A consumer report shows November 21 to November 26 are the five busiest shopping days of the year, and with Black Friday falling right in that window, it's no surprise that this time frame takes the win for most lucrative shopping rushes.
Black Friday is a holiday shopping day where consumers brave the crowds and endless queues to score lightning deals. It has been a part of many Americans' Thanksgiving traditions and marks the start of Christmas shopping.
Now we are approaching the Black Friday craze again. Unlike part of last year and the year before that when most of the purchasing happened online due to pandemic protocols, one would expect the traditional shopping traffic in brick-and-mortar stores to resume once again alongside eCommerce this year. But what does this celebration of unrestrained consumerism mean for the retail world's environmental impact? The bigger the shopping outlets, the larger the shopping rush, and the larger the shopping rush, the higher the environmental impact.
While Black Friday and other sale days like Cyber Monday are primarily linked with hyper-consumerism, things are changing. This shift in consumerism habits is a tremendous opportunity because it will help curb holiday emissions and level out the competition gap between retail behemoths and small businesses.
We have covered below five eye-opening Black Friday stats to further lift the veil on hyperconsumerism and encourage consumers to support more sustainable and ethical shopping practices during this year's sale season.
- Mountains of Waste - Aside from squandering millions of dollars ($8.9 million in 2021) on electronics, apparel, and plastic items during Black Friday deals, around 80% of them are discarded after a superficial usage period. Both consumers and brands can be responsible for excessive waste production. The hyper-discount culture is a result of both thoughtless shopping and brand strategies driven by financial motives to empty their old stocks and inventories.
- The Return Loop & Landfill Horror - Americans are perched above a landfill that contains roughly around $580 billion worth of discarded goods. The worth of returned goods during the 2021 U.S. holidays was estimated to be around $158 billion, a 56% climb from the previous year. Meanwhile, the landfill consequences were gauged at nearly 9.6 billion pounds, and carbon emissions at 27 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions (more on CO2 emissions in point 3). While the return loop is not limited to holidays, the excessive shopping during the sale seasons only makes the landfill problem worse. The majority of returns mostly end up in landfills, are incinerated, or are recycled at a low grade.
- Floods of Carbon Emissions - Black Friday holiday in 2021 was estimated to have released about 386,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, equal to 215 roundtrip flights between London and Sydney. The carbon emissions are not only from the shopping rush but also the return surge. Getting back the rejected items to the warehouse means passing through a network of retailers, wholesalers, and resellers. The logistics department's use of terms of billions of gallons of diesel fuel produces a massive amount of carbon emissions. We already know that 8% of the global GHGs come from transportation, and up to 11%, if you count access points and warehouses. The situation is, however, even more severe for the U.S as transportation is its largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to 27% of total GHGs emissions. Every shopping delivery and return impacts the environment and worsens climate change.
- Enormous Pressure on the Workforce - The impact of Black Friday is not just on the planet. It also drains the workforce, which includes everyone involved in the supply chains of the products we purchase. Pressure falls on workers to bring massive amount of products in front of the consumers just in time for Black Friday. Often time, factories employ factory workers in hazardous work environments and deny livable wages to their workers. While the pressure falls on the laborers, the brands reap holiday sale profits. Simply put, the workers stay trapped in a cruel poverty loop regardless of sale season or regular season. Equally pressured are the store employees and logistics team. They are forced to work longer hours under tremendous stress with no extra pay during Black Friday and other holidays. Amazon, the leading global e-commerce retailer, has made headlines over the years for neglecting workers' needs. Black Friday is one particular event that serves as an effective illustration of the harshest pressures placed on human resources.
- Greenwashing Empowerment - Greenwashing implies using manipulative marketing strategies that employ the green term solely for commercial gain, further encouraging the dirty loop of buy-waste-buy. Today, many unethical companies are using Black Friday as a window of opportunity to greenwash their reputations. With more consumers supporting brands that respect sustainability, greenwashing is becoming more prevalent in holiday sales promotion as a result of unsustainable companies trying to take advantage of ethical consumers. Greenwashing is deceitful and unethical and Black Friday-fueled hyper-consumerism only sparks the crisis.
A Few Tips for Eco-friendlier Shopping
- Choose sustainable items from conscious brands that send products without unnecessary packaging. This will help increase the market demand for environmentally friendly goods and also push brands to offer more actual green products.
- Give up single-use items made of virgin plastic and instead consider gifts that are sourced and manufactured responsibly to help cut plastic pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Go for organic cotton t-shirts instead of polyester t-shirts.
- There are brands who can't afford to make noise during Black Friday who are working hard on bringing sustainable choices to you. Make thoughtful purchase decisions by doing your research about the brands and their sustainability efforts.
We hope these stats and tips will have a lifelong effect and reshape how you choose to shop moving ahead, not just on Black Friday but for any other holiday sale.