Alternatives to Amazon – Environmentally and Socially Responsible Holiday Retailers!
The holidays are approaching, and like many Americans, you will probably purchase a gift for a friend or family member online. As a proud Green American, however, you may be wondering how the company synonymous with online shopping, Amazon, ranks in terms of sustainability and social responsibility. We did some research on the issue, and found that by most corporate standards, Amazon does poorly in these fields.
For the past year, Green America and its allies have been pressing Amazon to take action on climate change. In response, Amazon has taken two significant steps: it hired Kara Hurst, the former CEO of the Sustainability Consortium, as its first-ever sustainability director, and it revealed that the company has a goal of using 100% renewable energy to power its servers. However, unlike competitors that have announced a transition to renewable energy Amazon does not provide a timeline for the transition and has made no real commitments to clean energy. Amazon’s data centers burn an ever-growing amount of energy generated by dirty fossil sources, and Greenpeace ranks them among the worst in transparency, infrastructure siting, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas mitigation, and renewable energy investment and advocacy.
Despite hiring a sustainability executive with an impressive resume this year, Amazon currently has no published sustainability report, at a time when almost every other Fortune 500 company publishes such a report. The company also once again declined to respond to the Carbon Disclosure Project, which provides a system for companies to measure, disclose, and manage environmental information, which would serve as a first step in understanding and reducing Amazon’s carbon emissions.
In addition to their dismal environmental record, Amazon demonstrates a lack of commitment to social responsibility. The company actively fought against state efforts to collect sales taxes in 2012 (Amazon’s brick and mortar competitors all have to pay sales taxes, which puts them at a disadvantage). Amazon also has a poor record on workers’ pay and rights. The company actually pays its warehouse workers less than Walmart pays. And, workers allege they aren’t even paid for all of their time on the job. A class action lawsuit has been filed against an Amazon warehouse for failure to pay workers for time it takes at the end of each shift (about 25 minutes) to make sure these workers are not stealing products. The 25 minutes it takes to go through security should be compensated. Warehouse conditions are poor as well. Company warehouses were not equipped with electricity for air conditioning until 2011, leaving workers to toil in 90-degree weather during the summer months.
Fortunately, there are plenty of online holiday shopping options that bear a proud declaration of their commitment to people and the planet. Products ranging from books to toys to apparel made with environmentally friendly production methods, fair-trade partners, and clean energy can be shipped to your door, guilt-free. H
ave a look at our Amazon Alternatives Holiday Shopping Guide below to find a gift that your loved ones will cherish, and the planet will thank you for. Many of the businesses listed are certified members of our Green Business Network, so you know they are responsible companies.
Amazon Alternatives Holiday Shopping Guide
Cool Green Fact
|Powell’s powells.com||Books, Audio Books, DVDs||Operates a fleet of biodiesel-powered trucks, purchases wind power, and generates electricity from solar panels on their roof.|
|Better World Books betterworldbooks.com||Books, e-books, DVDs||By circulating previously owned merchandise,has recycled over 216 million pounds of books and offset 44,000 tons of carbon emissions.|
|Viva Terra vivaterra.com||Eco home décor, accessories,artisan goods||Offers a wide range of organic, all-natural, fair-trade, artisan-made, recycled, chemical-free products, all made in the USA.|
|Etsy etsy.com||Artisan-made crafts, jewelry, art||Connects shoppers directly with sellers of artisan-made crafts, jewelry, and art. Robust environmental reporting program ensures the company minimizes their resource use and carbon footprint.|
|Ten Thousand Villagestenthousandvillages.com||Fair Trade arts and crafts, jewelry, music, food||Handmade art, jewelry, and textiles are focused on providing equitable returns to artisans in developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.|
|Ebay ebay.com||Used goods galore — hundreds ofcategories||Largest online engine for reuse on the planet; allows people to sell items they own and aren’t using, reducing demand for new manufactured goods and landfill space.|
|Terra Experience terraexperience.com||Fair Trade Mayan arts and crafts||Supports environmental education in supplier countries, uses energy efficient technologies, post-consumer recycled paper, hybrid vehicles, and website hosted by 100% wind power.|
|Worldfinds worldfinds.com||Fair Trade gifts||All products are handmade, often locally, and are shipped using recycled paper, packaging material, and boxes.|
|Indigenous indigenous.com||Fair Trade/Eco Clothing||Makes high-quality clothing honoring both the people and the planet from natural and organic fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, alpaca, and Tencel; committed to using environmentally-friendly dyes.|
|Maggie’s Organics maggiesorganics.com||Fair Trade, organic clothing||All clothes are made with certified organic fibers, fair labor practices, using low-carbon production methods.|
|Equal Exchange equalexchange.coop||Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate||Imports organic coffee, tea, chocolates, candy bars, cocoa, sugar, nuts, cereal bars, bananas, and olive oil. Helps sustain 75 farmer co-ops in 30 countries.|
|Green Pages Online greenpages.org||Everything green—home décor, clothing, jewelry and beyond. Thousands of great gift ideas!||The over 3,000 businesses listed on GreenPages.org have undergone a rigorous certification for social and environmental sustainability.|
|Designates a certified member of Green America’s Green Business Network®|