Despite the lack of clarity around how this event started, it’s now popular all over the western world with its rock bottom prices and consumers’ excitement over the latest deals.
Last year, because of the pandemic, sales didn’t slow down but happened mostly online.
Consumers in fact spent $9 billion online during Black Friday 2020. It was estimated that last year home deliveries contributed to 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of 435 return flights from London to New York.
Black Friday is truly one of the busiest shopping days, so much so that it can crash websites and make shoppers queue up in front of shops days in advance to get the best deals. Many argue that it’s a significant event for those who can’t afford to buy full price goods, but the truth is that most of the purchases are driven by impulse, not by necessity.
The appeal of Black Friday are the cheap prices that lure in customers who wish to upgrade current possessions for newer models or trendier items. Often these are impulse purchases driven by scarcity marketing which pushes consumers to act fast to avoid missing a deal.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Jonathan Pointer explains how "Sales are deliberately orchestrated to make people panic that they are at risk of losing out on the promise of happiness, unless they act fast". This is Consumer culture at its finest, which prompts an urgency to have the newest, most advanced version of a product to be ‘trendy’ and is fuelled by phrases like ‘for a limited time’, while stocks last and ‘must have’. This, plus the fear of missing out and feelings of regret, can drive us to buy impulsively.
Electronic devices are the most purchased Black Friday item and often end up in the fastest growing waste stream on the planet: e-waste, adding up to 50 million tons of electronic waste each year, which leads to toxic chemicals like lead and mercury leaching into the soil and a lot of precious metal piled up in landfills with no chance of being recovered.
Toys and clothing are also major environmental offenders and really popular Black Friday purchases. Both are largely made from plastic and often not designed for recycling.
Hyper discount culture reached the peak when an ultra fast fashion brand was selling clothes for a few pennies last year. This cycle of overproduction leads to the devaluation of items which are treated as disposables. Overproduction is a huge problem and then companies attempt to get rid of their excess stock through subsequent sales like the Cyber Monday discounts, although the amount of waste that comes from these events is appalling.
Production, shipping and packaging are not the only impacts created by the many products sold on this day; returns are also a huge problem. In 2019, one in five shoppers said they regretted their Black Friday purchase. Returns contribute to shipping emissions and the returned items are often unable to be resold.
At ECo Change we empower our community by raising the awareness about the negative impacts of this popular shopping day, instead of encouraging more consumption. This months we promote activities to spread the message of "Every day is a Green Friday". Be the ambassador of the "Green Friday" message and earn double ECo Coins as reward.