Wherever you go—from your inbox to your favorite radio station—you’re probably hearing a lot about Black Friday. Companies would like you to be thinking about “doorbusters”, sales, and a rush to get the good stuff before it’s gone this shopping season.
Here at Green America, we cringe when we hear “shopping season” because for big box stores and massive online retailers, the winter holidays are a time to get people to spend as much as possible, when stores lure customers in with sales that trick people into spending more than they intended, or buy without thinking of what they truly need.
Here’s why this Black Friday, we’re not buying it.
Sweatshop labor and worker abuses: From fashion to phones, most items sold on Amazon or in big box stores and department stores are made by people in factories across the globe who are paid far less than what their labor is worth. Being paid just a few dollars a day leaves workers in a cycle of poverty they’re not able to escape. This is the case in the US too, where retail workers make far less than the cost of living and retail and warehouse jobs around the holiday season can be punishing to the point of being dangerous.
Remember also, that we have far from eradicated child labor—an estimated 152 million children are victims of child labor, and could be the ones who made anything from rugs to chocolate.
Toxic chemicals. Conventional clothes, furniture, and tech gadgets more often than not have toxic chemical finishes that provide stain-, water-, fire-, or wrinkle-proofing, or make the manufacturing process easier—and have been linked to health effects like hormone disruption and cancer.
The effects of these toxins are the most serious for workers, from the factory to people opening boxes in a retail store, but the finishes may also remain on clothes and affect wearers, according to GreenPeace. Read more in Green American’s Detox Your Closet issue!
Waste. It’s not wasteful to buy things that you need—warm winter boots, a new computer when yours can’t be repaired, toys and books for growing kids. What’s wasteful is buying way more than what you need or can use. Presents that end up in the trash next year or fall apart after a few uses just aren’t worth it. One aspect of voting with your dollar is choosing not to spend when you don’t need to. We think some of the best gifts are the gift of experience, that have no waste—like a dinner at a favorite restaurant, a concert, or gift certificates for services you can give, like baking or babysitting.
Dirty energy and climate change. Did you know Amazon, the world’s second largest company, is still largely run on fossil fuel power? There’s also the climate impact of materials, like plastic for toys, cobalt for phone and computer batteries, and all sorts of clothing materials that can have negative impacts on the planet. When you can, buy local products made from sustainable materials to reduce your climate impact.
This year, we encourage you to skip shopping on Black Friday. Instead, take some time to appreciate what you already have, whether it’s the items that make your house homey, or the people who surround you at your Thanksgiving table. When you do decide to buy gifts for the holidays, consider finding certified green businesses in your neighborhood and online at GreenPages.org.