Friday November 29th is Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday, which have now become an increasing orgy of mass consumption. This year is set to be the biggest so far with many of us stuck at home in lockdown or self-isolation. Some of us will be reasoning that it’s a time when we can afford to get things we otherwise couldn’t. Some are seeking that endorphin triggering bargain and others are maybe seeking to fill a void somewhere in their lives with consumerism. I am no psychologist, but I do know there can be a myriad of reasons to why we shop. And I want to make clear this is not to shame or guilt trip people over buying ‘stuff’, but to question if we could do it differently and more thoughtfully. I highly recommend Elizabeth Cline’s recent article on ethical consumerism which puts this into a current perspective
The obvious issue that such promotional events create is over consumption. Most of us just don’t actually need any more stuff. Marketing is an incredibly powerful tool which can manipulate us in many ways and so we are often sucked into thinking our life would be better if we just had that ‘must have’ item. In the cold light of day, we often realise we don’t.
“Returns also increase around this time, as people decide they regret their purchases. In 2018, the cost of these returns to UK retailers was put at £362m”[i].
The effects of in- store Black Friday events can drive us crazy and be literally lethal. Such are some people’s desperation in getting these specials deals they get into a frenzy, fight each other, get arrested and a Walmart worker was even trampled to death during sales in 2008[ii] While we are not likely to see such scenes, nor the stress of crowded high streets and long queues during this pandemic, what does that suggest it is doing to our mental well being? The irony being that many studies show that buying ‘stuff’ does not actually bring us happiness.
Statistics show that much of this extra spending and consumption ends up as waste. Most waste generated at this time is from old mobile phones and electronic gadgets. In the UK 1.4[iii] million tonnes of electronic waste are sent to landfill every year. The ‘amazon effect’ will no doubt increase this year as the recycling system struggles to cope as it is flooded with cardboard. In fact according to research nearly all Black Friday purchases end up as waste as they are often returned, doubly their impact and are often unable to be resold[iv].
“Up to 80% of items, and any plastic packaging, will end up either in landfill, incineration or, at best, low quality recycling, sometimes after a very short life.”[v]
Buy now, pay later, one-click options[vi] at this time of year are very tempting especially as we start to do our Christmas shopping. The ‘grab it now before it goes’ messaging is very triggering and these options make it too easy to buy. Getting into debt can quickly spiral out of control as interest rates or job situations change as they have done for so many this year.
“The current average household debt is a staggering 111.5% of the average wage in the UK, with borrowers in the UK paying a cumulative £124m a day in interest during August 2020”
Just stop to think for a minute of the environmental impact of all that extra production, packaging, delivery, waste and traffic jams. These days many people expect next day delivery which leads during an upsurge in demand at a time like this in companies hiring extra staff who drive their own vans which are often more polluting[vii]
There are many alternative campaigns by various groups including Buy Nothing Day, Make Friday Green Again and Greenpeace’s Make Smthng. The main takeaway from this is that before you buy something during Black Friday just give yourself a bit of time to calmly think about it first. Do you really need it? Could you make do with, fix or re-use something you already have? If you feel that you really do need something then please consider buying from a small, local or ethical business instead. This benefits people who are really struggling and local economies rather than shareholders and billionaires. We are taking part in the Shop Ethical Instead campaign run by Ethical Hour which champions ethical small business. This is even more important right now as the supermarkets have further unfair advantage being able to stay open while other businesses have locked down.
If you do need some clothes for your kids, then check out our range of products in our webshop. While it won’t be at Black Friday prices they are made ethically and locally with love.
References and Resources