By Megan He of GreenVersal
That time of year has come, as Black Friday and the excitement of holiday shopping season are just around the corner. Before I start, I realize that discussing the environment and Black Friday together is an unpopular topic, but I just want to clarify what the aim of this video is. I’m not here to tell people not to take advantage of big deals, but rather show that it’s important to be conscious of some of the environmental impacts, and what you can do to reduce your human footprint.
The year’s biggest shopping days, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day, and Amazon Prime Day, only last 24 hours, but their environmental impacts are enormous. About 92 million people shopped on Black Friday in 2014, and that number is most likely higher for this season.
Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday implement dramatic price discounts and special offers, which results in low cost, high volume impulse buying, and overconsumption of unnecessary goods. Much of this can be attributed to rising volumes of cheap, low-quality fast fashion. According to Greenpeace, the average person buys 60% more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago.
Buying secondhand is always the better option. Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, with the number of garments exceeding 100 billion by 2014. The apparel industry accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. Donate or upcycle old clothing. In the United States, 85 percent of discarded clothing ends up in the trash and buried in landfills every year more than 12 million tons-with the average individual throwing away 70 pounds of textiles, according to the EPA.
If you do choose fast fashion, however, take advantage of their more sustainable lines such as H&M Conscious or Zara’s Join Life collection. Take care to avoid buying polyester. 60% of clothing today contains polyester, which is made from crude oil and emits 3 times more carbon dioxide than cotton.
Online purchasing, or E-commerce, results in more than a billion packages that must be shipped out around the world. Although a delivery truck filled with items generally consumes far less fuel per package than an individual consumer driving to a physical store, the packaging materials, which mostly consist of cardboard and various types of plastic, are wasteful. On the plus side, Some stores, like Zara, again, use recycled boxes with 55% recycled plastic packaging.
Finally, electronics are often the biggest sellers on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Consumer Electronics Association has noted in the past that roughly 75 percent of Americans buying gifts during the holiday season will purchase consumer electronics, including laptops, iPads, smartphones, and TVs. Electronics production, consumption, and disposal contribute to some of the most pressing environmental issues. The short product life, high toxicity of many materials used in electronic devices, and the adverse health and environmental impacts of poorly regulated e-waste disposal are just a few examples.
It’s important as Black Friday comes around that you ask yourself, “Do I really need to buy this, at all? If yes, can I buy it used? Are there any eco-friendly alternatives?” The choices we make every day have tangible outcomes, and just because we can’t necessarily see the unsustainable production and disposal of certain goods or the pollution of the textile industry does not mean they aren’t happening. If every individual takes little steps and becomes a little more conscious of the other side of mass shopping on Black Friday, we can drastically reduce our collective ecological footprint.