Black Friday is the epitome of American overconsumption. You may be saving money, but the planet eats the costs!
The notion of Black Friday has been around since the early 1960s. But the mass increase in marketing around the holiday really took off in the late 1980s. The term Black Friday was reinvented to reflect the change of retailers’ earnings, switching from red (negative earnings) to black (positive earnings). It now marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.
The shopping holiday triggered the creation of Cyber Monday, a day for online shopping sales. The term “Cyber Monday” was first coined in 2005 with the boom of online shopping. Since then, online shopping continues to play a more prominent role in our culture, peaking with the Covid pandemic.
But the Black Friday craze comes with a cost: its detrimental impact on the environment. Studies have found that up to 80% of goods purchased via Black Friday sales end up in landfills, are burned, or are poorly recycled. This is because the record low sale prices result in people buying to excess, and therefore end up with a lot of things they don’t need. Moreover, the textile industry is the climate’s second worst offender in terms of plastic and water pollution. Clearly, this enduring American tradition needs to be re-evaluated.
So how can sustainability and Black Friday, two things that may seem like polar opposites, intersect? There are many ways to keep sustainability in mind this Black Friday by adopting conscious consumerism, shopping local, or participating in movements such as #BuyNothingDay and Giving Tuesday.
Conscious consumerism refers to the practice of reflecting on one’s consumer habits and making decisions that promote positive environmental, economical, and social impacts. As consumers, we have a choice where our money goes.
For example, Black Friday can be a great opportunity for individuals to purchase an item that they have been needing at a more affordable price. By reflecting on our shopping habits and choosing to give our money to companies that align with our moral values (whether that be against animal cruelty or giving back to the environment), we can make more informed decisions and even make a positive difference.
One of the best ways to practice conscious consumerism and give back to the community is by shopping local! Isla Vista—and the greater Santa Barbara area—are home to so many amazing small businesses. From pop-up thrifts in Little Acorn Park to the farmer’s market in Goleta every Sunday morning, there is never a lack of small businesses to support.
#BuyNothingDay, falling on the day after Thanksgiving, emerged as a protest against our “Buy, Buy, Buy” culture. It originated in Canada with a man named Ted Dave who saw a problem. He saw that people were taking a day dedicated to giving thanks, and turning it into a day of chaos and greed. So to counter the madness, Buy Nothing Day asks consumers to do exactly that: buying nothing.
Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving and generosity that falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. In 2023 it will be on Tuesday, November 28th. This day is marked by nonprofit organizations kickstarting their end-of-year giving campaigns. Some ways you can participate are donating (time or money) to your local nonprofit, giving blood, spreading kindness, and giving back to the environment.
So this year, instead of buying anything and everything just to save a buck, reflect on your consumption and remember its implications. I hope you can all join me in celebrating a sustainable Black Friday!