Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

North Americans are among the largest producers of waste in the world

People rush into a Walmart store in Miami, Florida, on 25 November 2005 Getty

People rush into a Walmart store in Miami, Florida, on 25 November 2005 Getty

Friday, November the 25th marks this year’s Black Friday. The only thing being celebrated this Friday is consumerism. Black Friday’s sole purpose is to get the general public, both rich and poor, to splurge on all the large scale items you wouldn’t normally be able to afford. And while economically it’s a positive for the country to have such a large mass of people spending money, environmentally it’s a massive toll.

Annually, Canadians produce about 30 million tonnes of solid waste. That’s 4 pounds a person! Over the holidays alone, we produce about 545,000 tonnes of garbage due to wrapping paper, gift bags and the like. Whether we like it or not, Black Friday adds to these numbers and it’s here to stay. 80% of solid waste in Canada is disposed in landfills, with only 20% of it being properly recycled, recovered and incinerated. The improper disposal of this garbage is what makes landfills responsible for a large percent of Canada’s total methane emissions.

With all this in mind, we now have the addition of Cyber Monday – another big sale day sure to exhaust the planet but, when choosing the lesser evil, conscious consumers should consider switching over to online shopping. Cyber Monday saves 50 times more carbon emissions than Black Friday, according to a study conducted by MindClick SGM and GigaOm. This study only took into account people who went from their house to their intended store and back home again. It did not take into account any extra food trips or store travels, people who use public transportation or people who walk. What the study looked at was the extra carbon emissions it takes for a supplier to bring an item to the store and then the additional emissions used by the consumer to pick up said item. Not only does online shopping require less energy, it requires less packaging. The results also did not take into accounting local businesses and their potential to possibly being a better green alternative, due to the fact that their local products don’t travel the great distances that, say, Wal-Mart products do. 

There is some light in all this. Black Friday sales fluctuate greatly but, from 2014 to 2015, sales went down from $133.7 million to $102 million. A $31 million drop compared to the $7 million drop from 2013 to 2014. 

 

Year Weekend In-Store Shoppers  Spent per Person Total Spent
2015   102 million (vs 135.7 million forecast)   $299.60 each    N.A.
2014   133.7 million (vs 140.1 million forecast)   $380.95   $50.9 billion
2013   140.3 million   $407.23   $57.4 billion
2012   147 million   $423.00   $59.1 billion
2011   126 million   $398.00   $52.4 billion

(Above chart showing Black Friday Weekend shopping statistics) 

 If Canadians were to try to reduce their holiday waste by just one kilogram each person, we could reduce holiday waste by 34 000 tonnes. As a planet, let’s actually try to choose the lesser of two evils and consider the options that create less of an environmental impact. 

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