Every year, at the end of November, there is one day when brands and retailers make a killing – “Black Friday. Mass sales, which start from “Thanksgiving“, end up till Christmas, and the tradition, though American, has been exported globally over the past decade.

To what avail…???

A massive increase in online sales, ramped-up transport of merchandise, and a boom in air pollution… therefore, costing the planet big time.

Although Black Friday started as a one-day sales event, it has since snowballed into a month-long rush of fast fashion excess, ultimately doing more harm to our environment in a quest to save money, even though 80 per cent of items go to landfill. Like fast fashion, the Black Friday sales encourage mass consumerism and push people to purchase products solely because they are on sale, without considering how much they will be used.

According to a study conducted by Adobe Digital Insights, during Black Friday, US consumers spent around 9 billion dollars online (7.95 billion euros), 21.6% more than in 2019. The study further points out that Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2020 were the days that generated the most online commerce in U.S. history – and they are looking to build on those figures in subsequent years as well.

Black Friday provides influence-focused promotions and deals for stock already in place instead of producing items blindly with the intent of them being bought during the sales period.

Green Friday – a concept that emphasizes responsible shopping, buying from smaller, local stores or used items. Waste is a huge problem, particularly on the day after Thanksgiving, because significant discounts and low-priced products lead people to buy things they do not need, simply for the sake of doing so.

Another aspect of enormous environmental impact is the transportation of the orders both locally and globally. Shipping and delivering online orders account for as much as 4 per cent of global emissions over a year, with most of that coming during The Day After Thanksgiving and the Christmas Shopping Period. During 2021, it was estimated that the U.K.’s Black Friday sales deliveries released more than 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, i.e., about 0.12% of the total annual emissions in the U.K.

According to the U.K.-based comparison shopping site Money.co.uk, the year of 2020 Black Friday‘s home deliveries in the U.K. are estimated to emit 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — equivalent to 435 round-trip flights from London to New York City (or seemingly, about as much weight as 61,308 elephants).

According to the Spains Trade Organization, UNO, there will be approximately 50 million deliveries to match Black Friday purchases in the years to come. Shipping the ordered items is expected to cause the most impact on the environment, with Amazon expected to generate over 15,000 tons of carbon emissions just from Black Friday. From a production perspective, from packing and delivering the items, the planet will be affected by increased carbon emissions twice during Black Friday and Cyber Monday through product waste.

A report by Green Alliance, a think-tank, found that 80% of all items purchased at Black Friday sales end up either in a landfill, being burned, or being recycled — usually at low quality — after a short lifespan. Wastemanaged.co.uk added that 80 per cent of purchases made from Black Friday sales would either be placed in landfill sites or burned or recycled incorrectly.

So, if Black Friday has an environmental impact, what possible ways to make it eco-friendly?

Tips for Green Black Friday

There are several ways to make “Black Friday and Cyber Monday eco-friendly and reduce the environmental impact. Some of such methods are:

a. Consolidating Purchases and Shipments

The above is one of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of “Black Friday”. Consolidating purchases and shipments into one large packet minimizes the burden on transportation and, thus, the environment.

b. Sustainable Shipping

Sustainable shipping is another option for creating a healthy planet. Many environmentally conscious retailers and consumers choose one another so that they can do their part—an example of the same use of fleets of electric delivery vehicles choosing local vendors to avoid transportation.

c. Shop Locally

Many organizations offer huge discounts and large variety during the holiday season; shopping locally is another sustainable option that can make Black FridayGREEN“—boosting local businesses and supporting the local economic system. Additionally, gifts bought from local companies have a particular ethnic charm, making them more memorable.

d. Use Alternative Wrapping Papers

Wrapping papers are one of the essential elements of gifting and might seem harmless, but they are one of the most plentiful forms of physical waste due to holidays. Most of the wrapping papers are non-recyclable and cannot be reused and adding damage to the landfills. Using alternatives like newspapers is one of the options. Newspapers are cheap, widely available and recyclable. Additionally, using the newspaper’s comics section keeps the wrapping paper fun instead of black and white. Using box packing of another product and wrapping in a quirky sustainable way is another option to reduce wrapping paper wastage. Another alternative to wrapping paper is the box of another product. Fabrics, old maps, tissue paper, grocery store bags and more can all be used to wrap the gifts making them more rustic and authentic.

e. Fight the Urge to Impulse Buy Gifts

One of the downsides to sales is the amount of physical waste impulse gifts produce. Impulse gifting happens due to encouraging sales the shoppers to purchase more products than is needed. Sometimes completely unused products are even thrown out. Avoiding impulse purchases will reduce the amount of packaging in landfills.

In conclusion the discussion, the only solution is to reduce our consumption levels and adopt sustainable shopping practices. One of the ways could be taking a break from shopping on Black Friday and participating in a global “Buy Nothing Day” campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness about less or no shopping and invites people to stop shopping for a day. Lastly, we are not close to the fight against climate change, and robust actions and direct actions are needed to prevent habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and other concerns not within the net of carbon offsetting.

However, climate scientists worldwide are calling to limit human-caused emissions that can impact climate change. Humankind is on a deadline, so waiting for companies that produce the products and services we buy to do the right thing is not viable. The silver lining is that each of us is a consumer; we can demand the power to start curbing our purchases’ effect on the environment through carbon offsetting.

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