Is shopping on Amazon sustainable? No… but it can be. The way most Prime members shop on the site is not sustainable to our planet. Rushed shipping is detrimental to our climate. Amazon is aware and committed to fixing this issue. Are you ready to change your settings? Whether you make 1 of these changes or all 5 you will be shrinking your footprint. Here’s how to shop Amazon sustainably.
For a longer read on Amazon becoming sustainable, click here.
1. Click ‘Add to Cart’
Forgo the ‘Buy Now’ Feature. DO NOT click that button! Use the ‘Add to Cart’ button instead. This prevents so many issues and is the only way to shop Amazon sustainably because only in the shopping cart will you be able to make the other changes.
- This button automatically creates single orders per product in which you click that button. If you sit down to buy 5 things using that button- it is likely to ship in 5 different packages.
- Amazon does it’s best in combining pending orders from one account that are stocked in the same Fulfillment center. These orders are the epitome of rushed; pending fulfillment automatically and most of the time entering the ‘shipping soon’ stage within 30 minutes.
- At that point the order cannot be cancelled or changed- even from Amazon’s end. If the settings are incorrect it will be sent to the wrong address, charge the wrong card, etc.
- This causes so many replacements/sometimes returns or refusal intercepts to carriers/ charge disputes etc. The last effect not being a sustainability factor.
The ‘Buy Now’ feature creates a larger carbon footprint. The emissions double from it being set up incorrectly. And even more emissions are wasted by not combining products and orders to one box.
2. Choose to ship your order in the ‘fewest possible packages’.
Forgo the default ‘ship items as they become available’ so your items can ship all together.
- Shopping sustainably online will always require attention to packaging. By choosing this option you are saving both material and added emissions from multiple carriers/routes.
- Part of the reason I shop on Amazon is because they have EVERYTHING, it limits me buying from multiple online stores. The idea being- I can have it ship all together. Only by choosing this option does it allow me to shop Amazon sustainably. If my order requires 3 separately shipped packages, I might as well buy the items from 3 local stores.
- Another way to limit extra packaging is to let packages that ‘reveal what is inside’ to ship AS IS. Most of us are home at this point anyway, with COVID, no need to worry if passersby can see you ordered a TV or generator. You can retrieve it upon delivery. If it’s a gift, I understand… like for holidays etc
- If you’re super committed committed then you can still have them ship it AS IS during holiday season; send it to a counter or locker pick-up to keep the secret. This ensures you will have the item, no ‘marked delivered/ not received’ issues AND you can typically get them 24 hours a day. Counter locations are places like CVS or Rite Aid and require ID.
When checking out, select this preference in the shipping and payment options- stage 2 of check out. You can also edit the shipping preference after the order is placed, before it ships. By default, orders are set to ship as each item becomes available.
3. Opt for ‘No Rush’ shipping
Amazon wants members to shop sustainably. The online store incentivizes customers to choose standard shipping at checkout.
- They will reward Prime members with digital credits for: movies, music and e-books. Otherwise, they will add a discount to the current item being purchased or a future order. Click here to check your ‘No Rush’ Rewards balance. Non-Prime members get ‘free shipping’ by selecting the delivery date with standard shipping speeds.
- This was the original benefit of Prime, and the reason many people pay for this membership- no worries you can still get the value paid for. This membership includes much more than free 2 day shipping. Prime Video alone costs $8.99/month to stream and then even just 1 package shipped at standard speeds would save $7.99 (under $25 order). Or if you don’t watch the shows, 2 slow packages shipped free of charge would also more than equal the expense. *There are like 15 benefits in total!
This one is simple enough, when you are in the checkout process you can pick the shipping speed on the same shipment page as the above, step 2 in completing your order. For non-Prime members, this is the FREE option that does not include the Prime Trial. And for Prime members this is the ‘No Rush’ option.
4. Shop the Pantry for household items
Pantry is a department on the site that carries regular household/ consumable items- i.e. toothpaste, snacks, cleaning supplies… etc at a discounted rate. The catch is …Prime members have to have a Pantry subtotal of $35 to get free shipping and for orders under $35 and non-Prime members there is a $5.99 flat rate shipping fee.
- These are low value items that would cost more to ship than the item itself. The way Pantry is set up ensures the items will ship in one box- thus it is more sustainable shopping option
- The prices are better for the same items you might order through Prime. *The platform will parse your cart to categorize the items.
