taking part in the sales, but instead from November 29th they will match any donations made to one of the environmental groups supported through Patagonia Action Works. In addition to this, they annually give 1% of their revenue to grassroots organisations, ‘1% for the Planet,’, which has amounted to $100 million since 1985, showing true commitment to the natural world.
When you think about Black Friday, every aspect of it promotes waste and CO2 emissions. With awareness of climate change, and the essential re-evaluation of human behaviour in the spotlight, surely a large scale shopping period, driven by deals, materialism, greed and spending is unnecessary when we know what the consequences are? We know we are harming the planet and we know that the planet does not profit from our actions. So, this year and the years that follow, we need to fight the upcoming marketing tactics, the eye catching emails, the advertisements and the commercials that invade our screens. We are at a crucial point in history for climate change, so instead of harming nature from behind a desktop, protect it and support Green Friday; what’s the point of a new jumper, when there will be no world to wear it in?
Ethical choices for Black Friday
Vivo Life - donating 10% of their revenue to environmental charities and planting 10 trees for every online order
Sofology - planting a tree for every sofa sold, and have developed their first ever sustainable sofa
By contributing writer Scarlett Buckley