By Olivia Skordi
Black Friday is “celebrated” on November 24 this year. This event started in the United States to mark the Christmas season by promoting extreme price discounts and offers on that specific day only. The event has become globally known and has been adopted by all European countries. But is this day – or week as it has basically become – as beneficial as it seems to the consumers, or is it another trap of corporations to lure us into capitalism and increase their profits?
Black Friday promotes overconsumption, influencing consumers to buy unnecessary, cheap and bad-quality products. More than 43 per cent of consumers globally wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to shop for the holiday season. Also, it encourages overproduction and significantly impacts waste generation from both companies and consumers.
Consumers do not realise where all these products end up and their lifespan, with a study stating that 80 per cent of Black Friday purchases are thrown away after a few times of use. The amount of trash that only this period produces is enormous, leading to unmanaged waste that ends up in landfills, impacting the environment even more.
In a study, Black Friday shoppers were asked what they thought they would buy this year, and most of them, 61 per cent, chose industrial, cheap clothing and personal care companies as their first choice (https://blog.gwi.com/trends/black-friday-trends/). When fast fashion gets trashed, most clothing goes to landfills, with product emissions and plastic pollution growing dramatically. The uncontrolled waste generation that ends up in landfills, with the minimum use by consumers, has a significant impact on the environment as it is proven that the C02 released from a single shirt weighs less than its actual product weight.
On Black Friday, all companies offer free shipping of goods worldwide on all products to lure consumers to use online platforms for their purchases. This significantly impacts the global transport sector as it is already accountable for 4 per cent of the worldwide carbon CO2 emissions. Most companies ‘ factories are based in third-world countries, and the transportation used to meet the consumer’s demands for fast deliveries affects the emissions produced during that period. If the consumers attend physical shops, they tend to create traffic within the cities because they will use their cars to travel. Subsequently, this will produce even more CO2 emissions.
Large companies such as Amazon, Apple and Samsung target young people to buy new products by promoting early Black Friday sales. Chemicals come from the uncontrolled extraction of raw materials and used to manufacture and support the electronic devices industry causes untold damage to biodiversity. Subsequently, only 17.4 per cent of electronic devices are collected and recycled globally (Global 1-Waste Monitor 2020), with the rest being dumped in landfills, releasing their harmful chemicals into the ground and causing biodiversity loss. Today, rather than upgrading and investing in people’s lives in the long term, it has already brought distraction to future generations when there will be no biodiversity left and no resources for raw materials to extract.
Then there are the social justice issues of Black Friday. Companies outsource their labour to developing nations that are paying pennies considering the work and conditions to meet present needs. It all means extremely long working hours to produce the massive quantity of products, packaging, shipping and deliveries to meet the consumer expectations when large companies’ wallets are the only ones profiting from it.
Stakeholders need to take accountability for this event and not be persuaded by the flood of promotions. There is a high need for the promotion of reduced packaging and sustainable practices that consumers should also consider.
We must reset and rethink our general consumption habits and introduce ‘buy less and buy better’ locally. Promote reduction and reuse and create communities where we learn how to reuse, swap and repair products. This will slow down the use of raw materials extensively, decrease landfill waste and reduce the pressure towards climate change.
Steps you can take for Black Friday
- It is essential to take a step back and consider whether this period is as important as the big companies make it look, and as consumers we need to decide whether to participate in Black Friday and to what extent.
- Consider what you need to buy and encourage responsible consumption and minimalism by listing what you need and prioritising how much money you would like to spend.
- When choosing what you want, look for second-hand and thrift shops and support local and small businesses.
- Avoid fast fashion as it comes with a price that has a massive impact on the workers.
- Reduce carbon emissions and packaging when you buy from shops and use your own shopping bags.
As consumers, we need to consider the impact of this day on the environment, the labour behind the overproduction and if there is a real need to spend so much money on products we don’t need. The psychological impact of this day on consumers is enormous, and as consumers it’s okay to participate in Black Friday. But it would help if you remembered that we need to account for sustainable consumption and consider our carbon footprint.
Olivia Skordi is a project manager for Friends of the Earth Cyprus