Amazon has been an extremely important player in e-commerce ever since its beginning in 1995 as a website that exclusively sold books. Although the company has travelled quite a distance since then and is an accessible platform that everyone uses today, it is home to a large number of controversies. These include the unfair working conditions for employees, their reliance on non-renewable resources of energy, and general lack of transparency and follow-through when it comes to keeping promises about improving their impact on the world. In early October, an investigation conducted by CBC’s Marketplace also found that many of the products that users of Amazon had returned, ended up in landfills despite still being completely intact and unaffected by any damage.
With Black Friday coming up during a time when it is dangerous to go to malls because of the crowds and the chaos, online shopping is the solution most people will turn to. As tempting as it is to use Amazon for the fast deliveries on Prime and the expert customer service that they pride themselves on, there are alternatives that are kinder to the planet and to the people who create the products you love. These options are also less likely to leave you feeling guilty about the impact that your purchase had.
- Forget the third-party, go to the main seller
An easy way to get the products you have on your Amazon wishlist without actually paying on the same platform, is to go to the website for the original seller and purchase it there instead. The prices are usually the same, even with Black Friday discounts, and you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are dealing directly with the home platform of the product.
For some companies that sell exclusively on Amazon, this is not possible to do, since they use the website as their primary marketplace. In these cases, evaluate whether you really need the product and if you would buy it even if it was not marked down during this time. If the answer is yes, try to find an alternative that does have its own website. If none of this works out and you really need the product, use Amazon as the very last resort - as long as you have tried every other possibility.
- Support small businesses and independent creators
Websites like Etsy and Redbubble exist specifically as platforms that independent businesses can sell and grow on. If you are looking for gifts that the people in your life will cherish and remember for years to come, explore the works of all the creators who make innovative and unique products that are sure to be special. You can also support local businesses born and raised in Canada, and be sure that you are dealing directly with the people who are putting your order together with their own hands.
Additionally, Etsy is the earliest among online shopping platforms to participate in carbon-offset shipping, which means that, “for any carbon emissions released into our atmosphere as a result of shipping items on Etsy [they] invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions by the same amount”. Redbubble also emphasises sustainable methods with a small carbon footprint and are now on their own journey towards offsetting their carbon emissions.
- Second hand products deserve love too
If you love the feeling of buying discounted clothes during the onslaught of Black Friday sales and, like me, live for the thrill of getting a good deal on an incredible piece, you may frequent thrift stores. However, it is not currently safe to do so. An alternate to this would be to move online for stores that sell previously loved and owned products. For clothing this would mean websites like thredUP and Depop. thredUP is a consignment store that sells second hand clothes and shoes that are sometimes incredible finds from high end brands. Depop, on the other hand, is a website where individuals can sell and price their own clothing and accessories, and is known for its large selection of streetwear. This typically means that the clothes on Depop are a lot more expensive than thredUP, especially when taking into account shipping costs. However, since thredUP is a lot more brand specific, sellers who send their clothes to the company to get consigned tend to make very limited amounts of money. Still, either choice helps sustainable fashion and are environmentally friendly ways to scratch that itch to buy something.
- You can always choose not to buy anything
This might be an extremely radical approach, but as online shopping becomes more mainstream, it is increasingly easy to spend a reasonable amount of money on material things that make us happy as soon as we feel down. But this is not necessarily true - that happiness is momentary. The ability to make products reach us faster is also having an adverse reaction on the environment because that speed is only achieved through less efficient processes. Like I mentioned earlier, Amazon has a tendency to not be transparent about their harmful actions against their employees and the planet, and not buying anything would be a great way to stand in solidarity with the folks that protest this while simultaneously saving your own money.