Guest writer Jessie Frahm founder of Planet One Point Five, explains to us the true cost of Black Friday.
Black Friday. That time of year where for a short while the world loses its mind. And if the internet could break, then it would surely be on this day. Then, within the blink of an eye it is over, and we return to our daily lives as if nothing ever happened. Not counting the costs of the potentially irreparable damage that has been done.
How Black is Black Friday
Black Friday is essentially a full day devoted to consumerism, which is then followed by a week of shoehorned Cyber Monday deals. The statistics around this period give a worrying forecast.
It is estimated Brits will spend £275 per person this Black Friday period, adding up to a total spend of £4.8 billion. Last year, the amount of goods purchased in the UK made Black Friday and Cyber-Monday the most polluting shopping day in history, adding up to an astonishing 429,000 metric tons of emissions which is equal to 435 return flights between London and New York.
It is also estimated that 80% of goods bought on Black Friday will be thrown away to landfill after just a few uses.
The Importance of Education
It is incredibly important for us to educate consumers on the detrimental effects of Black Friday. This does not necessarily mean businesses have to lose out because it’s Black Friday, rather they have to show more responsibility and help educate customers’ consumer choices throughout the year.
A few years ago, we saw the clothing company Patagonia lead an innovative marketing campaign with the message ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’: this was such a brilliant campaign with an important message. It was basically telling consumers,
“Don’t buy unless you need it, but when you do, buy from us, because we are taking these steps, and we are the responsible choice”. I think businesses like Patagonia are creating that transparency that is necessary.
We are seeing businesses like Apple taking positive steps and finally announcing that from next year, customers will be able to buy a repair kit for their phone. I think it is vital for more companies to start promoting sustainable solutions, and they can start by helping make Black Friday greener.
There is also a need for government initiatives to be implemented in schools to help educate the next generation of consumers. Educational programmes that teach children and help them learn about the effects that vast consumerism has on our planet could be a solution to solving these problems earlier, rather than asking people to change their habits.
Seeking a Solution
There is a particularly important issue when it comes to trying to change consumer behaviour: that is, you cannot just simply ask consumers to change unless you give them a viable alternative. If there is no alternative, there is nothing to change to. We must make that shift into helping consumers make responsible choices by giving them options.
It is coming up to Christmas and there are so many goods available that are cheap. This then begs the question, are there affordable and sustainable alternatives for consumers? Alternative solutions to products which are harmful to the environment are rarely as cost-effective and that can be frustrating. Many of these alternative products have still to reach the wider market and until then the costs can and will be expensive. However, over time, and with patience, this will begin to change.
As consumers, we also need to take more responsibility as well. It is too easy to blame corporations and businesses without taking steps in our own lives to do better. I hope people will show just a little bit of mindfulness around how they are consuming this Black Friday.
The number of goods bought and the amount of money spent is estimated to drop; however, it will not be by much and it really makes you question how long it will take for habits to change.
With COP26 taking place in the UK, sustainability has been at the forefront of the news, but that seems to have been almost immediately forgotten come Black Friday. It is important that we remember these messages year round, not just when it suits us.
Jessie is the founder of Planet One Point Five, an organisation that empowers businesses to become sustainable. You can head over to their site to learn more about how they help small and large businesses hit the UN’s Sustainability Goals.