From Black to Sustainable: The Origins and Environmental Impact of Black Friday
Black Friday has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year, with retailers offering major discounts to kick off the holiday season. But where did this tradition come from, and what is its environmental footprint? Can Black Friday ever be sustainable?
Black Friday originated in the United States, occurring the day after Thanksgiving. Retailers would offer big sales, hoping to get consumers to start their Christmas shopping and spend freely. The term "Black Friday" was coined in Philadelphia in the 1960s, referring to the chaos and traffic jams from crowds of shoppers.
Over time, Black Friday has been exported globally and evolved into a highly commercialized event. However, the rampant consumerism comes at a cost.
According to this study, US online sales hit $9 billion on Black Friday 2020, increasing 21.6% over 2019. And this trend spreads beyond the US! In the UK too, British consumers are going on massive shopping sprees, with millions planning to buy discounted items this year.
All those purchases mean more goods produced, more packaging waste and greenhouse gas emissions from transporting merchandise. Studies estimate Black Friday returns (only!) in the US generate 15 million tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of 3 million cars' emissions for a year!
One analysis by Wastemanaged found this year's (2023) Black Friday shopping in the UK will churn out 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases from delivery emissions alone, comparable to 435 flights between London and New York.
The extra waste is also significant - with more cardboard, plastic bags, etc. Research shows 80% of Black Friday purchases end up in landfills, incinerators, or get recycled improperly.
Electronics and fast fashion purchases are particularly problematic, requiring extensive resources to produce and often ending up in landfills quickly after purchase.
According to the UN, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter globally after oil, while producing just one phone takes 44 kg of natural resources (for a laptop it's around 1 tonne!).
Sustainable Options for Black Friday
Luckily, some alternatives have emerged to curb overconsumption on Black Friday:
Green Friday promotes shopping local, buying secondhand, and purchasing sustainably made items.
Giving Tuesday, held 3 days after Black Friday, encourages donating to charity or volunteering your time instead of buying more stuff.
Apps like Ganddee make it easy to find ethical brands and shops selling affordable pre-loved goods. This makes sustainable choices more convenient and provide an alternative to Black Friday's overconsumption.
Some retailers like Asket commit to closing on Black Friday, using social media instead to educate about fashion's environmental impact.
By spending mindfully this Black Friday, we can help reduce waste and carbon emissions. Small everyday actions on Green Friday or with Ganddee's help create ripples of positive change. With growing awareness of overconsumption, sustainable options are making ethical shopping easier.