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November 2019: This is what Black Friday looked like before the pandemic.
Last year, the bargain hunters preferred to storm the net.
Corona has caused an overall online shopping boom: In 2020, the volume of parcel, express and courier shipments grew by almost eleven percent compared to the previous year, by a double-digit figure for the first time in the past two decades.
Germans are particularly fond of ordering clothing and electrical and electronic products online.
And in stationary retail, too, despite the lockdown, sales figures have risen.
Constantly new cell phone models, fashion collections and the hunt for discounts: the carbon footprint of this consumer behavior is terrifying.
We have calculated them using a smartphone as an example.
Smartphones contain dozens of raw materials, including aluminum, cobalt and gold, which have to be laboriously extracted.
They are rarely made from recycled materials.
Around 57 kilograms of CO2 equivalents, or CO2e for short, are emitted in the manufacture of smartphones.
This is a unit of measurement that makes the effect of all greenhouse gases on the climate comparable.
Two kilograms of CO2 equivalents are produced when the smartphone is transported, although online trading can be more environmentally friendly than buying it at a physical location. For example, if you drive five kilometers to a shop, this is reflected in the CO2e account with an average of 850 grams, according to the Federal Environment Agency. Online ordering, on the other hand, would only have produced around 300 grams of CO2 equivalents. However, this does not include storage and possible returns.
Electronic devices also cause CO2 emissions through their use.
The power consumption of a smartphone alone can cause around eleven kilos of CO2e during its service life.
Then there is the data transfer: If you calculate with four hours of video streaming (62 kilos of CO2e per year), ten photos for social networks (one kilo of CO2e per year), two hours of voice assistant (two kg of CO2e per year) and a gigabyte backup (eleven Kilos of CO2e per year), you get 76 kilos of CO2 equivalents per year.
Many smartphones are already obsolete after 2.5 years, so they need a new one.
Recycling or repairs are feasible, but time-consuming.
It is not uncommon for the old device to end up in the drawer or in the garbage.
In 2019, every German produced 19.4 kilos of electronic waste.
The disposal of a smartphone alone can cause several hundred grams of CO2 equivalents per year.
If you add up all the greenhouse gas emissions a smartphone incurs from manufacture to use to disposal, you get around one hundred kilos of CO2e per year over a three-year period of use.
This is only a very small part of the total carbon footprint, but a significant amount of carbon dioxide could be saved by using the devices for longer.
One year alone would bring the EU CO2 savings of more than two million tons - that's as much as taking a million cars off the road.
So even on Black Friday the question shouldn't be: do I buy something online or in a store?
But: do I really need a new smartphone?
Maybe the old one still does.