Updated: Sep 22
This Black Friday, almost 430,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases will be emitted in the name of excess bargains.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019, the shift to online shopping, away from the high street, has occurred at an unprecedented pace. While various studies indicate that online shopping produces around 17% less greenhouse gas emissions than high street shopping, sales days and key calendar events result in high levels of emissions either way. The estimated 430000 tons of emissions for Black Friday 2022 equates to around 0.12% of the UK’s annual emissions. Over the year, online orders are responsible for 4% of global emissions, with this concentrated over the period between Black Friday and Christmas.
It’s not just the storage and delivery that is an environmental problem. Waste is a significant part of the problem with Black Friday, with large discounts and companies spending vast sums in order to convince people that they need things that they don’t. It is estimated that 80% of items bought on Black Friday are used only a few times, some none at all. Wastefulness increases by 25% between Black Friday and the end of the year in the United States. Even when items that go unused get returned to the retailer, they may be wasted anyway as there is no space for the old discounted, slow moving stock on the shelves (part of the reason it may have been so heavily discounted in the first place).
The tide is turning, and opinion is shifting amongst consumers, especially younger generations with conscious consumer tendencies. Consumers are proving to be more averse to the excesses of Black Friday each year. Alternatives are popping up, in fact there are a few alternatives currently to Black Friday. The first, Buy Nothing Day, is on the same day as Black Friday, and is an extreme one! Some shops will close that day rather than offer any discounts. The second alternative is more moderate, and is very popular. Green Friday was started in Australia. Businesses that want to sell at the Green Friday event have to meet and complete a 7-point sustainability plan, which will be made public at the event, allowing consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. The brands that have attended previously range from slow fashion brands to organic skincare and responsible appliance retailers. The event is also carbon neutral and uses compostable packaging.
If we can replace the widespread and excessive shopping holidays like Black Friday, for something closer to Green Friday, we will be one step closer to a sustainable retail market. Even some of the giants of retail are moving in this direction. Alibaba has indicated they plan to run Green 11.11, a sales event which has a lower carbon footprint, and individual vendors' carbon footprints are publicised again, to give the consumer information for making decisions. The event also has sustainable plastic packaging, and over 100,000 recycling points. This is the sort of change that is occurring the world over, it just needs stepped up a gear if it is going to come quickly enough to protect our world.
At NAUTRA we say no to Black Friday. We do offer discounts during the year, but not at such low levels, and never in the spirit that Black Friday has embodied. We believe in high quality, long-lived clothes. We believe in paying a fair wage to those who produce clothes. These qualities require more respect than the price reductions that are seen on Black Friday, and encompass the reasons for our lack of participation in an event that reduces the value of everything on sale, not just discounted items.