Green alternatives to Black Friday

21 November 2018

Black Friday has long been recognised in the US as the beginning of the country's Christmas shopping season. And as UK-based retailers have joined the sales frenzy, the popularity of the event has increased year on year in the UK.

The amount spent online in the UK on Black Friday 2017 was up 11.7% to £1.39bn, and there’s no reason to believe consumption will slow this year. Here’s what you need to know about the carbon footprint of Black Friday, and how to reduce your CO2 emissions this Christmas shopping season.

What’s the carbon footprint of Black Friday?

With thousands of people heading to the shops, that’s thousands more cars on the roads, creating a massive spike in CO2 emissions. But the problem isn’t just with people visiting the high street.

Black Friday in the UK is mostly an online event, with 81% of purchases including a home delivery. That sees up to 82,000 diesel vans and trucks on the roads and at peak times, a diesel truck will leave an Amazon fulfilment centre every 93 seconds!

There’s also the issue of what we buy – plastic toys are one of the most purchased items, and these invariably end up joining the debris already littering the oceans. And with a lot of tech items on the menu, particularly smartphones and computers, there’s more plastic out there and cobalt that’s come from a pretty grim source.

How can you have an ethical Black Friday?

The best way to turn Black Friday green is to avoid it all together, if you can.  

Consider whether you really need the item you’re thinking of buying. There’s a good chance that it’s been through a complicated system of pricing that’s seen its price go up in the weeks preceding the event - creating a false sale price that’s not considerably better than at many other times.

And if you still want to get a deal, think about what you buy and where you buy it from. Support brands that deserve your pounds – look for small, independent, local businesses that are selling quality, long lasting goods. They’re the ones who keep the local economy running, and are often the ones that employ ethical and responsible practices.

Alternatives to Black Friday

Buy nothing day is an international day of protest against consumerism. For 24 hours, people are encouraged to forget about shopping and engage in something else. It might be a personal experiment such as simply staying at home or taking a walk in nature, or perhaps you’d like to make a more public statement, like holding a free event of comedy or music. Whatever you do, you can share your event on social media using #BuyNothingDay and join people in over 60 countries who’ll be taking part.

MAKE SMTHING week kicks off on 23 November. The Greenpeace campaign asks everyone to take a stand against hyper-consumerism by creating instead of consuming. It’s an international festival of events that provide creative ways to make the most of the resources around you. It’s about sharing experiences where you can learn how to transform old things into something new. There are loads of resources and all the info you need to get involved on their website.   

It's JUSTfriday began in 2014 as a response to the mad and sometimes violent behaviour that’s become synonymous with the Black Friday rush. The campaign encourages people to use the day as an opportunity to think about where their money goes, to ‘buy with thought, and shop with love’. Traidcraft, who launched the campaign, have pioneered fair trade in the UK since 1979. They import goods directly from artisans and growers to deliver them directly to the customer - cutting out the middleman and giving a fair price to the producers.

And for another positive buying choice, check out Ethical Superstore’s Food Bank Friday. For every order over £30, they’ll donate a grocery item to Newcastle West End Foodbank - so you’re buying a product that’s ethically sourced and giving back too. Last year they donated over £5,000 worth of groceries and with your help, they’re expecting to top that this year.

Simple changes, big differences

With a little thought and action, you can make a difference to the real problem – rising consumption – which adds to climate change, loss of habitat and plastic waste. The physical and ecological limits of our planet are already being breached, but the power is in our hands to prevent it getting worse. The choices we make can create lasting change and that extends to everything we consume, including our energy.

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