written by Hailee Settlemoir
While one is more likely to point to Christmas or Valentine’s Day as an example of the most consumerist holidays of the year, I offer Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a contender for the “Most Consumerist and Dangerous” award. Black Friday and its cyber counterpart are known for its outrageous sales and dangerous mobs, but what it should be known for is its encouragement of overproduction, overconsumption, and waste. Even though consumer trends have shifted to include more organic and climate friendly products and services (read more here), Black Friday is both literally and figuratively throwing most of that progress in the trash. Let’s get into it, starting with the problems of overproduction.
As the Holiday season begins to sink its hypothetical teeth into stores and homes around the world, companies intentionally begin to overproduce their products to prepare. Overproduction is the excess production of a product, commodity, or substance And unfortunately, a lot unsold merchandise or product is trashed immediately after. All this excess production creates tons of toxic emissions and pollution. So, even before you get your items in the mail or at the store, the environment has already suffered greatly. It is important to remember that the consumer isn’t the one to blame here, we’re simply operating in this system. But we must ask ourselves, how can we critically and creatively engage in these contexts to create a better world?
From a critical perspective, these "traditions" encourage and reward overconsumption and overbuying, which as we all know, is what capitalism feeds on. Overconsumption is defined as “a situation where a natural resource has exceeded the sustainable capacity of a system, which can lead to the eventual loss of resource bases,” but can also be described as “consuming something to excess”. Although big discounts may be a help you save some of what you may spend, is the cost that the environment bears truly worth it?
So, what can we do? Sometimes the biggest thing to do is nothing. If you are really struggling with this, no worries! Just try to do your best to limit the number of products you buy this year. There are also some counter-holidays that have a better effect and social mission, such as Giving Tuesday and Small Business Saturday that I recommended. Remember, this isn’t a mindset you should just have for Black Friday, or any other holiday. Being mindful of your environmental impact and shopping habits year-round is essential to making lasting and impactful change. In the long run tho, we have to figure out how we can create and support systems that replace and improve ones like these. That will require dialogue, creativity, and openness. Comment your thoughts below, we'd love to discuss