Black Friday is one of the biggest days of consumer spending in the U.S., and spending is only increasing. Even with the COVD-19 pandemic, Black Friday spending in the U.S. still hit a record of $9.0 billion. This year, consumers spent 21.6% more than last year. Retailers are making a significant profit, so why are some of them opting out?
The Environmental Impacts Of Black Friday
The United States already has an issue with consumerism — we’re simply obsessed with stuff. Our capitalist society has made it seem like the more stuff you have, the happier you are. Black Friday only reinforces that concept.
The issue here isn’t simply buying things, it’s buying things we don’t need. The culture of Black Friday encourages us to buy stuff we may only use a couple of times. We buy because of the sale and not the item — how can we resist 50% off? The worst part is that most of those things we buy eventually end up in a landfill.
Two of the most popular categories of Black Friday shopping are technology and clothing. Only 20% of electronic waste (e-waste) is recycled. The rest of it, like those shiny new computers, tablets, and phones, gets thrown in landfills where they end up leaking dangerous chemicals into our air and water.
Fast fashion is already a problem, but again, Black Friday exacerbates it. Instead of buying high-quality clothes made with good fabrics and materials, we buy cheap clothes that we only wear a few times. It’s easy to think that it’s not a big deal, after all, it’s just a shirt or a pair of jeans, but you don’t see what went into making them.
On average, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make a cotton shirt. Making a pair of jeans releases as much greenhouse gases as driving a car for 80 miles. And after all those resources go into making our clothes, we throw them out — a garbage truck of clothes is thrown out every second.
We buy a lot of clothes on Black Friday, and that’s a problem.
Companies That Are Opting Out
Patagonia has been known for taking a stand against Black Friday. In 2011, they ran an ad in The New York Times on Black Friday that read, “Don’t Buy This Jacket” with a picture of their companies jacket.
It may seem counterintuitive for a company to discourage consumers from buying their products, but Patagonia isn’t just any company. Patagonia has a goal of preserving our planet and it shows. As a company, they have been donating 1% of their sales to help the environment since 1985 in their 1% for the Planet campaign.
Patagonia’s, “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ad is their way of reminding customers of the environmental impacts of consumerism and encouraging them to think before they buy.
And in 2016, they donated all of their Black Friday sales to nonprofits working to protect the environment.
Patagonia isn’t the only one. In lieu of Black Friday sales, REI, the outdoor equipment store, is closing shop and encouraging everyone to #optoutside. They’re asking people to take some time for themselves outside and buy responsibly.
AllBirds, the environmentally-conscious shoe company, also opted out of Black Friday. Instead of decreasing prices, they increased prices by $1. They promise to match every dollar and donate the money to Fridays for Future, a global climate strike.
These companies are foregoing profits in order to do what’s right and help the environment. It’s rare for companies to do that, and it’s our duty as activists to support them.
It’s hard to resist sales, but what you can do is only buy what you know you’ll use. And if you end up with something you don’t want anymore, don’t throw it away. Give it to a friend, donate it, or make sure it gets recycled.
Most importantly, support companies that care about more than a profit. As consumers, we have a lot of power over retailers, so let’s utilize it.