On the eve that gratitude is most celebrated, many also spend it camped out waiting for the metal doors to open to a tech haven. Those who stay at their Thanksgiving dinner make the most of their opportunity, so as families clink their wine glasses and reminisce about what they are thankful for, many of those same participants have their Black Friday sales pulled up on their Amazon wishlist with their Cyber Monday purchases loaded on a safari tab.
There is a natural human desire to always want the nicest, newest, and most popular “apple-of-your-eye” product. As the holiday season approaches rapidly, the sentiment of appreciation is left behind in favor of a cashmere sweater and an air fryer. Capitalistic markets are usually the only ones who benefit from this massive spending wave.
However, when this trend of increasing capitalism on Black Friday and Cyber Monday stems from a lack of ethics in advertising, it is a call to action to think about the effects social media has on greenwashing the market and the economy, especially on this remarkable date.
Hashtags — an amazing creation to seem interesting although they may come off as quite irrelevant for consumers—are a magic wand for producers, who use them to draw attention and catch consumers. As social media has continued to dominate one’s daily activities, marketing strategies have been slyly aimed at targeting groups in the hopes of hooking them to their product. Not only do social media advertisements post statements with urgency in order to increase FOMO, or fear of missing out, but social media has also gained experience in targeting specific age groups.Growing up in a generation where we are unsure what will happen with our planet in the coming years has been a constant fear among younger people. This fear has caused a development in the common goal of buying sustainably and living green. However, this phrasing is the exact issue. Greenwashing is a noticeable modern trend that can be seen in marketing strategies where certain ambiguous keywords such as “green,” “sustainable,” “biodegradable,” and others are used to attract young, optimistic consumers.
For instance, “sustainable” technically does not have a concrete definition since the word encompasses numerous complex processes that are not limited to the typical ethical decisions one thinks of when saying this word. Greenwashing techniques include using ambiguous terms to further entice younger generations to feel less guilty about their excessive consumption because they believe they are purchasing sustainably even though it is often not the case. For instance, according to Earth Org and Norwegian Customer Authority, a prime example of greenwashing terminology is H&M’s “green” clothing line, “Conscious,” released in 2019. H&M received backlash after they claimed they used organic and recycled materials while utilizing typically environmentally friendly yet ambiguous terms which are misleading regarding their true capitalist goal. Ignorance is bliss, they say.
As hyperconsumerism picks up around the holiday season, companies soften up their ads with soothing, and not fully honest, promises of sustainability; however, the individual never notices, too busy living in their bubble with their illusionary self-control. Many big brand-name such as H&M companies will not only incentivize their customers but will also use tactics to avoid the guilty feeling that comes with excessive consumption.These reward systems can range from “take-back schemes,” where they will promote the exchange of unused clothes for vouchers, which is “green,” to empty promises that any clothes donated for vouchers will be donated to the less fortunate and charities, when in reality this fake illusion of recycling is simply the facade that fast fashion hides behind as they continuously contribute to the world’s growing landfills.
The grass is not always greener on the other side
As landfills fill up with the unnecessary purchases people make each year to fuel not only their desires but also capitalism, the planet is being destroyed one click at a time. Although many people argue that online shopping is better for the environment than traditional shopping, this is not the case, as pollution emissions spike and rise every year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Transport & Environment, the 2022 week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday produced 94% more CO2 than the average week. Along with that idea, many companies will create a vivid story about reducing carbon footprints when, in reality, it is just a marketing strategy to influence and target younger generations. Clearly, not all companies disregard sustainability in their practices. For example, in the fashion industry—one of the most targeted by Black Friday—companies such as Patagonia and Allbirds have proof that a merger between good environmental practices and profitable business is possible. Nevertheless, these are not consumers’ favorite stores on Black Friday, as we usually run to more commercial and fast-fashion brands such as Zara, Pull & Bear, and Stradivarius.
As consumers, we need to start demanding companies disclose their sustainability practices in terms of materials, manufacturing, transportation, product use, etc. By being aware of these, we can try to change our consumption patterns, combating the current green ploy that aims to exploit ignorant yet blissfully unaware consumers looking for their yearly dose of retail therapy.
Living in color
In today’s world, it truly is a challenge to attempt to live completely green, as the word connotes. It is the reason we all must live in color. Recognize that we are not simply one color, but a mosaic of them that make up the spectrum of life. We must learn to live life in the least environmentally negative way possible while each doing our part to tend to our dying planet. This includes changing out consumption patterns, specially on dates such as Christmas and Black Friday. Each action counts, but only as a collective. Whether it is actually buying sustainable products you have looked into, walking or biking rather than driving, or just making sure you are informed about the harmful effects advertisements and social media have on your life and the planet’s, we can all work together to give “sustainable” and “green” a true meaning.
Featured cover image: Soap Images (Environmental activists protest against greenwashing in Amsterdam in 2021)