It’s no secret that Americans love to shop on Amazon, even when they hate the beast that it’s become. The ability to get everything from a last-minute kangaroo blanket to a travel-sized tube of body wash in 24 hours is nothing short of magical.
It’s so magical, in fact, that an estimated 153 million Americans belong to the site’s Prime service, and a recent analysis by Morgan Stanley found households with the membership spend more than $3,000 a year with Amazon. Even Amazon shoppers that don’t belong to Prime spent about half that much on the site.
At the same time, the eco-guilt about all that packaging and the fossil fuel emissions that go into the delivery process has only grown.
When the holidays or a forgotten birthday roll around, avoiding Amazon feels like Frodo parting with the ring. Partially because we’re addicted to convenience, and partially because it’s nearly impossible not to procrastinate these things when you should know better.
It’s hard to avoid Amazon altogether, and we’re not here to tell people to do so. But we’ve rounded up five tips to feel a little less guilty when you hit that “Add to Cart” button.
- Search for frustration-free packaging.
Type three words — “frustration-free packaging” — into the Amazon search bar and eligible products that are designed to ship without any extra packaging will appear. When we limit the amount of unnecessary packaging that comes with products, the less of it goes to the landfill.
- Shop secondhand.
Take a look at Amazon Second Chance for any products you’re seeking. Buying secondhand supports circularity principles, keeping stuff at its highest value and best use for longer.
- Look for the “sold and shipped by Amazon” label.
When you see those words, the product you’re buying is coming from an Amazon distribution center, not a third-party seller. It may seem counterintuitive, but environmentally, Amazon excels at economies of scale and an item’s footprint is smaller when it’s sold by a large retailer.
- Set up an Amazon Day for deliveries.
Amazon lets Prime members set up to two preferred delivery days during the week. It’s obviously slower than instantaneous, but it helps delivery trucks fill up and it’s far more efficient in the long run. Simply type “Amazon Day” into the search bar to reveal this hack.
- Choose no-rush shipping.
Like the tip above, this one’s all about timing, and it’s the single best thing you can change when you’re shopping on Amazon. How products reach us is the single biggest impact on the environment, and having patience — even if it means shopping a bit earlier for the holidays or birthdays — is a gift to the planet.
To wrap up: The good news is that we can continue to shop online and enjoy the benefits and convenience that sites like Amazon bring. It’s often better than using a car to ferry between several different stores, but the bad news is that we’re currently using these platforms in a sub-optimal way. So stick with the e-retailers, but do so in a thoughtful way. One step forward is better than no step at all.
Lizzie Horvitz is CEO and Founder of Finch, a digital sustainability tool that combines real science with real reviews to rate products’ environmental and social impacts. Recently, the company launched the Finch extension on Chrome, which helps consumers make wiser choices about products they are buying on Amazon. She has been passionate about sustainability since the age of 16 when she lived off the grid — depending only on wind energy and rainwater — where she saw the solution of climate change before fully understanding the problem. Before Finch, Horvitz worked in supply chain and sustainability at Unilever and then became COO at Muuse, a startup that aims to mitigate single-use plastics in the to-go industry. She is on the Global Leadership Council at the Natural Resources Defense Council and was named Greenbiz’s 30 Under 30.