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Black Friday has a carbon emissions problem

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Online retail is set to soar when the shopping binge known as Black Friday deals hits our screens end of November.

Many brands and stores are expected to start e-commerce sales well before November 27th, following a dire year of plummeting profits for the UK high street.

But all those orders will require shipping, with Black Friday expected to cause a surge in vehicle emissions, according to a report from price comparison website money.co.uk.

With many shoppers avoiding brick and mortar retailers during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the November lockdown could inspire a boom for online retail. This year’s Black Friday is expected to be the biggest ever, reports the BBC, but delivery of each order generates carbon dioxide causing a spike in emissions.

The surge in demand in such a short time space overloads the capacity of firms to deliver in the ‘normal’ way. Many people expect next day deliveries, so companies have to hire in extra drivers using their own vehicles, which are often much less efficient. Research from Climate Lab found that rush deliveries tend to use more diesel vehicles and be less efficiently organised than slower couriers, creating larger CO2 emissions.

For many shoppers, delivery emissions are not top of mind

Money.co.uk’s survey suggested 21 percent of people shopping online expect delivery to be cheaper on Black Friday, 55 percent expect the same, and 3 percent expect an increase. The remaining 21 percent of people didn’t think about delivery fees when ordering online.

With 85 percent of UK consumers planning to shop for Black Friday deals, just one in 10 said they considered the impact of their deliveries on the environment.

The Black Friday Problem

Professor Greg Marsden from Leeds University transport confirmed to the BBC the expectations of a Black Friday carbon dioxide surge. “The Black Friday problem is that retailers are creating a huge peak in demand which needs to be met immediately,” he said. “There’s the same issue with deliveries of chocolates and flowers when it comes to Mother’s Day.”

In America, the U.S. Post Office estimates to deliver over 15 billion items of mail and 900 million packages between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Many of these items will be delivered after purchases on Black Black Friday and ensuing Cyber Monday.

Last year Black Friday’s environmental impact sparked worldwide protests. A hike in taxes, however, could curb carbon emissions. According to the Revolution Foundation environmental tax changes are needed to help move towards a ‘net zero’ UK, even if they are unlikely to raise significant additional net revenue for the Treasury.

What can consumers do? Buying items together, ordering from fewer stores and buying local will greatly reduce your carbon footprint. Not selecting next day delivery from online giants such as Amazon will help too.

Article source: BBC; Image via Pexels

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