Black Friday 2020 will be environmentally damaging – Here’s how to reduce your impact

Black Friday 2020 will be environmentally damaging – Here’s how to reduce your impact

For many, Black Friday is a pivotal moment in their calendar. Making heavily discounted purchases to get that all-important gift for your family or even to get Christmas shopping early! However, Black Friday is detrimental to our environment, driving climate change and is harming our planet more and more each year.

Originally just a shopping event in the U.S., Black Friday has now spread across the world and is not just Friday but a week-long event offering unparalleled discounts. It is such an important period for many to capitalise on reduced prices across a wide variety of products.

Yet, as the Black Friday fever spreads to a growing number of people so too does the carbon footprint of such an event. Each year the shopping bonanza gets larger and larger with bigger discounts and more orders.

The U.S. Postal Service estimates to deliver over 15 billion items between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The majority of these will be either on Black Friday or its electronics-based sister event, Cyber Monday.

We would usually be witness to dozens of people fighting each other for amazing discounts in stores, which is a real concern for those countries hoping to minimise contact during the COVID-19 restrictions. For those still in lockdown, the focus will now be upon online orders rather than physical purchases.

Due to the pandemic, it is predicted that Black Friday will likely be another record-breaking year in terms of money spent. Not only is it predicted to be a record-breaking year for purchases but will also likely be record-breaking for emissions too (BBC). 

Black Friday emissions

A new report (The ‘Dirty delivery Report’) has suggested a huge surge in emissions will occur due to this year’s Black Friday event. COVID-19 restrictions will limit in-store purchases worldwide and result in a delivery explosion.

The ‘Dirty delivery Report’ has predicted there will be 429,000 tonnes of carbon released into to atmosphere as a result of Black Friday in the UK alone. A statistic like this is unhelpful. Instead, it is equivalent to 435 transatlantic return flights between London and New York. When you scale this up to the rest of the world, it makes for terrible reading.

It is obvious to state that unless deliveries are made emission-free or using renewable electricity, this year’s shopping frenzy will have huge consequences for the environment. With the explosion in deliveries, the emissions are reinforcing global climate change and pumping more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

The advent of shopping subscription services such as Amazon Prime results in many people not only expecting heavy discounts but quick deliveries too.

The huge demand results in many companies struggling for delivery vehicles and often have to use personal vehicles to fill in the extra journeys. These vehicles are not purpose-made for deliveries and are much less efficient, thus increasing emissions further.

In addition, the quick delivery results in less logistical time spent on making delivery routes as efficient as possible. Multiple journeys will need to be made to neighbouring houses as orders need to be delivered as a matter of urgency rather than waiting and making bulk deliveries.

But all these worries are just from the delivery process and do not take into account the products themselves. Many of the devastating environmental and emission-based consequences arise from inefficiently made products that harm our environment.

Black Friday gifts

How to curb your Black Friday emissions 

If you wanted to do the best for the environment then, unfortunately, the best action is inaction. Boycotting Black Friday reduces demand but obviously means you will miss all the deals.

One participatory that can ease your way into boycotting is called Green Friday – obviously! The antithesis to Black Friday, represents time to get out into nature and promote eco-friendly activities.

However, Black Friday is simply unavoidable for many families around the world. Life is full of compromises and for many, Black Friday is an opportunity to save money in what has been a financially devastating year.

If Green Friday or boycotting is not possible then here are few things to consider on how to reduce your emissions and carbon footprint for a more eco-friendly Black Friday.

Patience is a virtue. Often purchases will not be necessary and perhaps will be gifts. Therefore, you do not need to overload delivery drivers with excess deliveries and instead opt for your delivery to not be the next day.

The ‘Dirty Delivery Report’ highlighted how in the UK certain delivery options and services are better than others. For example, using a national postal service to deliver your Black Friday deals. National postal services, like the Royal Mail in the UK, already has many delivery drivers on the ground and in your area thus reducing the need for unusual and carbon-intensive journeys.

Surprisingly, Amazon also has eco-friendly options on deliveries such as bundling packages together, reducing plastic packaging and utilising their click and collect system. The click and collect systems represents the most eco-friendly option of all the options as delivery emissions are drastically reduced.

Utilising companies that are ramping up electric vehicle usage can also help, however, not all electric vehicles have the environmental benefits that we hope for. In addition, many of these vehicles will not be powered by renewable energy. But it is a step in the right direction as emissions will still be vastly reduced. Companies like UPS have a high number of electric vehicles on the road.

The final way to reduce your Black Friday emissions is to consider the products you are buying. There are a growing number of products that are made of recycled materials and many products now incorporate both ethical and environmental benefits. 

Seek these products out! Make sure to stay tuned for our next article that will explore some amazing eco-friendly and sustainable products.

Laurie Dalton
Laurie Dalton

MSc Climate Change

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