Black Friday or renunciation of consumption?

  • 2023-11-22
  • Lisa Priller-Gebhardt
  • Comment
SDG Ziel 12: Nachhaltige/r Konsum und Produktion
Young woman from behind, holding many shopping bags in her hands.
© Getty Images/ReMa

Many people have the date in their calendar: particularly on 24 November they’ll be browsing the online shops for bargains and buying to their heart’s desire. Albeit such frenzied consumption has severe consequences for the environment. It would nevertheless be very easy to consume in a more principled manner and prevent waste.

Increasing numbers of people are going bargain hunting on Black Friday. The temptation to succumb to a shopping frenzy just four weeks before Christmas is especially heightened. This year, the Handelsverband Deutschland (HDE – German Retail Association) expects a turnover of 5.8 billion euros. This equates to a three per cent increase compared to last year. Yet at the same time the number of those conscientiously questioning their consumer behaviour and trying to restrict it is also increasing. So Black Friday is now followed by 'buy nothing day’. This campaign is calling for a 24-hour voluntary shunning of consumption on 25 November. But the intention is for the day to be more than just that. It involves coming to terms with our own consumer behaviour.

‘More and more people are questioning that, because they know we can’t continue consuming in the same old way’, says sociologist and DAAD alumnus Heiko Schrader who works at the University of Magdeburg. ‘We need to become more aware of the consequences of our actions. Including how much waste we produce. Everyone in Germany generates an average of some 225 kilogrammes of packaging waste each year.’ Very few people are aware of this. ‘I would therefore advise everyone to visit a rubbish dump once in a while to see what we’re contributing to this mountain of waste’, Schrader suggests.

‘Shunning consumption can make you happy’

But what’s preventing many people from consuming less on a voluntary basis? Advertising is certainly one of the main reasons. ‘We’re all susceptible to the messaging that advertising conveys. A brand new mobile phone isn’t really better than the previous model, since we’ve reached a level of technology where this often doesn’t play an essential role’, the researcher believes. And we all recognise that a shopping frenzy – and its associated elation – can often quickly dissipate. Superfluous items can be perceived as ballast. ‘Anyone who has reached a certain consumption threshold and can satisfy their basic needs doesn’t become happier and more contented by consuming even more. On the contrary, reducing consumption can result in a feeling of happiness among these population groups’, says Schrader.

Less is more!

Tips from Professor Heiko Schrader on how to consume in a more principled manner and prevent waste:

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