Will Sale Boycotts Affect Climate Change?
Brands have started taking a stand against days like Black Friday, protesting society's overconsumption problem—but will the movement make a significant difference?
Houston, We Have an Overconsumption Problem
If you've never heard the term, it's pretty straightforward.
Overconsumption is when we consume renewable natural resources in excess and reduce the capacity for that resource to regenerate. Eventually, the resource depletes beyond a point where it can adequately replenish.
When an ecosystem can no longer sustain itself, it often collapses, ruining habitats and endangering entire species.
Overconsumption Causes Inequality
As our population grows, our demand for resources increases. Scientists predict we'll have a shortage of food in the future if we don't take action—like, now.
As consumers, we need to look at our personal consumption, which affects other people. According to a study, the wealthiest 10% consume 20 times more energy than the poorest 10%. This has created an unsustainable and inequitable society.
And as a collective, humans as are diminishing our planet's resources, which could eventually affect Earth's ability to sustain life. So, inevitably we all suffer.
Overconsumption = Overproduction
A symptom of overconsumption is overproduction. When we overconsume, the production of goods increases.
The Industrial Revolution catalyzed our excessive buying habits. Companies were able to manufacture things on a mass scale, and by the early 1900s, we went from buying only what we needed to purchasing more of the things we wanted.
Production increased, and people couldn't afford the overproduction of goods when the stock market crashed. Prices fell, factories closed, and workers laid off, negatively influencing the Great Depression.
Two Ways We Contribute to Overconsumption
We all contribute to overconsumption, even if we do our best not to. Food waste is a large denominator.
How often have you taken leftovers home and thrown them away three days later? Or bought fresh produce, promising to eat healthier this week, only to throw the moldy veggies out a couple of weeks later?
What about every new outfit you buy whenever you have an event to go to? I bet you have a few sitting in the back of your closet, collecting dust. Do they even fit you anymore? Who knows?
Then there's the issue of supporting entirely unsustainable and unethical brands.
The resources aren't harvested sustainably when a brand sources its ingredients from unreputable suppliers, like cotton, palm oil, and argan. It causes extreme pollution and exploitation of people and the environment, and the resources cannot regenerate for future seasons.
What About Boycotts?
Many brands have, in recent years, started to boycott sale days like Black Friday in a bid to fight our overconsumption problem. In one report from 2021, 85% of independent brands switched their websites off on Black Friday in protest against the likes of Amazon and other giants and donated their profits to charities.
While it sends a powerful message, do such boycotts do anything long-term besides affecting their bottom line? Or will it eventually have an impact?
There have been quite many boycotts over the years that have been successful. At the same time, others that have been implemented have yet to show any solid outcomes.
A sugar boycott was carried out in 1791 in England after Parliament refused to abolish slavery. The embargo successfully caused a massive slump in sales, which led to the sales of sugar made by "free men."
Canada Goose was pressured into stopping the sale of animal furs after a publicized boycott that included exposés, legal battles, and celebrity campaigns.
Ford Motor Company took a significant hit in sales after founder Henry Ford's weekly anti-semitic newspaper, Dearborn Independent, was sued for defamation. The Anti-Defamation League then organized a boycott of their cars, which involved Jews and many liberal Christians. The movement caused the newspaper to get shut down.
In Brunei, they were to pass a law that anal sex and adultery would be punishable by stoning to death. The Sultan of Brunei's hotel chain, the Dorchester Collection, 45 Park Lane in London, and several banks were boycotted in retaliation.
The campaign also received support from celebrities like Elton John and George Clooney. After a short time, Brunei announced they were not implementing capital punishment for anal sex.
Then there's the infamous Rosa Parks bus boycott in the 50s that successfully abolished racial segregation on public transport. Although Ms. Parks was jailed, and it took 381 days for court hearings to complete, the boycott's success was well worth it.
The Russian Boycott
Then we have the most recent boycott of Russia and Belarus. Biden sanctioned a ban on Russian energy, and almost 1000 companies have voluntarily suspended or removed their operation from Russia in retaliation for the war on Ukraine.
One hundred days on, and the war continues. It'll worsen before it gets better, as the global economy is affected, and fuel prices skyrocket. And a 50–60% chance of a mild global recession is predicted next year.
Needs Outweigh Climate Commitment
I'll be the first to admit that I use Amazon for a lot of my purchasing. They've dominated the market with their convenience and range and have almost tapped into every industry, from household items to streaming services, their voice assistant Alexa, etc.
Though I'm not particularly attached to using Amazon, it is a convenience that I have grown to rely on. And I'm certainly not alone. Amidst the boycott, Amazon announced record sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2021.
Low-income earners were more likely to purchase from companies like Amazon and Walmart. And consumers, in general, cited inflation as their reason for not boycotting Black Friday.
Perhaps most consumers are not ready to sacrifice some of their needs—or wants—to do their part for climate change.
How to Consume Less
I'm a member of a couple of environmental sustainability groups on Facebook. For a group of people who are supposed to be more compassionate and kind in this world, they're mostly just a bunch of judgmental privileged assholes.
For example, someone comes to the group asking for advice on what to do with the plastic wrapping from the toilet paper packaging. The comments go like this:
"Just use a bidet, much more sustainable and eco-friendly than toilet paper."
"Do you know how many trees are cut down to make toilet paper?!"
"I use old T-shirts as toilet paper."
Oh, thanks, Karens.
I'm not here to lecture you to stop buying things. You're an adult. You can make your own decisions.
Some of you don't care to reduce your consumption. Fine.
But if you've read this far, you probably care, right?
There's one question you can ask yourself whenever you're buying something, and that is: "do I need it?"
If you don't need it (and often we don't), ask yourself: "why do I want it?"
Sometimes we just want to buy shit for ourselves. Maybe we had a bad day, or we've been saving up to get a specific item. You do you, boo.
But when you're consistently over-buying, like fresh produce that you never get around to eating and ends up in the trash, or skincare that sits in your cupboard until it goes bad, it may be time to reconsider some of your buying habits.
The Benefits of Consuming Less
Besides saving the planet, reducing our consumption saves us money, and it also paves the way to a more equitable future for all of us.