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Turning Black Friday into Green Friday

24 November 2023

4 mins

Black Friday 2023 is taking place this Friday, the 24th of November. It is a highly anticipated shopping event, where many consumers can chase the best possible deals, on products ranging from technology to designer clothes. For many, it is the day Christmas shopping begins; for others, it is the perfect excuse to treat themselves.

The event, termed ‘Black Friday’ began as an American tradition. The name was originally used in Philadelphia, to describe the disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic caused when people rushed to the high streets to begin their Christmas shopping, the day after Thanksgiving. Large crowds would fill the streets and cars would cause major traffic jams (Source: Britannica , 2023).

Nowadays, the event is commonly thought of as a shopping holiday, where large discounts are often applied, sometimes for a longer period than just the Friday. Many consumers now also get involved in Cyber Monday, which is a day for online retailers to drop their prices down.

Although both Black Friday and Cyber Monday might seem like perfect opportunities to bag yourselves some great deals, it can be easy to go overboard. These events are used by some of the world’s largest corporations to sell a large amount of products, thus making a hefty profit, often without considering the impact on workers and the environment.

The below video highlights some of the main problems associated with Black Friday and Cyber Monday as events which encourage consumerism and overconsumption:

Some of the issues raised include:

  • Packaging and transport: the increase in online orders means more vehicles on the roads, which contribute to carbon emissions.
  • Waste: this may increase due to cheaply made goods or unwanted presents.
  • Overconsumption: this is caused when people are encouraged to buy more than they really need.
  • Working conditions: some workers at large corporations are forced to work long hours of up to 12-16 hours a day, standing on their feet, to meet the demands of consumers.

Shockingly, in 2021, Black Friday deliveries released approximately 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases…for context, that’s like 435 return flights from London to New York (Source: DW, 2023).

BUT, there is hope! Here are some solutions for how to enjoy Black Friday sustainably:

  1. Plan what you need to buy (whether this be presents for friends & family, or something you need) and try to stick to this. Avoid buying what you do not NEED.
  2. Do you need to buy these products new? Could there be an opportunity to buy this second hand but still high quality? Consider: Depop & Vinted for clothing; Facebook Marketplace for household items, etc. Or could you search in charity shops?
  3. Invest in longer lasting products & consider the brands you buy from. It is worth researching the brands you’d like to buy from beforehand, to see if they are sustainable, ethical, and fair trade. The website ‘Good On You’ has created a brand directory, where you can search for brands to discover how sustainable they are. (Be aware of ‘greenwashing’, for example when a brand’s messaging claims that materials are ‘recycled’ or ‘ethically sourced’; they don’t always provide proof of this). Look out for companies that are B-Corp, 1% for the planet or carbon neutral accredited. You can also find brands that offer things such as tree planting or charitable donations.
  4. Repair and recycle. Instead of buying a new product, could you repair something you already own? A great opportunity to do this could be next week’s Repair Café, taking place in Martin Hall Café, on Wednesday 29th November, from 2 to 4:30pm. Email to find out more.

This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember to shop sustainably by considering the impact you are having!

If you would like to read more on the topic, please visit this link for a useful article:

This article is in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. To read more click here.  

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