11 Alternatives to Amazon for Online Holiday Shopping

With the holidays around the corner, you are likely starting to think about ways to appreciate friends and family by giving them a gift. Like many Americans—if you choose to purchase gifts—you are likely to buy some online. Consumer surveys indicate 57 percent of Americans plan to shop online this year. Amazon.com is the world’s largest retailer and is synonymous with online shopping. 44% of online 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.

With Amazon’s most important time of the year for sales on the horizon, we’re taking another look at Amazon’s sustainability practices and have also updated our popular Alternatives to Amazon Guide to Online Shopping. 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.

Amazon Alternatives Holiday Shopping Guide

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 ofcategories 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 exp  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
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 come online, AWS will be able to use greater amounts of renewable energy to power its massive network of data centers, which currently run on a steady diet of mostly fossil fuels.

The company has committed to move to 100% renewable energy, however, it has yet to announce a deadline for this goal. Amazon is also still stalling in terms of transparency, refusing to report its energy usage to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Workers:

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.

Beyond the individuals working at Amazon’s HQ in Seattle, a massive global network of people support Amazon’s operations around the word as contractors and temporary workers. 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 now being 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.”

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.  These are just two ways that the Amazon has benefited against brick and mortar companies and small businesses.  Just last week, after years of under-cutting the prices of independent, local book stores and driving many out of business, Amazon announced its first ever brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle. This may seem like an odd move for an online company, but then again, as the movement for buying local is growing in the US, and as Amazon faces much less competition in the bookstore business thanks to its own success at selling books online, it’s actually a no-brainer. The Huffington Post shares more about Amazon’s ironic move and its history of undercutting other business.

1 Comment »

  1. Amazon Web Services has a mind-boggling roster of clients, including universities, governments, multinational corporations, and well-known startups. No doubt some of these entities have progressive environmental policies. Ensuring that these entities are aware of AWS’s environmental record could lead them to demand changes from AWS. No one has greater leverage with AWS than its large clients. Ensuring that students at universities that are AWS clients (UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, Stanford, University of Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State, NYU, Harvard, University of Chicago, Penn, and many others) could be a highly effective organizing tactic. So could informing the citizens of some of the progressive government entities that utilize AWS — King County, City of Asheville, City of Chicago. Some of the progressive nonprofits that utilize AWS — Democratic National Committee, Change.org, Global Crop Diversity Trust, JustGiving, and several healthcare organizations – probably do not realize that AWS has a poor environmental record. AWS proudly lists many of its clients on its website: https://aws.amazon.com/ and links therein.

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