The Harm of Black Friday Shopping
Black Friday is a term used to describe an intense shopping binge that happens every year in the U.S. on the Friday following Thanksgiving weekend.
Shopping generally tends to surge after Thanksgiving, when Americans start stockpiling gifts for the holiday season. But Black Friday has become the official start to the holiday-season shopping spree and this craze is spreading all over the world.
Why Is It Called Black Friday?
The term was introduced in the 1950s, when the official army-navy football game was held during Thanksgiving weekend in Philadelphia. Throngs of citizens would crowd the city on Friday, spending their time shopping and preparing for the weekend games. Police officers dubbed this out-of-control, crowded pre-weekend phenomenon, ‘Black Friday’.
But in the 80’s, retailers put a positive spin (at least in their books) on this term, using it to indicate the start of the holiday shopping season, when their balance sheets would go from red (loss) to black (profit).
Today, Black Friday is one of the most frenzied phenomenons to ever take place in the modern world, with crowds of people ending up trampled or in hospital beds. In fact, the holiday even has its own death-count tracker!
But aside from the harm to shoppers, this annual binge has serious implications to the health of the planet and society as a whole.
1. Choked With Plastic
Every item shipped out during Black Friday, and many in-store purchases as well, is wrapped in plastic packaging. Many of the toys produced during Black Friday are made from cheap plastic, to be used for a short while and quickly discarded.
Billions of pounds of plastic is produced every year, with production peaking during Black Friday sales. And since all this plastic is used just for a day, companies take few (if any) measures to recycle the waste. As a result, nearly 90% of all the world’s plastic produced on Black Friday ends up in landfills and oceans.
2. Fast Fashion
More than 150 million shoppers totally binge out on Black Friday; and this is in the United States alone.
And one of the most sought-after products is clothing, with companies rolling out hundreds of new designs on Black Friday. Nearly all these designs happen to be cheap replacements of high-fashion trends, eagerly sought-after by the masses and produced in bulk as a result of the high demand.
Consumers are thrilled to be able to purchase low-cost, low-quality versions of their favorite clothing, and tend to overdo it during Black Friday sales. We’re all aware that low-quality, fast-fashion trends barely make it through the holiday season, and these clothes are quickly discarded when the next design rolls out.
The fast fashion industry is responsible for generating tons of waste every year as clothing is discarded at a rapid rate. Most of the products are made from cheap material and contain plastic microfibers which contaminate the soil and water bodies.
3. Electronic Waste
Black Friday is the perfect time for companies to get rid of their excess stock of electronic devices. By issuing products at discounted prices to eager consumers, they can recoup the cost of production and even get rid of items that are outdated or not in vogue.
The sale of electronic devices spikes during Black Friday as consumers buy, not out of need, but due to availability. When else will they be able to buy a TV set, phone, and a laptop at the price of just one device?
This consumption pattern feeds into the fastest growing body of waste on the planet - e-waste. Some of these items are usually thrown out within a year, while most are immediately discarded after the holiday season as new designs flood the market.
Just imagine the waste generated and the resources exploited when 100 million consumers decide to buy a smartphone for just a few months. The numbers are terrifying.
4. Unethical Sourcing
Black Friday helps some companies make their year-round volume of sales in a single weekend. And in order to ensure such large-scale production of goods, many large retailers resort to unethical, cruel practices.
Slave labour and child labour continue to rise even in the modern world, with these exploitative practices reaching a climax around the Black Friday weekend.
Many developing countries are known for trafficking and exploitation of human labour. And even if production is undertaken overseas, retailers usually resort to exploiting laborers in poor countries by giving them no alternative except to work for a meagre salary. All this just so retailers can make a fat profit during this annual shopping spree.
By purchasing products during Black Friday, you indirectly support the growth of the slave labour market and exploitation of human beings. And in 2020, when human equality should be a given, it’s horrifying to know that exploitation continues simply because consumers refuse to quit this senseless shopping binge.
5. Feeds Into Materialistic Tendencies
Aside from the extremely harmful effects on the environment and the quality of human life, Black Friday shopping binges affect the individual consumers on a psychological level.
Consumerism is at an all-time high and most people today measure their worth as an individual based on the brand of clothing they own or the price of their TV set. This constant craving for ‘more’ and ‘fancier’ is detrimental to human health, and people are becoming increasingly depressed when they’re unable to buy a product that gives them social validation.
This validation is short-lived and disappears as soon as you see someone with a more expensive house or car. This leaves most individuals in a constant state of want and a feeling that without a certain product, they lack the necessities for a fulfilling existence.
This is a sorry state of affairs and the Black Friday binge is largely responsible for this phenomenon, with consumer happiness levels spiking during the weekend and dropping immediately after.
By feeding this materialistic culture we create a society less inclined to focus on building their self-worth through hard work and personal accomplishments. Instead, our sense of self has started to come from the outside and what we own.
As individuals, it’s time to reclaim ourselves and satisfy this craving for accomplishment and validation through healthier, more personal activities.
By saying no to Black Friday binges, we can reclaim this power and help form a more psychologically stable society; one which is better for individuals and the planet as well!
So say no to unethical Black Friday items, and let’s make the world a healthier, happier place to live in. (: