Black Friday's Hidden Cost

Posted 28th November 2022 by Tejan Pereira

This year it seems as though we haven’t seen as much attention being put onto Black Friday and the days surrounding it as usual. Black Friday, of course, being the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving where retailers typically offer massive discounts on a range of items.

The optimist in me wants to say that it is because society has come to realise the negative consequences Black Friday has – promotion of rampant consumerism; negative environmental impacts; favouring mega-retailers instead of the little business on the high street. Yet more than likely it’s because our attention has been turned towards the unusually timed winter World Cup. The morality of this being a whole different kettle of fish!

For some, Black Friday is an important opportunity to purchase products that would have been unaffordable otherwise. For most, however, Black Friday means buying things we don’t really need.

You might say, surely, it’s up to individual consumers how they spend their money? Well yes but the unintended consequences of synchronous buying activity at scale are massive.

For instance, Phil Purnell, a professor at the University of Leeds, estimates that in the UK the deliveries alone of products bought online on Black Friday are expected to release around 429,000 metric tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to 435 return flights from London to New York. Meanwhile, the manufacturing costs for Black Friday make for far more grim reading – a study from the watchdog suggest that UK manufacturing costs for this year’s Black Friday, could be the environmental equivalent of 215,778 flights from London to Sydney.

So, if you’re tempted by a Black Friday deal, you need to ask yourself whether you are happy being part of those statistics. And, as a society we need to ask whether Black Friday makes sense when we are desperately trying to curb our emissions of carbon dioxide to prevent the planet rising by 1.5 °C by 2030 – or face disastrous global consequences?

Why impulse-buy an electronic garlic crusher online (most likely shipped thousands of miles from Vietnam or China), when you could take your money to a local business in your town?

Have a discussion with a real person behind a till who cares about the product they’re selling you, feel / touch / smell the product in the store and build a relationship with a local person who cares about your community as much as you do.

During this ‘cost of living crisis’, it may seem that shopping locally is the most expensive option. It’s not – buying cheap, throw-away mass-produced products is. According to a recent study, 80% of Black Friday products are disposed of after one or zero uses!

Be the change you want to see in your local area. Invest in where you live. And buy fewer items with a long-term view in mind. As tempting as the proposition of Black Friday is, it ultimately does a lot more harm than good

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