What Is The Environmental Impact Of Black Friday?

23 Nov 2023

As businesses and even as individuals, we spend much of the year thinking about how to lower our emissions to become more climate-conscious.

Yet, all of that seems to go out of the window when Black Friday rolls around. The American retail holiday which has since been adopted elsewhere generates £8.74bn in sales in the UK alone - but at what cost to the planet? 

It’s a simple fact that being encouraged to purchase as much stuff as possible goes against the basic need to protect the planet from the looming threat of climate change.

So before you send that Black Friday Campaign or even consider some impulse 'bargain hunting' yourself - here are the key stats you need to know from the EcoSend team when it comes to Black Friday and the cost to the environment. 

80% Of Items Purchased On Black Friday End Up In Landfill

Whether it’s fridges or gadgets you have your eye on - 80% of items purchased on Black Friday along with the plastic packaging they are wrapped in will be disposed of. Some items will be discarded after just one use. That’s according to research by Green Alliance and Resource Recovery From Waste.

The thing about Black Friday is it encourages us to buy, buy, buy - using clever retail psychology tricks to get us to purchase anything and everything.

As a result, shoppers may be tempted to purchase items they weren’t even considering buying until they were exposed to marketing campaigns for that item. 

Promises of 'amazing deals' don’t always ring true either, with research by Which? finding that only 2% of Black Friday 2023 offers were at their actual cheapest price.

In other words, 98% of the items purchased on Black Friday offer no actual savings

Emissions From Delivery Trucks Are 94% Higher During Black Friday

All those goods bought online during Black Friday need to be delivered. Research by Transport & Environment found that truck CO₂ pollution is up by 94% during the week of Black Friday. This amounts to 1.2 million tonnes of CO₂. 

It added that the extra pollution from this week alone is the equivalent of taking 3,500 return flights between Paris and New York. 

While electric delivery vehicles do exist, Transport & Environment states they account for just 1% of all new delivery vehicles sold.

The current plans are to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and ban the sale of non-zero emission HGVs from 2040. However, with these dates still sometime in the future, it is likely that every Black Friday for the foreseeable will continue to generate these seismic CO₂ emissions just from delivery vehicles alone.

How Many Emails Are Sent On Black Friday? 

When it comes to Black Friday waste and pollution, most people probably wouldn’t think about their online activity including email marketing.

In reality, all data requires energy to be created, stored and shared. So whether you’re watching videos on YouTube, shopping online or opening email campaigns - all of our digital habits have a carbon footprint.

For email specifically, every email sent generates up to 26g of CO₂ depending on its size.

The EcoSend team estimates that for Black Friday 2023, around 50 billion emails will be sent. This is based on our research where we've combined figures from other email providers about their Black Friday email sending statistics. 

So when it comes to the prospect of 50 billion Black Friday email campaigns being sent this year - 26g of potential CO₂ per message soon adds up.

As an email marketing platform ourselves, we’ve decided not to take part in Black Friday. Our systems also run on renewable energy sources to reduce the carbon footprint of campaigns sent through our platform. We’re also planting 500 trees to help offset some of the CO₂ generated by other email providers. 

Do you do any kind of email marketing? Check how much CO₂ your campaigns generate with the EcoSend Email Campaign Carbon Calculator

25% More Waste Is Produced During The Week Of Black Friday

In the United States alone, one million tonnes of extra rubbish is produced in the week which covers Black Friday and Cyber Monday, CNBC reports. This equates to 25% more waste than usual.

While plastic packaging is a problem, much of the waste produced around this time is actually related to gift wrap.

Gift wrapping is also a wasteful issue in the UK, as we bin 108 million rolls or 384,400km worth a year - enough to reach the moon according to GWP Group. 

What Are Some Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Black Friday?

Buy Nothing Day - As the name suggests, Buy Nothing Day involves not caving in to purchase fast fashion or any other impulse purchases on Black Friday. Aptly, Buy Nothing Day falls on the same day as Black Friday, which for 2023 is on the 24th of November.

Giving Tuesday - On the 28th of November it’s Giving Tuesday. The aim of Giving Tuesday is to donate goods such as food or clothes to those in need. You can also give your time to help others, whether you volunteer at a food bank or organise a clean up in your local area.

Practice considered purchasing - Whenever you buy anything (even if it’s not around Black Friday) consider whether you have a genuine need for that item. Also look for products or materials which offer a long lifespan, along with items that don’t just cater to the latest trends. As well as lowering your personal carbon footprint, more thoughtful purchasing can also help you save money over the long run.

EcoSend - Switch To Our Sustainable Email Marketing Platform To Lower The CO₂ Of Your Campaigns ✉️ 🌳

If you’re a business, you might have discovered that emails have a carbon footprint for the first time today after reading this post. 

We know that when it comes to lowering your CO₂ as a business, it can be difficult to know where to start. But when it comes to your email campaigns, switching to EcoSend can instantly lower your emissions. That’s because our systems run on renewable energy sources, and we’ll plant trees on your behalf just for using us.

Try EcoSend for free by signing up for your free trial. 

Have any questions about how EcoSend works, including how we can lower the carbon footprint of your campaigns?

Drop us a message and we’ll be right with you. 

About the author

Rachael O'Flaherty

Content Writer

The email marketing platform for better business

Win new customers, send better email, and make the planet better with every campaign.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

  • Automatic Offsetting

  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

  • Multi-channel Campaigns

  • Drip Campaigns

  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API

The email marketing platform for better business

Win new customers, send better email, and make the planet better with every campaign.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

  • Automatic Offsetting

  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

  • Multi-channel Campaigns

  • Drip Campaigns

  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API