Green Shopping on Black Friday

American consumers love a good deal but that should also include a gooddeal for the environment. Although the environmental impact of all theBlack Friday shopping is huge, there are many things that can be done to radically reduce this footprint while supporting greener offerings.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, has come to be known as Black Friday, a daythat heralds the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season.However, it is also the start of the most environmentally destructiveshopping period of the year.

Some may opt to make gifts, othersmay opt to avoid shopping altogether, but if you are going to shop, itis possible to make more environmentally aware choices. It is better tobuy durable high quality, well-made items that are made usingsustainably sourced materials and have very little or no packaging.Supporting companies that either make or sell eco-products and employsustainable business practices is also a good way of advancing the green economy.

For the last few years, we have witnessed a positive trend in green shopping practices. According to a 2007 survey done by Conservation International, two out of five people would rather receive a "green" gift than a traditional one. Out of the 1,000consumers surveyed by the group, women were more interested in goinggreen, with 62% preferring to give and receive environmentally friendlygoods. Seventeen percent of consumers surveyed say they will shop atretailers they perceive as greener. The same study also found that 44percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for green gifts–between 10 and 25 percent more.

According to this study, 38 percent ofconsumers say they will use fewer plastic bags while 21 percent areplanning on not wrapping holiday gifts to conserve paper. More thanone-third of consumers saying they will shop more online and in catalogs this year in order to save on gas.

Another 2007 study indicated that nearly one in five consumers (18%) were planning topurchase more eco-friendly products this holiday season than in thepast, and a similar number (17%) are willing to pay more for greengifts, according to Deloitte’s annual survey of holiday spending andretail trends. About one-third of survey respondents also say they willuse fewer plastic bags, and one in five will consider not wrappingholiday gifts to conserve paper.

These responses were consistentacross gender, age, and income groups, indicating that environmentalconcerns have become more mainstream among consumers.

To be amore ecologically responsible shopper, look for products that are vetted by a reputable third-party government or non-profit certificationprogram. When buying electronics make sure they have the Energy Starlabel, try to buy Organic, Fair Trade and Conflict Free products. Whenbuying wood products or books look for the Forest Stewardship Council(FSC) label.

According to Greenbiz, "a number of groups, ranging from the federal government to nonprofitsto research groups, are jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon tellingshoppers in effect, if you have to shop, shop for green goods."

For comparative assessments of products see Climate Counts’ ratings. The "Striding Shopper campaign" (also taking place on Facebook) highlights some of the greenest companies in their fields (see chart).

Consumers are considering the environmental impact of the products they buy.Capitalism may have created a high standard of living in America, butsocial capitalism will help to create a more humane world and a greenereconomy.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.



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