Green may not be the color we associate with the most exciting shopping day of the year. It is, however, the name many companies are now giving to their spin on what has become the hectic and mindless Black Friday. In a way, it’s a stand, protest, an accost on the side of today’s underdog, our environment.
Not only does massive consumption of goods have an enormous environmental impact through pollution created during mining and other depletion of natural resources, but it also has a tremendous effect in terms of carbon pollution from transportation. Add to it the “throw away” economy we’ve developed of getting rid of the old and buying new every season, and it’s simply not sustainable.
Green Friday indeed seems to be the environmental solution. Many European businesses are now closing their websites, shutting their doors and turning off their lights, making the day truly Black Friday – an approach American retailers may consider as their environmental impact amplifies each year.
The IKEA Approach
Swedish furniture company IKEA is buying back used furniture on what they have coined ‘Buyback Friday” in an attempt to curb the mass consumerism of Black Friday.
Stores inspected product quality and then gave sellers a generous store discount based on the furniture’s condition. The couch, desk or other piece of furniture will then be refurbished and resold.
It’s a step forward in IKEA’s attempt to become a fully circular business. With environmental concerns growing at such an increased rate, IKEA, a brand known for its build-it-yourself, but most commonly, its budget furniture, has come under some criticism for the products’ short life span.
This could serve as an example for both large and small American furniture stores. Obviously, not all stores have the ability to match IKEA’s plan, but it may create a new level of expectation for furniture retail.
Companies Step Up to Set New Standards
As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, its negative environmental effect increases. A report by Salman Haqqi, “The Dirty Delivery Report,” has found that U.K. carbon emissions from online purchases on Black Friday is around 386,000 metric tons.
Outdoor clothing company REI has now shut their doors and switched off their websites for the seventh year in a row on Black Friday in an attempt to combat emissions. They are choosing instead to embrace their values and give their employees a paid holiday to be spent with nature.
Beauty brand Deciem and clothing brand Xandres have chosen to follow suit, stopping all purchases through their site on the post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. Xandres has even gone offered free repairs on old clothes brought to them on Black Friday.
It just goes to show that it is possible for us to follow these trends. If we could only get retail giant, Amazon, to match the effort of these companies, we’d be putting the right foot forward.
Many Amazon customers have made their own efforts. Haqqi reported that Amazon produced 23% less emissions on Black Friday in 2021 compared to 2020. As great as this is, there are still an estimated 15,272 tons of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from a single day of Black Friday Amazon shopping.
The Fast-Fashion Crisis
A Vogue Business survey found that Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2010) purchased the majority of their clothing from fast-fashion brands. The apparel industry is not only responsible for huge amounts of emissions but also one third of our micro-plastic waste. This is an absolute contradiction to environmentally responsible values.
The Columbia Climate School has released that the fashion industry uses 93 billion metric tons of clean water every year, cuts down 70 million tons of trees each year, and discards 53 million metric tons of end product each and every year.
Black Friday is only one day a year, but one that has a substantial impact. The Green Friday initiative is being followed now by Patagonia, Everlane and many other apparel brands, all in an effort to change the ethos of the discount day.
As much as it is on the retail companies to set the New Green Friday standard, it’s on us to follow. Manufacturing companies and retailers need to start realizing the affect their Black Friday discounts have on our environment and take action. With much hope, more companies will follow suit. And hopefully, we customers will too.