26 November 2019
This Thursday, hundreds of millions of Americans will sit with family and friends to celebrate all the things they are thankful for in their lives. A turkey dinner, some pumpkin pie, and maybe a few drinks with their nearest and dearest – a day to focus on the important things. Just hours later Black Friday will see a lot of those same people braving crowds and potential violence in the name of consumerism. It is seen as one of the most important shopping days of the year as Thanksgiving is the last “big holiday” before Christmas, so this heralds what many people consider the start of the festive season. There are indeed some great deals to be had as retailers look to compete with competition, but the price paid appears to be more than financial.
The website http://blackfridaydeathcount.com/ shows the human cost of this annual event. It states that to date there have been 12 deaths and 117 injuries directly related to Black Friday, with unfortunately no indication that those figures won’t increase this week. It’s no longer confined to the USA – this is now a huge event for retailers and consumers alike across continents and countries where Thanksgiving itself is not even celebrated.
There is also the cost to the environment. Every product produced, bought, and sold has an impact. Some are more environmentally friendly than others; to pluck a random example from the air let’s say remanufactured laptops which prevent e-waste and are certified carbon neutral. The reality is, though, that beyond a product’s impact at manufacture there will be emissions from travel (either delivery vehicles or traffic from consumers heading to shops to physically make purchases) as well as waste in the form of packaging and any items which are now surplus to requirement.
According to The Guardian as of 2017 it was estimated that 82,000 diesel delivery trucks were on the road in the UK across the Black Friday long weekend. As home delivery continues to be a growing trend, it is not unreasonable to expect that number to grow. Looking at Amazon in particular, it sells around 90 items per second on Black Friday and a truck leaves a fulfilment centre approximately every minute and a half. It could be argued that many purchases would be made anyway in the build up to Christmas but anecdotal evidence suggests that most consumers are guilty of buying things they don’t need when faced with what they perceive to be unmissable savings. In any case, several months’ worth of transactions being concentrated into a day or a long weekend has and will continue to lead to air pollution and excessive waste.
In many ways, this is symptomatic of the society in which we live. Black Friday itself does have an impact but it is no more than a window into the wider effects of rampant consumerism. The effect of our society’s spending habits is easy to forget in the face of pound signs in our eyes or shiny new gadgets in our homes. This Black Friday, the holiest of days in the calendar of the Church of Stuff, maybe individuals would feel better cancelling their pilgrimage to Walmart, not lining the collection plate of Amazon, and being truly thankful for those things in their lives that can’t be bought – even at 75% off.
If you are serious about the environmental impact of your spending habits, why not check out our Sustainability Calculator? It shows clearly what goes into a brand new laptop being produced and the subsequent benefits of choosing remanufactured.