12 Greener Options Than Amazon

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Like many, you probably shop online. Amazon.com is the world’s largest retailer and is synonymous with online shopping. 55% of shoppers in the U.S. turn to Amazon as their first stop. In 2014, we first dug into the company’s record on environmental and social responsibility and found Amazon.com to be performing poorly across the board–from dirty energy to worker exploitation. While Amazon has responded to consumer pressure by adopting more renewable energy, it is still a laggard on environmental and labor issues.

Choosing to spend money wisely, in ways that support our value, can have a major impact. This year, if you are shopping online, consider one of these alternatives.

Greener Options than Amazon

Company

Products

How They’re Green

Powells Books, Audio Books, DVDs Operates a fleet of biodiesel-powered trucks, purchases wind power, and generates electricity from solar panels on their roof.
BWB Books, Audiobooks, eBooks, Textbooks, DVDs, CDs By offering previously-owned merchandise BWB has recycled and re-used over 250k tons of books and offset 44k tons of carbon emissions.Member of the Green Business Network
vivaterra Home Décor, Accessories, Artisan Goods Offers a wide range of organic, fair trade, recycled, and chemical-free products, made by artisans in more than 20 countries, including the U.S. Member of the Green Business Network
etsy Crafts, Jewelry, Art By sorting for “handmade” consumers can connect directly with artisans around the world to purchase their products.
villages Fair trade Arts and Crafts, Jewelry, Music, Food Handmade jewelry and textiles provide equitable returns to artisans in developing countries.Member of the Green Business Network
ebay Used Goods — hundreds of categories Largest online engine for reuse on the planet; allows people to sell items they own and are not using, reducing demand for new manufactured goods and landfill space.
terra  Fair Trade Arts and Crafts Supports environmental education in Mayan communities, uses post-consumer recycled paper, hybrid vehicles, and website hosted by 100% wind power.Member of the Green Business Network
worldfinds Fair Trade Gifts & Textiles All products are handmade, often locally, and are shipped using recycled paper, packaging material, and boxes.Member of the Green Business Network
indigenous Fair Trade/Eco Clothing Makes high-quality clothing from natural and organic fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, and alpaca; committed to using environmentally-friendly dyes.Member of the Green Business Network
maggies Fair Trade, Organic Clothing Uses certified organic fibers, purchased directly from growers. Fair labor practices are in place through all stages of production, and manufacturing is limited to North & South America to reduce carbon usage.Member of the Green Business Network
EE  Fair Trade Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Gifts Sources from over 40 small farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States.Member of the Green Business Network

Dunitz logo

Fair trade jewelry, gifts Fair trade jewelry made from new and recycled materials, made using fair trade practices in Guatemala.Member of the Green Business Network
Member of the Green Business Network Designates a certified member of Green America’s Green Business Network®

Amazon’s Sustainability Record:

Environment

Amazon uses huge amounts of electricity and most of the company’s energy comes from coal-fired power plants. In 2015, in response to mounting public pressure, including our Build A Cleaner Cloud campaign, Amazon’s hosting company, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it would invest in both solar and wind energy projects. As these projects came online, AWS is now using 50% renewable energy to power its massive network of data centers. The company has committed to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030, but is still behind competitors like Apple and Google. 

However, Amazon’s commitment to a cleaner cloud is being called into question due to its overtures to the fossil fuel sector. Online tech news site Gizmodo published an explosive exposé showing that Amazon is actively courting business from the largest oil and gas companies to put the power of Amazon’s giant servers to work to make it easier to drill for fossil fuels. Amazon aims to make millions or billions of dollars. The resulting climate impacts will exact a huge cost on all the rest of us, in the form of extreme weather, failing crops, and social instability.

In addition, Greenpeace has called into question Amazon's commitment to clean energy in Virginia, where many of Amazon's servers are located, and found that those servers are powered by 12% renewable energy.

Amazon is also still stalling in terms of transparency, refusing to report its energy usage and climate impacts to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Workers

Amazon got a lot of positive press when it increased the minimum wage in its warehouses to $15 per hour, but that move came in response to intense public pressure and hides the reality of working conditions throughout the company's supply chain.

First, while Amazon raised the minimum wage, it cut benefits at the same time. It is difficult to determine if workers are better off overall after the benefits cut and the minimum wage increase, as one of the benefits that was cut was giving workers stock in the company. 

Second, Amazon warehouse workers labor under brutal conditions. Workers in Amazon’s “Fulfillment Centers” (warehouses) have been found to work non-stop on their feet in non-air conditioned buildings. These same workers are forced to sign 18-month non-compete agreements, which prevent them from finding other similar work, should they be let go. The author Simon Head concluded when it comes to labor practices, “Amazon is worse than Walmart.”

Just recently, a warehouse worker died while working in Amazon’s warehouse. Amazon waited 20 minutes before calling for help and demanded other workers immediately go back to work, granting workers no time to process the loss of their co-worker, and this is not the first time this type of incident has occurred. NYCOSH recently published a great report on the negative health effects of Amazon’s high daily quotas for warehouse workers.

Third, Amazon uses many contract workers to deliver its packages, and these workers are paid by the number of packages delivered, which creates incentives for overwork and unsafe driving. This summer, an Amazon contract driver killed a woman.

Fourth, concerns have been raised regarding the overseas labor that manufactures Amazon's devices.  Workers are not being protected from toxins, and reports have found underage workers in Amazon factories. 

Finally, even white collar workers are not protected. The New York Times’ explosive expose on Amazon’s white-collar workers revealed that while employees at Amazon’s Headquarters may earn a great deal, they are often subjected to a ruthless working environment. Current and former employees conveyed tales of working for four days without sleeping, developing ulcers from stress, never seeing their families, even being fired for having cancer or a miscarriage and needing time to recover. 

Corporate Citizenship

Like many corporate behemoths, Amazon has a history of shielding profits overseas, and for years, it fought against charging sales tax on its products. In 2018, Amazon paid $0 in taxes on $11 billion in profits. 

Amazon has also been spending money to influence local politics.  The company has spent money to defeat a tax on large companies in Seattle where the proceeds would help address the homeless crisis.

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