Consumer culture is a big part of our history. In the 18th century, exotic drinks and clothing denoted social stature in the UK. Then in the 19th century, department stores made shopping into a pastime and exciting thrill. Turns out we really like shopping.
But has our consumer culture become one of the biggest problems we now face today?
Mathis Wackernagel, president of international research group Global Footprint Network, says we are currently using global resources 75% more quickly than the Earth can renew them. If everyone on the planet consumed like we do in the UK, we would need the resources of at least three Earths – or five if like the US.
With Black Friday around the corner, it feels a good time to talk about excessive or impulse consumption. Black Friday was founded in the States in the 1950s, the day after Thanksgiving, to kick off the Christmas shopping season.
It is known for heavy discounts, deals and free shipping, all to encourage consumption and ultimately boost the economy. Over the years, it has turned into a shopping frenzy. Billions of profits are made – the majority coming from online purchases, potentially made with little thought or need.
I am not saying consuming is bad, but we are clearly living beyond our (environmental) means. So, how do we kick the habit?
One way is through Green Friday, an anti-Black Friday movement founded in 2015. It encourages consumption in purpose-led businesses and promotes brands with outstanding sustainable business practices. Its aim is to raise awareness of the negative impacts of society’s shopping habits – and it’s growing in popularity.
Many businesses have joined the Green Friday movement to promote better practices, donating sales to environmental causes or promoting swapping, borrowing or buying second-hand instead of new. They’re educating consumers on how they can consume differently and potentially helping them to purchase something that gives them a double ‘feelgood’ buzz from doing the right thing.
In our world of limited resources and climate change, we need create positive experiences around consuming less to be successful.
Let’s hope the tide soon turns and Black becomes Green.