Black Friday: the true cost of the cheapest day
news from the world
21 november '22
Reading time: 5 minutes
As Christmas approaches, many people rely on Black Friday prices to afford quality gifts for family and friends. However, many of us don’t realize that Black Friday practices can negatively impact the planet in many ways. Do you know how?
Words by Rebekah Smith
Picture by Ashkan Forouzani
Just about every year, Black Friday makes headlines for a number of reasons, like the great deals on various products, online shopping debacles or fights between customers in department stores. This year, we want to bring light to the corporate holiday but not in the way you might think. According to research published in a 2020 Forbes article, Great Britain emitted 351.5 million tons of greenhouse gasses in 2019, with about 0.12% of the nation’s output resulting from Black Friday activities alone. Black Friday may be beneficial for our wallets, but is it helpful for the environment? Let's take a look at the true cost of this "cheap" day.
Picture by Cottonbro Studio
Is online shopping eco-friendly?
Following the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, in-store shopping has not been the same. Many people would rather shop from the comfort of their own space behind a screen. Although this can be beneficial for sustainability efforts, there are also many downsides when it comes to the intensity of online shopping during Black Friday weekend. The Forbes article says researchers have found that the most efficient and environment-friendly way to shop is to make purchases online but pick up the items in store, as this generates lower emissions than old-school shopping. However, online purchases delivered directly to your home can actually create a higher greenhouse gas footprint than buying in-store.
Why is this? Well, it has to do with the “last mile” of deliveries which concerns the efficiency of the final route of a product’s journey. If more items can be delivered on the final route, less carbon will be emitted per delivery, especially when electric vehicles or bikes are involved. A study shared by the Frontier Group states that free two-day shipping plays a large role in the increase of carbon emissions. “When shipments are sent out with shorter notice, the shipping center has less time to pack trucks to their full capacity, with the result that more trips have to be made,” says Sarah Nick, Policy Associate at the Frontier Group.
Picture by Stan Honda
More and more waste
Moreover, with every item returned, carbon emissions double – and there are plenty of items getting returned within the week following Black Friday. Recent estimates shared by The U.K. Ecommerce Association found that1 in every 3 shoppers return items bought on Black Friday, causing about 30 million items to be shipped to homes then backto stores or warehouses. If these items are not returned, they are simply thrown away, shortening the life cycle of a wide variety of products which are developed, packaged, shipped and dumped into landfills. The University of Leeds shares a report from 2019 which says up to 80% of Black Friday purchases are thrown away after one or zero uses.
If Black Friday doesn’t seem like a wasteful holiday yet, you may not be shocked to learn that U.S. households alone throw out 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of the year, which includes packaging along with many useful products. Nick says that more than 5 billion pounds of waste is generated from returned products each year, many including extra return packaging. She also finds that 30% to 40% of clothing sales are returned, with only 10% of those returns being restocked for resale purposes and the rest being shipped off to landfills or incinerators.
Sticking to tradition
Each year, money spent during Black Friday increases, and this hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic. Research from the Frontier Group shows that in 2019, 84.2 million people shopped in stores on Black Friday and 124 million visited stores over the course of the weekend. Obviously, in-person shopping has been impacted by COVID-19, but online shopping has only increased. In 2020, Cyber Monday became the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, amassing a total of $10.8 billion in online purchases in just one day. Nick notes that a total of 1.5 billion packages were delivered over the holiday season by Amazon alone.
Although the pandemic has altered how we shop, whether in-person or online, Black Friday weekend sales prices don’t really change our shopping habits. Surely good deals are good for the environment too, right? According to these statistics, Black Friday weekend may cut consumers a nice break but they are ultimately still spending large amounts of money on “soon-to-arrive” items which are detrimental to the health of our planet, and we’re just now learning how toxic these traditional acts are.
Picture by Clay Banks
How can you help?
At Staiy, we are committed to the full sustainability and transparency of our brand and the brands we support, and we believe that giving back to the planet cannot be supported through offering typical Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales prices. If you’re looking for ways to shop sustainably and avoid contributing to the carbon increase curated by Black Friday sales, shop with Staiy for your selection of sustainable gifts for the entire family. You can also practice buying with intention (not buying a product just because it is cheap or available), supporting small businesses, picking up online purchases in store, choosing the most eco-friendly shipping method like standard 5-7 day shipping and/or avoiding shopping on Black Friday weekend altogether.
We’ll leave you with some food for thought: According to a study shared by Forbes, just 10% of the population can enable a tipping point and encourage societal change. Staiy wishes you the happiest holidays this season!