“Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday” and “Single Day” are events dedicated to shopping lovers from all over the world. Both online and offline,they are days in which people around the world queue physically or virtually to grab the best deals on the market. Not even Covid-19 has stopped this commercial tradition.
What are the origins and meaning of these events?
Several theories are linked to “Black Friday”, celebrated the day after Thanksgiving. One theory links the use of the term “Black” to the books of merchants which usually had a black cover. On these books losses were marked in red and income in black ink. After Thanksgiving, thanks to sales, those books were filled with lines written in black.
Despite many very fascinating theories, American historians have long argued that Black Friday has no historical roots. As Insider reports, this is a tradition linked to a commercial event conceived in 1924 by Macy’s. This distribution chain used the Friday after Thanksgiving to inaugurate the Christmas season, pushing on purchases related to this time of the year with special discounts. The boom of this anniversary dear to shopping lovers exploded in the 1980s, spreading overseas too, where however it is felt with less transport.
Experts from the money.co.uk website predicted the amount of CO2 that could be produced by the delivery of millions of packages to British consumers on the 27th of November 2020. The data were shocking: in the face of an increase in online sales that should be around 14% more than in 2019 in the United Kingdom alone, the CO2 emissions expected for this year’s Black Friday in Great Britain would exceed 429 thousand tons. To give an example, the British researchers explain, they are the equivalent of 435 round-trip flights from the European Union to New York.
Like his Friday colleague, “Cyber Monday” stands as the main discount day dedicated to online purchases of electronic and technology products. Its origin is quite recent. Riding the wave of Christmas discounts, in 2005 the National Retail Federation – the largest association of retailers in the world – used this term with the aim of promoting online shopping and encouraging companies to penetrate the digital market in the United States. The event was successful and several shopkeepers joined the initiative, helping to strengthen the practice of internet purchases. During Cyber Monday all those new phones, tablets, cameras, and home gadgets will eventually turn into electronic waste, or “e-waste”: U.N. findings show that only about 20 percent of e-waste is recycled.
If in the West there are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in the East there is “Single Day”: the richest shopping day in the world born from an intuition of Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba. In fact, in China the 11th of November is the day dedicated to singles. The date 11/11 is full of symbols: each number 1 represents a single in search of the other half (+1). In 2009 Jack Ma took advantage of this and transformed the day into “Global Shopping Day”. This year he broke all records, selling goods for 35 billion euros in 24 hours. This has helped to increase the active users of Alibaba by 15% in one year, which today are 700 million against 150 million subscribers to amazon prime.
But how much does this impact our planet?
In recent years these events have become a sales marathon of several days, weeks or even a month. However, not only the sales but also the polluting emissions produced on “Black November” are increasing. The online purchase that has the greatest impact on the environment is in fact the one with a quick delivery of 1/2 days: it creates 35% more emissions than a purchase with normal delivery and 12% more than a traditional purchase. Why? With a fast delivery, two different products will arrive with two different routes and two different shipping times, moreover, the trucks do not wait to be loaded at least 90% before leaving the warehouse but, in order to ensure tight delivery times they leave only 50% loaded. Result? More emissions.
TOWARDS A GREENER NOVEMBER
In the last years movements that want to make the shopping month greener have been born, such as Buy Nothing Day, Block Friday and the Make Friday Green Again collective, which propose the recycling of existing products.
BUY NOTHING DAY
This occasion was born in Canada in 1992, in response to Black Friday, and in the following years it also spread to the United States, the homeland of Black Friday, also reaching Europe. Today it is celebrated in over 60 countries. Those who choose to celebrate it criticize excessive consumerism, but not only: there are in fact those who accuse the big shopping days of being a weapon of large businesses against small and local businesses.
It is a day celebrated on the same date as “Black Friday”, and is based on a simple rule: you shouldn’t buy anything for the whole 24 hours. The will of the adherents often coincides with the choice to go beyond the 24 hours of Buy Nothing Day and adopt it as a lifestyle, spreading the awareness that not everything that seems necessary, in reality is. So even if the need to buy something arises, Buy Nothing Day recommends doing so by “ignoring the big retailers and supporting local and independent businesses”.
More and more companies are trying to stand out. Patagonia will donate its earnings to environmental associations. Allbirds will raise the prices of its shoes by $ 1, which it will donate to the Fridays for Future foundation. Ikea has also decided to give a greener turn to its business by buying back its furniture already used by customers. In return, it will offer shopping vouchers. Even the big players are gearing up. Amazon has pledged to bring all of its shipments to zero CO2 emissions by 2040, 10 years ahead of the goals of the Paris Agreement. Amazon is already experimenting with deliveries “on foot” and with the “pedal assisted bike”. Amazon and Google have also obtained permission to deliver packages with their drones.
AWorld, the UN App that guides users towards a more sustainable lifestyle, adheres to Green Friday and joins companies that promote a conscious consumption style above all to help small local businesses, supporting them in a very difficult time for the world economy. In fact, the App suggests three good practices to accompany users along this path:
- Buy local products: buying products (food and non-food) at 0 km reduces the impact on the climate and lowers the carbon emitted for deliveries and transport. By purchasing locally produced food, for example, it is possible to save about 1.44 kg of CO2 each time;
- Eat a vegetarian meal: plant-based foods produce less greenhouse gas emissions and use less energy, land and water, this is also conscious consumption. By replacing a meat meal with a vegetarian meal, it is possible to save 1.46kg of CO2 emissions and over 1,000 liters of water per day;
- Buy consciously: being fashionable doesn’t mean wasting. Buying fewer clothes, shopping second hand, repairing your clothes and recycling helps to save water and reduce waste. One tonne of new clothes produces 22.31 tons of CO2, while the reuse of clothing corresponds to 0.152 tons of CO2 (considering only the transport). A 110 gram cotton t-shirt is equivalent to approximately 1,250 liters of water consumed.
ITALY – Greenpeace Italy welcomed in a press release the initiative of a group of young activists of the independent monthly “Scomodo” that on Thursday morning went to the new Amazon distribution center in Colleferro (Rome) and placed in front of the entrance a giant sign of protest: an installation of 36 meters by 4, 980 cardboard boxes that form the words “Buy better”. Colleferro’s flash mob is the starting point of the mission of Scomodo and Greenpeace, which also includes the launch of the website http://www.comprameglio.org and the dissemination of works of art and posters to launch an online campaign (given the times of social distancing): the goal is to arrive at a less consumerist lifestyle. The themes of the environmental campaign launched yesterday are five: a healthier diet with less consumption of red meat, an end to the waste created by packaging, the reuse of old objects, a stop to strong marketing, adherence to a “slow lifestyle”: a healthier and more sustainable life.
To buy is sometimes necessary, but what we can do is choose how to buy, and prefer sustainable alternatives whenever possible. Choose, for example, proximity, the reuse of objects or the purchase of second hand objects.