What’s the real cost of bargain shopping this Black Friday?

The weather is changing and you can buy mince pies everywhere. This must only mean one thing – the festive season is just around the corner.

For retailers and ecommerce business, the last few months of the year are often the busiest, and the biggest revenue generator. According to Australia Post, around 30 percent of all online transactions take place in the three months leading up to Christmas Day. And with the pandemic changing the way we shop, we can expect even more purchases to be made online this year.

But although this time of year can be exciting and – for some – lucrative, it also brings with it conflicted feelings for those of us who care about the planet.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The lead up to Christmas contains one of the biggest sales weekends of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Friday is a 20th Century shopping tradition that’s lasted the decades, fuelled by impressive marketing and tribal drivers.

Cyber Monday is the more modern add-on to Black Friday – a 24-hour online shopping event that was originally created by businesses to encourage people to do their shopping online.

The pair have become part of the festive season shopping process, and many smaller businesses and sustainable brands depend on sale events like these to generate revenue. But they are problematic in the way they negatively impact humanity and the planet.

If you are feeling conflicted about these upcoming mass buy! buy! buy! events, read on, because there is another way.

But first, let’s look into the history behind these sales and how they impact the environment.

Why is it called Black Friday?

In the 1950s, across the United States, crowds of shoppers began descending on the cities from the suburbs the day after Thanksgiving; the cold, autumnal day fuelled by the festivities of a Thursday feast and lit with the excitement of a bargain ahead of Christmas.

But not everyone experienced the same joy.

The police were required to work long days away from their families to manage the gaggles of people on the sidewalks, the ill-parked cars and the mayhem of the crowds.

In Philadelphia, the police started using the term ‘Black Friday’ to describe what they’d have to face at work the day after Thanksgiving.

Merchants got wind of the term and, worried about the negative connotation, in 1961 ignited a mass push to rebrand the day as ‘Big Friday’.

It didn’t catch on.

Black Friday stuck and spread, and the marketing devils worked it, expanding a one-day fling into a four-day event of buying madness.

The marketing ploy of Black Friday

Imagine yourself living in the 1950s. You’d have experienced an era of war; in the generations that went without.

Without nourishment, without possessions, without guarantee, without freedom. The world around you enters a new era.

The economy is beginning to mend, families are booming and you’re beginning to experience choice and freedom.

You went without, and now the ads are telling you that you can have more. The ads are showing you how happy you can be. The ads are promising there’s success and freedom to be gained in the act of spending.

Life in the 1950s and 60s, across western culture, was all about more.

And that more was driven by the marketing teams in the Madison Avenues of the world, fuelling consumption for the sake of their own pockets, not because it was going to heal the pains and desires of the preceding decades as promised to the consumer.

Did you know that shopping was invented?

Back in the olden days, only the wealthy had tons of ‘stuff’ and they didn’t shop for it.

Their clothes were tailored, their art was commissioned, they inherited household items and heirlooms and got bragging rights for quality, longevity, well-made, sturdy pieces that would outlive them.

Enter: this guy and the birth of the department store.

Jeremy Piven as Harry Gordon Selfridge in Mr Selfridge

Suddenly, women who had been waiting on the wealthy, surrounded by their beautiful stuff, could browse the same beautiful stuff and imagine themselves owning it, wearing it, and sharing the experience and expression of it.

Department stores changed everything. They made stuff accessible. To everyone.

People weren’t (and often still aren’t) buying things because they needed them. They were buying the way they made them feel.

The psychology of sales

Quite simply: the fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain.


We can’t help it. We have a deep need as humans to fit in with the gang. We don’t want to be the one left out, left hanging, left last. It’s lizard-brain survival messing with our 21st Century surroundings. It’s all out of whack and totally confused.

We need to create a new experience that we fear to miss; a new normal that we aspire to fit into: a greener expression.

The real cost of bargain shopping

The reality is that you don’t become more successful in consuming more, and shopping doesn’t quench the ever-knocking feeling of FOMO coming from lizard brain for very long.

