Could Amazon Be an Agent for Positive Change?

 Photo by JohnsonGoh on Pixabay

Photo by JohnsonGoh on Pixabay

If you've had your head in the sustainability world for a while, you probably have a general wariness of big businesses.  Watching companies like Amazon become bigger and more powerful may fill you with fear.  If you happen to be of the opinion that Amazon is evil and dangerous, it may be because:

  • Amazon can now sell you virtually any product you can think of
  • Amazon has power to ship products around the world within days
  • All this shipping burns fossil fuels
  • Many of the items shipped daily have short life spans and will soon be in a landfill
  • Most of these items arrive in excessive packaging (often also derived from fossil fuels), which will also end up in a landfill
  • Amazon continues to collect data on all its customers which gives it power to predict and influence their next purchases
  • Amazon is growing exponentially with no sign of stopping

If you believe that Amazon is the doorway to hell, I get it, and to an extent, I agree.  But here's the thing...

Amazon Is Happening Whether We Like It or Not 

I'm not saying that we should throw in the towel and just succumb to Amazon's control over our minds and our lives.  My focus these days has been on generally buying less stuff altogether, which has enabled me to mostly say no to the allure of Amazon.  When I'm inspired to buy, it's usually in brick-and-mortar shops, and I'm usually buying products that are packaged in recyclable or compostable materials. 

But what if I lived somewhere that I couldn't find, say, a bamboo toothbrush in a brick and mortar shop?  I would have to make a choice between buying a toothbrush that will go to a landfill, or having a compostable toothbrush shipped to me, likely boxed with plastic air pocket packaging.  And, wouldn't you know it, Amazon sells bamboo toothbrushes.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to request packaging from Amazon that was made of biodegradable and post-consumer recycled materials?  Or, even better, what if Amazon could filter products that are zero-waste friendly, to help me shop in accordance with my values and lifestyle, and ensure that they are packaged minimally and sustainably?  

Potential for positive impact

In fact, there are a few people who are trying to make this change happen, and there are two petitions circulating on change.org in an effort to persuade Amazon to use its considerable power to be a positive force for the environment.  Frances C. is petitioning Amazon to adopt "waste-free" packaging, and has over 95k signatures so far.  Madison MacLeod has gone a step further and given specific recommendations for "Amazon Zero Waste".

A Zero Waste Option on Amazon?

Madison's suggestions for this new niche include:

  • A Zero Waste shopping option

    • Just as the consumer can click to select “Prime Only” in their searches, providing a Zero Waste option could give them the choice to search for and purchase products with minimal packaging made out of sustainable materials.
  • Sustainable packaging

    • Compostable peanuts and 100% post-consumer recycled paper as packing material
    • 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard boxes

Sign the Petitions

Frances C.'s petition here and Madison MacLeod's here.  

Amazon may be unavoidable, but trashing the planet isn't.  We have the power to choose how often we support big businesses like Amazon, and to ask for sustainable options when we do.