To shop Pantry items only, use the dropdown option on the search bar (desktop) and select Amazon Pantry. Then search per usual. Or on a phone follow the steps below.
5. Shop Amazon’s Circular Economy
To create a circular economy within Amazon they offer Second Chance deals. This is a way customers can score ‘used’ items with steep discounts as well as sell their own items to be refurbished and sold again. All of these items are still backed by Amazon. A closed Economy is the most sustainable; it’s a zero waste goal.
Buying Used items on Amazon
- When you are shopping, the product page will reveal if there is a ‘used’ option in a tiny link that says ‘Used and New (#) from (price)’.
- For tech devices the little link will show ‘Certified Refurbished and Used (price)’.
- Click ‘All buying options’ and select ‘see more’ under the price point you are interested in. Here there is an actual description listed in the ‘condition’. it goes beyond the ‘Used- very good’ subjective claim.
- To shop all warehouse deals- just type ‘warehouse deals’ in the search bar and browse by category. You can also search ‘open box’.
Sometimes items are marked $100 off because it is missing a pack of screws. You can buy a box of the SAME screws at Lowes for $10. The discount is a % from the original tag.
When buying any used goods or warehouse items you can check the description information to see why the item is discounted; what’s wrong with it …and remember you can still return it within 30 days in case something is substantially wrong that wasn’t noted.
Device Recycling and Selling to Amazon
Amazon offers Device Recycling and also will pay you for certain Trade-in’s. Most Amazon devices are eligible to trade-in and some other sellers will buy non-Amazon devices, too. If you are trading in a device to be refurbished make sure you deactivate it on your Amazon Device list.
More importantly, it is not safe to throw certain items in the trash… so properly recycling devices (ie. lithium batteries) is ESSENTIAL. Let Amazon help! They have a recycling center that can properly process these types of items and will provide a prepaid label for you to ship them there.
*Extra!* Complete your order on the Smile browser.
Most people know about AmazonSmile, the charitable aspect of shopping on Amazon but most people don’t actually order properly and no donations are made. Did you know if you are not using the smile.amazon.com browser- i.e. shopping on the App, then you are NOT actually donating to your selected charity? It’s true. You can even check under ‘Your AmazonSmile’ setting at the VERY bottom of the settings list to see how much you have donated in total.
If it says $0.00, here is what you need to do.
Steps to guarantee contributions
- First, make sure you have Smile set up with an organization you would like to contribute to. Go to www.smile.amazon.com and click on the 3 lines in the corner. Scroll ALL THE WAY to the bottom where it says ‘Your AmazonSmile’. Here you can pick your charity- use the ‘change your charity’ link.
- Here is a list of participating Foundations categorized; Racial Equality, Animal Welfare, and Planet Sustainability.
- Choose a foundation that is studying ways to fight climate change, an organization committed to reforestation, or a company that teaches younger generations on changes they can make to live a more sustainable life. I listed Racial Justice organizations, too. Because without community and evolution we cannot sustain the planet.
- Then make sure you always go to: smile.amazon.com to complete your checkout process. You can add EVERYTHING to your cart on the App from Amazon.com but just go to smile.amazon.com to place the order. And then you can still use the app to track it.
- There is no added cost and your login details are the same. The only thing that matters is you complete the order on the Smile browser.
- Create a shortcut on your phone in the settings on your browser. Once you are on the Smile page, click on the 3 dots (Google Chrome) and select ‘Add to Home Screen’. This will create a specific shortcut/ app like option on your phone to keep it simple.
For every order you place on the browser, Amazon donates 0.5% of the total to your chosen organization. As of August 2020, all charities on Smile have together received a total of $198,636,544.70 in donations from customers shopping on this browser. My organization (a national foundation) has received $94,943.96… and it will even tell you how much in total you contributed yourself to the organization by shopping Smile.
Are you looking for the Amazon of Sustainability Stores?
Look no further… check out EarthHero. < That link will always give you a 5% discount on your total. They also give you 10% off your first order and 15% deals occur around holidays. I will link a post of my favorite finds here as soon as I compile a list. The site isn’t as user- friendly and there are hundreds of pages of well vetted sustainable and ethically sourced goods; From yoga pants to kitchen and household gadgets. They have it all! I am still getting used to browsing the site and have already made 3 orders- all 5 stars!
If you shop Amazon, use an above tip; shop online sustainably!