Unfortunately, mass ‘buy, buy, buy’ events like Black Friday create a negative impact that:

  • Supports our supply chains to continue to make more of the things we don’t need, and to sell them at a price that impacts the social and environmental ethics of a product’s development.
  • Fuels a culture of over-consumption that delivers more waste than is needed, into a waste system that’s overloaded and unable to deal with it, resulting in the pollution of soil and water systems.
  • Delivers all the profits back to big corporate and marketing companies whose bonuses get bigger the more stuff they shift.

It can’t continue.

We don’t have another hundred years to play with.

Black Friday is an event that needs turning on its head. The idea and the tradition need rethinking, recycling and reusing to drive greater good and tackle the wrong-doings its currently fuelling.

Because it doesn’t have to be an evil affair.

Black Friday: there is another way

While we believe the holiday should be about more presence and less about presents, we also know that gift-giving is a deep-rooted human tradition, and Black Friday has become a part of the festive season shopping process.

We also know that many smaller businesses and sustainable brands depend on sales events like these to generate revenue. The problem with Black Friday is that the voices of these planet-positive legends end up being drowned out by multi-billion dollar corporations. So, rather than boycotting Black Friday altogether, we’re going to work with it to raise the profiles of the businesses who really are driving positive change for the planet.

Earth Collective invites you to be mindful about your purchases over the Black Friday weekend and throughout the festive season.

To consciously and slowly choose your Christmas gifts.

And to shop only with brands who we know truly care about the future of the planet and the humans that call it home.

Imagine if every gift we purchased this year drove a positive social and environmental impact.

Imagine if our gifts nurtured our bodies and the planet, came with a ‘quality over quantity’ bragging rights, and gave back to a greater cause.

Imagine if our gifts were so useful and so kind, they were never wasted or discarded.

It’s time to Green Out Black Friday

Let’s support truly sustainable businesses this year and create a movement that makes so much noise that planet-positive brands can not only cut through the clutter, but rise above it loudly.

There is so much strength in the Collective – the more humans that get onboard this movement, the bigger the impact will be.

The true impact of Black Friday

Just in case you need further persuasion, here are some quick statistics about the impact of Black Friday on the environment, and on us human beings:

  • Black Friday increases air pollution, with an additional 82,000 diesel delivery vans estimated to be out on the UK roads alone to fulfil orders, with plastic toys and short- living electronic goods among the most popular purchases.
  • Black Friday-fuelled Christmas shopping also contributes to the vast amount of waste discarded at this time of year. Around 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is thrown away and not recycled in the UK at Christmas – which is more than the weight of 3.3 million Emperor penguins.
  • 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were churned out by Black Friday deliveries in the UK last year.
  • Consumers in the US spent 121% more on Black Friday purchases in 2018, compared to every other day of the year. At the same time, 48 million Americans were still paying credit card debt from the previous year’s holiday shopping
  • 80% of Black Friday-purchased electronic goods, clothes and plastic packaging will end up in landfill, incineration or low-quality recycling after a very short life. 50m tonnes of e-waste is generated each year. Only 20% of it is recycled.

Are you ready to make the pledge to Green Out Black Friday?

Getting involved in the Green Out Black Friday movement is simple:

  1. On 26 November 2021, post the Green Out Black Friday square and messaging to your social media, using the hashtag #GreenOutBlackFriday.
  2. Tag your favourite sustainable or local small businesses to show your support.
  3. Tag @weareearthco and we will share your posts too!
  4. Pledge to shop only with planet-positive businesses throughout the festive shopping period.

That’s it! We’ve even added a whole host of social media posts and statistics into your Green Out Black Friday Toolkit right HERE.

For more resources and information for Eco Brands that want to get involved, head to GreenOutBlackFriday.com.


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/24/black-friday-to-cause-spikes-in-air-pollution-and-plastic-waste-warn- environmentalists
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/24/black-friday-to-cause-spikes-in-air-pollution-and-plastic-waste-warn- environmentalists

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Charli Ferrand Higgins

After a decade working for global and boutique PR and Marketing agencies in Sydney, with clients that included some of the biggest consumer brands in the world, Charli returned to her homeland of the UK in 2017 and decided the time had come to use her professional skills and experience for good. She has since split her time between supporting passionate, purpose-driven small and medium-sized businesses to grow through conscious content marketing, managing and editing the planet-positive content hub Earth Collective (weareearthcollective.com), and hosting the podcast Easy Being Green? Lessons in sustainable business for SMEs.

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