Black Friday, which happened just two days ago, is a day full of great deals, ones that are bringing millions out to shop; but at the same time, it is also fueling a new weave of throwaway culture. On Black Friday, companies typically make record sales.
And his year was no exception; companies made over $7 billion in sales this time around. But while many are raving about the great deals they got, some environmental activists are drawing attention to the impact of throwaway culture.
Specifically, as online shopping becomes increasingly popular and convenient for customers, how is it impacting throwaway culture? And what role has Amazon had in perpetuating that culture?
The Shift To Online Shopping Exacerbates Throwaway Culture
While the majority of Black Friday shopping still takes place in brick-and-mortar stores, each year an increasing amount of the day’s transactions are taking place online. From 2017 to 2018, online shopping on Black Friday increased by 23.6%.
Totals for 2019 are still up in the air, but the upward trend of online shopping will likely increase again. An estimated 800 million packages will be shipped in the upcoming weeks by the United States Postal Service alone.
At first, it might seem that online shopping is a benefit for the environment. After all, consumers are not driving in their cars to get to stores.
However, with the rise of one day- and two day- shipping, largely driven by Amazon, online shopping has taken a sharp swing towards becoming unsustainable.
Fast Shipping Generates Lots Of Waste, Sparks Throwaway Culture
The waste generated from these fast shipping rates is certainly not a secret. The topic has drawn concern from many environmental activists.
Shipping goods within one or two days means giving each item bought individual packaging. This packaging often cannot be recycled, composted, or reused. Then, items can be shipped separately to prevent delays.
As a result, more delivery trucks are put out on the roads to transport them, increasing vehicle emissions.
Many retailers offer returns for free. Then, instead of taking the effort to restock returned goods, retailers may just throw them away.
This is very common with returned cosmetic items. Not only does this generate large amounts of waste as a reckless nonuse of resources, but it also doubles all of the transport and packaging environmental tolls.
As shoppers opt for online deals, these effects will increase. One of the largest and most popular companies giving shoppers an online shopping option is Amazon, and many protesters are taking aim.
Black Friday Protests: Concerns About Climate Continue
Climate protesters took to the streets all over the world on Friday in an attempt to bring attention to environmental concerns. Many took place in France, where the American cultural phenomenon has caught on over the past few years.
Protesters weren’t alone. More than 200 companies, most of them based in France, boycotted the event, closing doors and taking down websites for 24 hours.
These 200 companies follow in the footsteps of outdoor merchandise retailer REI, a more familiar brand in the States. Since 2015, the company has kept stores closed on Black Friday, while still paying employees.
Instead, they encourage their staff and families to explore the outdoors and spend time together.
French Parliament Motions To Ban Black Friday
The French Parliament, receiving a strong signal from the country’s population, has even put forth an amendment to “ban” Black Friday.
While still far from becoming a law, the proposal nonetheless has gained attention worldwide.
Large amounts of the protesters were youth, as Black Friday also coincided with the “Fridays for Future” campaign started by teen activist Greta Thunberg. Many protests were also aimed at Amazon, as a result of the environmental cost of fast shipping.
Activists gathered outside of the headquarters in France and distribution centers, trying to voice environmental concerns to Jeff Bezos.
What Is Amazon Doing To Combat The Issue
Protesters focused on two topics: Amazon and the consumer. Amazon has responded to the unrest by restating its environmental goals, announced several months ago.
The company aims to obtain 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Specialists at Amazon currently estimate that about 40% of the total energy used comes from renewable sources.
Amazon also stated that it plans to invest $100 million to restore rainforests and wetlands. Finally, they will attempt to become net carbon neutral by 2040. If able to do so, the company will be 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.
What Can We Do To Combat Throwaway Culture?
What can consumers do this holiday season to help the environment? Asking everyone to cease online shopping altogether is unreasonable.
Certainly, consumers should not take full blame blame for the environmental crisis, as those selling the products, and governments that oversee the transactions should take responsibility as well.
Nonetheless, there are some small steps that everyone can take in these next few weeks to minimize harm.
- Choose longer shipping options when shopping online, so items can be packaged, transported, and delivered together, cutting down on waste and emissions.
- Order required items all at once instead of individually over time to help to achieve the same effect. This helps reduce the throwing away of multiple packages, common of throwaway culture.
- Limit online returns as much as possible, especially with items that will likely just be thrown away by the manufacturer. While some returns are necessary, limiting impulse buys and similar habits can help.
- Support green companies and companies that focus on protecting the environment.
Whether on Black Friday or any other time, if we are all a little more mindful of the environmental effects of our shopping habits, we can make a big impact.