On Holiday Consumerism

As we enter the holiday season, shops are upping their advertising and special deals in an attempt to lure consumers in for the upcoming gifting season. There is no doubt that buying your holiday gifts at a discounted rate is a good way to save some money and gift someone something meaningful, but let’s not deny that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are infamous for encouraging people to buy an excessive amount of new things they don’t really need (solely because they are on sale).

The irony lies in that we celebrate Thanksgiving – a holiday that symbolizes being grateful for what we have – mere hours before partaking in mindless, excessive consumerism. Another point to keep in mind is that while advertisements try to convince you that you are saving money by buying items on sale, you are ultimately still spending money on items that might not be useful or meaningful. Instead, you can save all that money to purchase a more meaningful experience or gift for yourself and loved ones!

Here are some notable statistics about Black Friday & Cyber Monday consumption:

  • In 2018 alone, consumers spent a total of $717.5 billion on Black Friday shopping (an average of $1,007 per person!)

  • Black Friday consumerism increases every year, in 2018 it was 4.3% higher than 2017

  • Cyber Monday and Black Friday consumption constitutes ~20% of total online holiday shopping

  • The USPS anticipates to make 850 million deliveries between Thanksgiving and New Years

  • In-store shopping is experiencing a downward trend as online shopping sales have increased. For example, Target’s online sales increased by 48% from 2017 to 2018, and Macy’s were up 34%. Online shopping has a high environmental impact due to the carbon emissions associated with shipping packages to residential addresses instead of stores.

Ways to reduce your carbon footprint this holiday season:

Consume less!

  • Before hitting the mall, see if you can find the items that you want from a thrift store or from a sustainable brand

  • Plan out purchases ahead of time to make sure you’re only buying things/gifts that you need.

  • Shop with friends so you can help hold each other accountable for your purchases and encourage each other to buy less (and save money!)

  • Avoid expedited shipping!

The Bottom Line: A culture of excessive consumerism is at the root of the climate crisis – so this Black Friday & Cyber Monday try to be mindful with our purchases. Think about what you really need versus what you want just because it’s on sale, and consider how much value those items will add to your life. The issue is not consumption, its impulsive consumption. If you do decide to make purchases, opt for used and sustainable items.

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