How to deal with eco-guilt during Black Friday

Describe this week in 3 short sentences:

Buy now!

Best deals ever!

80% off when you buy a second item!

These are the highlights of the week for many off us even if we are or not actively shopping or following the sales. Everything else is blurry, from COVID-19 regulations to the protests in Poland to Trump still crying about losing the race to The Queen’s Gambit being a major hit on Netflix. These are now shadowed by flashy ads, influencers giving discount codes, pop-ups that want your attention, e-mails that tell you what you need. 

Black Friday is here, and it wants to make sure that you see how it grew from a day in a whole week event and an after party that will happen on Monday (Cyber Monday).

image by Karolina Grabowska

You might feel among others, annoyed, excited or guilty during this week and that’s ok. When you try to be conscious of your shopping patterns (especially if this is something new for you, keep going btw!) you are likely to deal with eco-guilt, which is the child of eco-anxiety. I am saying the child because this guilt can either motivate you to change something or it can make you feel shame that can lead to anxiety (especially when you can’t really act on it due to other circumstances).

According to Urban Dictionaryeco-guilt, or ecoguilt, is the

“feeling you get when you could have done something for the environment, but consciously made the decision not to.”

Black Friday can be a great trigger for this guilt even if you choose or not to buy something, sometimes is enough just to observe your friends, family and the media. So, how can we deal with it?

Here are 3 scenarios and what you could do:

1. You made a purchase and now the guilt creeps in. Let it and feel it. Observe it for a minute or two, then decide what would you do different next time when you will buy something. It might be researching a new, local brand, making an inventory to see if you really need whatever is on sale or borrowing instead of buying. Apply it.

2. You didn’t buy anything, but the company you work for is doing Black Friday sales, so you are part of these whole shopping craze even without spending money. Take a step back, accept that this is happening in the world. You not performing well on your job because of this won’t actually have an impact on the planet, only on your career. Take action where you can, from being an example at your work place on how to produce less waste to donating to an environmental organization or charity to doing something simple like picking up that wrapper from the ground or helping somebody. You will feel better and there is science to prove it:

Neuroscience has demonstrated that giving is a powerful pathway for creating more personal joy and improving overall health.  According to Eva Ritvo M.D. the most powerful experience is one where you boost dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, known as the Happiness Trifecta. Black Friday doesn’t fit the bill because it boots only the dopamine (it’s all about the rush and short-term pleasure). To fully awaken the Happiness Trifecta, you have to engage in novelty, human touch, and helping others.

3. How about avoiding this guilt all together? The best way to do that is by assessing your impulse to buy when you see something on sale and be aware about how much of it gets to the landfill. For example, if we are talking textiles:

“It has been estimated that in 2015 EU citizens bought 6.4 million tonnes of new clothing (12.66 kg per person).  According to European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates, between 1996 and 2012, the amount of clothes bought per person in the EU increased by 40 %. At the same time, more than 30 % of clothes in Europeans’ wardrobes have not been used for at least a year. Once discarded, over half the garments are not recycled, but end up in mixed household waste and are subsequently sent to incinerators or landfill.”

-Nikolina Šajn- Environmental impact of the textile and clothing industry, 2019

European Environmental Agency – Textile Waste

After careful consideration, you might come to the conclusion that you don’t actually need something new, but if you do need it, try to make some ethical decisions. You decide what is important to you from fabrics to where it was produced. Every small step counts. Don’t forget that you are supposed to enjoy when you get something new, so make the process fun and don’t be mean to yourself.

Did you know?

Dating back to the 1950s, Black Friday was coined by police in Philadelphia and Rochester to describe crowds and traffic conditions on the Friday following Thanksgiving.

More about the History of Black Friday here.

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