Black Friday is no longer limited to 24 hours. With sales beginning on Thanksgiving Day and extending into the late evening hours of Cyber Monday, Black Friday has gone from being a one-day brick and mortar rush to a five-day shopping frenzy that is accessible whether you’re camping out in front of stores or scrolling through brand websites on your phone at home. In 2019, The National Retail Federation estimated that consumer spending would go up 4%, with 165 million people expected to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday was also expected to set a new record that year, with a predicted $9.4 billion being spent on the consumer holiday alone.
While many of us know the fate that awaits both the environment and garment workers during the notorious Black Friday holiday (when prices go down, production goes up), as well as the unimaginable amount of injuries and deaths that are the cost of a culture that glorifies consumption (how terrifying is it that Black Friday Death Count is an actual website?), these days, it is actually Cyber Monday that is posing an even bigger threat to the planet than Black Friday.
In addition to #BoycottBlackFriday, we invite you to join us in our call to #CancelCyberMonday.
The Growth of Online Shopping
Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals cover just about every type of item, from flat screen TVs to children’s toys to household appliances. However, what often slips beneath our collective radar is the amount of textiles purchased during this five-day flurry of shopping. Fast fashion hubs like H&M and Urban Outfitters will have “can’t beat” discounts, encouraging consumers to buy as much as they can afford over the brief period. Even more expensive, luxury brands will be offering sales that most shoppers won’t see any other time of year.
As we continue to live in a culture that glorifies consumption, having the latest “trends” in our closets, and buying anything so long as it’s a good deal, shoppers are as much a part of the problem (and on the bright side — the solution!) as the major corporations surviving off of these consumerist sales tactics.
This rapid buy and sell pattern is particularly detrimental to the environment — but adding to the harm caused to the climate from overproduction is now the threat of online shopping and speedy delivery methods.
Now, more than ever before in history, consumers are opting to buy online. In 2019, 41 percent of those planning to shop over Thanksgiving weekend were expected to take advantage of deals via the internet. Online purchases mean packages will have to be shipped, and there will be a lot of them. The U.S. Postal Service says it will deliver nearly 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, its busiest time of the year. All of this shipping comes at a cost to the environment, particularly when consumers request fast delivery options or opt to not bundle their orders. The “two-day delivery” option offered by major leading online shopping hubs, like Amazon and Walmart, has led to the use of contracted drivers to deliver packages in short time windows. This is a big deal, as freight vehicles are reported as being the cause of approximately one-quarter of the carbon footprint for transportation services.
What this means is that now, not only does your fast fashion holiday dress release pollution during its production and cleaning processes (microfibers are constantly making it through to our waterways when you wash your clothing), but it will also be a contributor in the carbon emissions being released from the delivery vehicle used to bring the product to your doorstep. Multiply your individual purchase by the amount of consumers planning to shop online this Cyber Monday, and what we have on our hands is an enormous hit on the environment.
What Can We Do About It?
Change can’t happen without the involvement of individuals, and word of mouth (or #hashtags, in today’s world of social media impact) still goes a long way. This year, calling out #CancelCyberMonday is an absolute must if we are serious about changing our shopping habits, and subsequently, the effect that the environment feels at its expense.
When you’re shopping this holiday season, try to buy from brands you know are making their clothing sustainably, and if you’re having products shipped, resist the urge for free, fast delivery. If you must shop online, bundle your orders together and choose ground transportation over air travel.
Of course, the best option is always to buy locally, and if you can, buy used. By reducing the demand for goods, production and shipping of goods will be forced to slow down.
As a consumer, you have power. As an individual, you have a voice. By voting with your wallet (which can also mean not using your wallet) and helping spread knowledge about the harms of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the demand on manufacturers during the holidays, you can be a fundamental part of making change. So much of this fight begins at the level of challenging our consumerist culture and relearning that we don’t need nearly as much as we buy, and in the case of online shopping, nearly as quickly as we profess to needing it.
This Thanksgiving weekend, make your voice heard — Sign the PayUP Fashion Petition to demand a better future for garment makers and the environment
This article was originally published in November 2019. Its language was updated and the story republished in November 2021.