When and What is Green Friday?

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Black Friday is THE event of the year for eCommerce businesses. If you're taking it seriously, your preparations probably started months ago. Ensuring you're well stocked up to cope with demand, making sure your warehouse team are equipped with all the tools they need, anticipating issues you may face based on previous years...

Basically, it's a lot of effort. Whilst sales have dipped due to the impact of Covid in the last few years, it is often still the year's biggest day in terms of sales by a huge margin. Conveniently placed roughly a month before Christmas (this falling year on November 22nd), consumers love the opportunity to source gifts for their loved ones at bargain prices (or grab bargains on products they've been tracking for months).

Record sales for businesses, cheaper buys for customers...everyone's a winner, right?

Well...not quite.

The one big loser in the rush of Black Friday is the planet. eCommerce is an industry that has yet to fully tackle the issue of it's waste and inefficiency. Whilst there are some ways to make your eCommerce operation sustainable, it can be difficult and slow to implement positive change. To that end, all of the packaging and material waste and carbon emissions for deliveries is amplified hugely by the increased demand.

A 2020 report from money.com found that the rough total of greenhouse gas emissions of British Black Friday in 2020 was 429,000 metric tons. If that isn't graphic enough, this equates to 435 return flights from London to New York, or the weight equivalent of 61,038 elephants.

When you consider that this applies to Britain alone, in a year when sales were down due to Covid, this is a fraction of what we can expect this year worldwide with economies recovering from the pandemic.

That being said, there is a growing movement that's encouraging consumers to reject the frenzy and stop buying unnecessarily. We're taking a look at the phenomenon of Green Friday, and how it's attempting to change attitudes for both businesses and consumers.

What is Green Friday?

The idea behind Green Friday is pretty simple. Rather than spending recklessly and spending the day glued to your computer, tablet or phone, Green Friday encourages consumers to reject this and reconnect with themselves and the world around them.This doesn't just mean not purchasing anything in the Black Friday sales. The ethos behind Green Friday runs deeper, and wants people to change their mindset and habits on a wider scale. There are eight suggestions on the Green Friday official website of alternative things to do on Black Friday:

  • Go outside - anywhere is good, but especially in nature
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Do a good deed for someone
  • Support a local charity or help out in your community
  • Do something creative
  • Do some exercise
  • Mindfulness and healthy activities such as yoga or pilates
  • Spread the word of Green Friday and its values!

There are a few common threads running through these suggestions. Reconnecting with yourself, your loved ones and your community are particularly important in the values of Green Friday. This is on both a physical and emotional level - being physically active, but also being mindful to improve both your physical and mental health.

Other commonalities here are doing things that stimulate you, such as exercise and creative pursuits, but perhaps the most eminent theme here is a lack of materialism. The suggestions wholeheartedly promote joy in the world around us - friends, family, nature, exercise, community.

Whilst you may need to buy some materials if you want to do a creative project, the joy in this derives from the subsequent activity, not the purchase itself.

Overall, it's pretty obvious to see how these values go against what Black Friday stands for: focus on what really matters, rather than material goods which feel important at the time of purchase - especially when you're getting a bargain - but are essentially short-lived satisfaction.

Which retailers are supporting Green Friday?

You could be forgiven for thinking that the retailers proclaiming their support are small, sustainably-focused brands, but this isn't necessarily the case - one of the biggest supporters of Green Friday 2021 was furniture giant Ikea.

Naturally, it's pretty difficult for a retailer like Ikea to completely switch off on any given day, let alone Black Friday. Instead, Ikea promoted more sustainable buying habits. In 2021, this included:

  • Green Friday special offers on Ikea's most sustainable products
  • A spotlight on Sustainable Living Shops
  • A Buy Back and Resell service, allowing customers to sell old Ikea furniture back to them to avoid it ending up in landfills
An example of an offer as part of Ikea's Buy Back and Resell scheme

Plenty more brands joined in in 2021 with these sustainable initiatives - we recommend this list by CountryLiving that exhibits a few more participating brands. The Green Friday site itself tends to reveal brands that are supporting it around mid November, in the weeks leading up to Black Friday.

Ikea's Green Friday deals for 2022 haven't yet been revealed, but their site suggests that there will be announcements in due course, so keep an eye out.

Why should I support Green Friday?

As a retailer, it's reasonable to question any initiative that might seek to harm your sales on the most profitable day of the year. But as consumer demands change, you can really enhance the perception of your brand if you can demonstrate what you're doing to combat rising emissions.

And as demonstrated by Ikea, this doesn't have to mean taking a hatchet to your Black Friday - it could mean being more specific about the products that you add discounts to, or rolling out new sustainable initiatives such as the Buy Back and Resell service.

As a consumer, you may be missing out on some bargain buys, but the message behind Green Friday isn't fixated exclusively on the day itself. It's encouraging a healthier relationship with buying permanently, and taking stock of the things that give you genuine pleasure, rather than a quick hit of endorphins from a Black Friday deal. In fact, a University of Leeds study found that up to 80% of our Black Friday purchases end up being thrown away.

Whether it's on this Black Friday or not, the guiding principles of Green Friday are worth keeping in mind, whenever the thought to impulse buy creeps into your head. Whenever you're browsing online stores tempted to make a purchase, ask yourself: "do I really need this?"

What can I do to get involved?

As far as this goes, it's all down to you! There's no seal of approval or special requirements to embrace Green Friday. As the movement gathers pace, expect to see a few more well-known brands taking steps similar to Ikea. With a few months still to go before Black Friday hits, maybe it's time to start talking to your team about what you can be doing.

And of course, as a consumer...it's a lot easier! When November 22nd hits, instead of scrambling for bargains...get outside and do something you love, with someone you love.

Of course, Black Friday is still huge for the eCommerce industry, and for those who are looking for Black Friday guidance, rest assured - content is on the way! Stay tuned to the Shiptheory blog for all things shipping and eCommerce.

Sam Paternoster

Marketing Communications Executive at Shiptheory