American consumers love a good deal but that should also include a good deal for the environment. Although the environmental impact of all the Black Friday shopping is huge, there are many things that can be done to radically reduce this footprint while supporting greener offerings.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, has come to be known as Black Friday, a day that heralds the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. However, it is also the start of the most environmentally destructive shopping period of the year.
Some may opt to make gifts, others may opt to avoid shopping altogether, but if you are going to shop, it is possible to make more environmentally aware choices. It is better to buy durable high quality, well-made items that are made using sustainably sourced materials and have very little or no packaging. Supporting companies that either make or sell eco-products and employ sustainable business practices is also a good way of advancing the green economy.
For the last few years, we have witnessed a positive trend in green shopping practices. According to a 2007 survey done by Conservation International, two out of five people would rather receive a “green” gift than a traditional one. Out of the 1,000 consumers surveyed by the group, women were more interested in going green, with 62% preferring to give and receive environmentally friendly goods. Seventeen percent of consumers surveyed say they will shop at retailers they perceive as greener. The same study also found that 44 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for green gifts–between 10 and 25 percent more.
According to this study, 38 percent of consumers say they will use fewer plastic bags while 21 percent are planning on not wrapping holiday gifts to conserve paper. More than one-third of consumers saying they will shop more online and in catalogs this year in order to save on gas.
Another 2007 study indicated that nearly one in five consumers (18%) were planning to purchase more eco-friendly products this holiday season than in the past, and a similar number (17%) are willing to pay more for green gifts, according to Deloitte’s annual survey of holiday spending and retail trends. About one-third of survey respondents also say they will use fewer plastic bags, and one in five will consider not wrapping holiday gifts to conserve paper.
These responses were consistent across gender, age, and income groups, indicating that environmental concerns have become more mainstream among consumers.
To be a more ecologically responsible shopper, look for products that are vetted by a reputable third-party government or non-profit certification program. When buying electronics make sure they have the Energy Star label, try to buy Organic, Fair Trade and Conflict Free products. When buying wood products or books look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.
According to Greenbiz, “a number of groups, ranging from the federal government to nonprofits to research groups, are jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon telling shoppers in effect, if you have to shop, shop for green goods.”
For comparative assessments of products see Climate Counts’ ratings. The “Striding Shopper campaign” (also taking place on Facebook) highlights some of the greenest companies in their fields (see chart).
Consumers and businesses are increasingly seeing the wisdom of a more sustainable approach to commerce. By factoring environmental issues into their buying decison, many consumers are making a difference. The business community are responding to this burgeoning trend.
Traditional capitalism created a high standard of living for some, but a new economic philosophy is emerging. Some have called this social capitalism, and it is helping to reduce humankind’s destructive impact on the earth.
Creative Capitalism: Market-Based Social Change
Consumer Demand for Green
Eco Cyber Monday (2009)
The Greening of Cyberspace
New Year’s Resolutions for a More Sustainable World in 2010
Hope for the Holidays
The New Normal
The New Normal and Sustainability
The New Normal and Implications for Business
Carrotmobs: Adding Incentives to the Consumer Arsenal
The Future is Green
Green’s Coming of Age
People Remain Loyal to Green Even in an Economic Downturn
Green’s Bottom Line: Staying Competitive in Volatile Economic Times
Green Stimulus and Free Markets
Creating a Sustainable Future
An Open Model of Innovation
Silencing Earth Day Critics