Consumers gather in big shopping malls or online to take advantage of thousands of so-called 'Black Friday' discounts. But where did this Friday get its particular name from? As the story goes, after an entire year of operating at a loss ("in the red"), stores in the US would supposedly earn a profit ("went into the black") on the day after Thanksgiving, because holiday shoppers blew so much money on discounted merchandise. Elsewhere, it has developed as the day where consumers are introduced to the buying season.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with consumers having the opportunity to buy products at a discount - but we must not forget that the shocking images of mindless consumerism overwhelmingly define this day.
We can no longer ignore the warnings about the climate. Yet, we allow ourselves to be influenced by the short-term gratification of materialism and risk the long-term future of our planet. To blame social media and the tremendous materialistic marketing seems too short-sighted. As human beings, we don't even manage to take action. At the end of the day, it's all about consumer purchasing.
Furthermore, in November, the UN climate conference COP26 took place in Glasgow. The outcome: world leaders could not successfully commit to phasing out fossil fuels. And the culture we have, the everlasting consumerism, is also responsible for emissions. It is up to our world leaders to take sufficient action to resolve the gap between the ideals set for ecological reform, among others, and shape a realistic reality of consumerist lifestyles.
A stark reminder is that household purchasing habits, often driven by the desire to signal social status or keep up with trends, contribute to more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions.1
Try to look away from all the Black Friday emails, ads, and promotions as your first step. If we are all to reduce the impact of climate change, we must all rethink the prominence of consumerism in our lives and economies. The trend in sustainability is making us pay more attention to our consumerism, but it is not only a matter of our individual responsibility and consumer choice.
Many large companies, IKEA being one example, are concerned with people's buying habits. They are trying with their new campaigns like 'Bring Back Friday' to encourage consumers to return items. They state on their website: "Now you have the chance to give furniture a second life for a small price", "Return your old IKEA furniture to us, and you will receive a part of the value of the furniture back". While this sounds promising, it is a strategy that fails to address the consumerist mentality of our society by simply encouraging us to buy the same amount of stuff - only at a lower carbon cost than before, since second-hand items are also available. But for many, this will be seen as a more accessible option for handing in still-usable items for new ones.
Moreover, it is a significant improvement on many other major retailers, who are still aggressively competing to offer brand new energy-guzzling products and cheap clothing. If these retailers were serious about climate change, we would expect them to stop offering unsustainable promotions and start encouraging people to buy second-hand or clearance items.
To conclude, it is a shame that this Black Friday is not boycotted by world leaders, large, and small retailers and consumers. At this crucial time, this is an attitude that no one should support in this state of our climate emergency.