Uncovering Black Friday’s environmental footprint: Corporate approaches to minimize impact

by Nov 22, 2023Climate change, Global phenomena, Impact, Sustainability0 comments

The illusion of saving money

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” – clinical psychologist Dr Jonathan Pointer, as quoted by Lauren Sharkey in ‘The Problem With Black Friday, According To Environmental Experts’, Bustle, 2019

Ah, Black Friday—the day when wallets tremble and credit cards break a sweat. The allure of jaw-dropping discounts draws us into a retail vortex. But let’s peel back the layers, shall we? Those slashed prices? Well, they’re often like mirages in the desert—attractive but fleeting. Here’s the truth:

Black Friday whispers sweet nothings about saving money, but sometimes it’s a cunning farce. Many items are slyly marked up before the sale, so the discounts aren’t as great as they seem.

And oh, the impulse buying! It’s like a shopping spree with a sugar rush. We end up getting stuff we didn’t even know we wanted. 

Consumers should be extra careful not to let the holiday ‘magic’ lure them into phishing schemes and credit card skimming.

Shopping spree during Brack Friday

The environmental impact of Black Friday

It would be unfair to say that all Black Friday offers are evil lies in order to take advantage of poor consumers. Some can be a great occasion to save money if you are in the right place at the right time. However, we cannot ignore the massive environmental impact of this event.

Picture this: Black Friday assembles its army of shoppers, and they charge forth, leaving a trail of carbon footprints. Trucks, planes, and drones work overtime, delivering packages to every corner of the Earth. The production and transportation of goods for this grand event emit more greenhouse gases than a dragon after a chili cook-off. From Black Friday alone, we unleash a whopping 420,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases annually— comparable to sending 435 return flights from London to New York on a magic carpet. Aladin would be proud!

And let’s talk packaging. Those shiny new gadgets and glittering shoes come wrapped in plastic armor. Bulk discounts encourage us to buy more, and unfortunately, most of that packaging ends up in landfills, doing the worm dance with discarded pizza boxes.

For those who don’t have much purchasing power, and even for those who have it, being able to buy something they truly need at a discounted price is obviously a benefit. The problem doesn’t necessarily lie here – rather, it’s the mass consumption of unnecessary and/or unethical goods that need to be addressed” – André Gonçalves, ‘From Black Friday To A Green & Meaningful Friday’, YouMatter, 2019

The case of electronics

“Psst, want a new phone? How about three?”. But buying too much stuff has a downside. Electronic waste piles up like a digital graveyard. Harmful materials leak into the ground, and our gadgets don’t last very long.

According to the UN, we produced around 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste every year worldwide. But 83% of e-waste is not being collected, meaning there is a huge missed opportunity for the circular economy.

These products not only trap useful and depleting materials like indium, silver and gold, but they also have a toxic effect on our environment. Our electronics are a nest for toxic metals including lead, nickel, beryllium, mercury and cadmium. If used electronics end up in landfills, these metals can contaminate the soil and groundwater, from where they can easily make their way into our food chain.

More, the amounts of energy and water used for these products is staggering. It takes 14,000 liters of water to make a smartphone; 190,000 liters of water to make a laptop; 850 times more water to make one gram of material for a smartphone than one gram of material for an average car. Between 2006 and 2021 about 4.8 billion laptops and desktops were manufactured. At 190,000 liters of water per computer, that’s over 900 trillion liters of water, or 365 million Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water.

All this aspects are taking a drastic toll on climate change, pollution and human well-being.

The dark side of Fast Fashion

In the glimmering lights of advertising campaigns, the spotlight often falls on the allure of budget-friendly fashion, drawing in shoppers with promises of stylish garments at unbeatable prices. However, beneath the surface of this fast-paced and trend-driven industry lies a darker side that deserves a moment in the limelight.

Think of those fast fashion finds like vampires in the sun – they tend to fall apart quicker than you’d expect. Once the shopping thrill fades, these garments often end up playing hide-and-seek in landfills, rubbing shoulders with old newspapers and abandoned dreams.

But it’s not just about what happens after we buy. Fast fashion is kind of like a not-so-great secret agent—it leaves behind a trail of environmental and ethical concerns. The chemicals used in making these clothes are not exactly eco-friendly, contributing to a whopping 10% of man made carbon emissions. And get this: the fashion industry is second only to agriculture in gobbling up water.

Moreover, the human toll of fast fashion is not to be underestimated. As consumers hunt for the next bargain, the hands that craft these garments often toil in less-than-ideal conditions. Workers in the manufacturing process are not only exposed to harmful chemicals that can impact their health, but they are frequently underpaid for their labor.

So, as we dive into Black Friday deals, maybe it’s time to hit pause and think beyond the price tag. Can we demand fashion that’s not just affordable but also treats the planet and the people involved a bit better? By making mindful choices, we can steer the fashion ship toward a brighter, more responsible destination.

Desert Full of Used clothes and textile dump.

Implement circular economy

What if instead of that we make the circular economy the new hip thing?

Imagine a world where products don’t have expiration dates. The circular economy is our golden ticket. Repair, reuse, and recycle— it’s like a cool dance for the Earth. Brands can design products for longevity, and we can high-five Mother Earth.

Instead of mindlessly stockpile, let’s embrace quality. We can choose products that don’t fall apart easily. It’s all about having a few things that last, not a lot of things that don’t. Quality over quantity! 

Before making a new purchase, we all need to stop and ask ourselves if we actually need all these things and the consequences of buying them. According to Deloitte, this year consumers are gearing up to spend an average of $567 during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events. This marks a 13% increase from last year, reflecting their quest for the top deals amid economic challenges such as rising prices and increased interest rates.

Climate change protest banner
Global climate change strike protest.

Greening Black Friday: practical approaches for companies to reduce their environmental impact

How can organizations reduce their carbon footprint during this retail frenzy?
Here’s a comprehensive list of strategies that companies can implement to minimize their impact.

Supply Chain Strategies:

Terminating contracts: companies can evaluate their suppliers. If a supplier emits more greenhouse gases than a dragon with indigestion, perhaps it’s time to part ways. Seek out suppliers with a lower carbon footprint.
Also, they could try to collaborate with them, working directly with suppliers to reduce their emissions. It’s like teaching them the eco-friendly cha-cha.

Embrace Green Packaging:

Opt for eco-friendly packaging materials such as recycled cardboard or biodegradable alternatives. Minimize excess packaging to reduce waste and lower the carbon footprint associated with production and transportation.

Offset Carbon Emissions:

Companies can take the initiative to calculate and offset the carbon emissions generated during the manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of Black Friday products. Investing in carbon offset projects can help balance the environmental impact.
Optimize shipping routes. Maybe the package doesn’t need a world tour before reaching the customer!

Leverage Local and Sustainable Sourcing

Prioritize sourcing products locally to minimize the carbon footprint associated with transportation. Additionally, consider partnerships with suppliers who adhere to sustainable and ethical practices.

Extend Product Lifecycles

Design products with durability and repairability in mind. Encourage consumers to invest in high-quality items that can withstand the test of time, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Transparent Reporting on Sustainability Practices

Provide transparent and easily accessible information about the company’s sustainability practices. This fosters trust among consumers and demonstrates a commitment to reducing environmental impact.

2030 Builders can help you track your progress on Sustainability and measure the impact of your stakeholders’ actions.
Learn more about our holistic data approach and how it can help to transition to a greener culture within your organization.



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