From Black Friday to Singles' Day, what is the true cost of overconsumption?

black friday Single's Day

In the United States, 45% of consumers start their Christmas shopping in November and this month is crucial for retailers to make their biggest revenue of the year. With several waves of shopping festivals taking place, including Singles' Day (or Double Eleven) on November 11th, Black Friday on November 27th, and Cyber Monday on the 30th, internet users are unwittingly joining a "collective consumption ritual".

The "Singles' Day" shopping holiday was originally launched by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2008. Last year, on Alibaba's platforms alone, sales reached a record of $38 billion, which is two times the revenue made during Black Friday ($7.4 billion) and Cyber Monday ($9.4 billion) combined

Retailers across the world are eager to get some skin in the game. In a globalized world, and with cross-border shopping services, consumers end up chasing promotion after promotion, and often get lost in the materialistic world.

E-Commerce: Redefining the relationship between consumer and producer

Without the constraints of opening hours and distance between consumers and retailers, Internet users only have to click a couple of buttons and their purchase will be on their doorstep within a week.

It is neither practical nor possible to stop shopping altogether.

Still, Singles' Day is a 24-hour shopping festival - and intense activity on a single day can be challenging for logistics companies. Unlike shopping in stores, online shopping requires much more packaging which leads to huge amounts of single-use waste. Moreover, the sheer number of orders made at such shopping festivals will take logistics companies days of overtime work to process and deliver it all, posing a potential risk of employee exploitation and overwork. Death from overwork is often heard in the East Asian logistics industry during Single's Day. Similarly, in the U.S., the overwork during the shopping festival has caused many disputes. The physically demanding long shifts and unsafe, grueling conditions at Amazon warehouse were raised by many employees who call on the retailer giant to take their complaints seriously. 

According to Greenpeace Hong Kong, over 80 percent of consumers buy things during such shopping holidays but end up using the item less than two times, among which clothing products are the most purchased. At their inception, one in four pieces of clothing purchased during the Singles' Days sale ends up in landfill.

 A new study found that wasteful consumption is responsible for the largest human impact on the environment. The paper concludes that we have to change our affluent lifestyles and reduce overconsumption with:

“Affluence needs to be addressed by reducing consumption, not just greening it."

Consumption and mental health

The 24-hour window where deals are available give people a short time frame to decide whether or not to make a purchase. This often leads to people making impulse purchases motivated by the fear that they'll regret missing out on a good deal, or feel social pressure - FOMO (fear of missing out) - from fellow consumers and marketing campaigns. Studies have found a connection between excessive materialism and increased levels of anxiety and depression. Acclaimed Psychologist Tim Kasser's found that people who prioritized materialistic goals in their lives tended to have a poorer sense of well-being. They were also more competitive towards other people in their lives, often showing a lack of empathy or closeness.

How do we take back control?

It is neither practical nor possible to stop shopping altogether. Consumption can be good, and we shouldn't be callous towards people who shop. However, over-consumption can be a vicious cycle - it takes both the consumers and the producers to create a more sustainable economy of supply and demand. Consumers need to learn how to pick products and be aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions. 

The producer's role in a sustainable economy is related to their resolve to go beyond what local law requires while still making a profit. Inevitably, emissions, resources and waste are generated during the manufacturing process. Manufacturing a product will always have some form of impact on the environment and on the communities that are a part of the process - it’s a matter of deciding what kind of impact we choose to create. At GOOD KRAMA, our story goes beyond the garments we make. We tell a story of resilience, of craftsmanship preservation and of awareness on the environmental and social impact of fashion. We work to provide you with all the tools to make conscious buying decisions so that you can treat yourself and others with transparency and style.

With the upcoming shopping frenzy, we’re taking our positive impact to the next level by going completely carbon neutral! This means that with each purchase you make, we offset the CO2 it took to make the garment and ship it to you. These offsets go directly to support carbon neutral communities in Southeast Asia through renewable energy, reforestation and water sanitation projects. Through this program, we are giving back to the community and creating a virtuous cycle that is in line with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.

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