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 are 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 160 million children are victims of child labor and could be the ones making anything from rugs to chocolate.
For chocolates made without child labor and deforestation, try these A-rated chocolate companies.
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, including those in the factory, warehouse, and retail fronts, as long as they are handling the toxic chemical finishes.
PFAS is among the most harmful that we are currently aware of and has been found on water-resistant and waterproof clothing. PFAS is linked to reproductive issues and birth defects. It persists in the environment for so long that it is also known as "forever chemicals."
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 is 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 that despite Amazon’s pledge to reduce its climate impacts, its climate footprint is actually growing and is equal to Norway’s? A lot of that impact comes from all the products Amazon sells, including 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.
In fact, the fashion industry emits more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
When you can, buy local products made from sustainable materials to reduce your climate impact. Find all sorts of great gifts from certified sustainable and socially just businesses at Green America's Green Pages.
Join us this year. Skip Black Friday.
This year, we encourage you to skip shopping on Black Friday. Instead, take some time to appreciate what you already have, like the items that make your house feel homey or the people in your life you love.
When you do decide to buy gifts:
- Shop certified green businesses in our Green Pages
- Try these greener alternatives to Amazon
- Support these Black- and women-owned businesses
While we cannot shop our way to sustainability, we can purchase with purpose and vote with our dollars to support businesses who reflect our values and treat people and the planet with true respect.