I admit that I am an Amazon addict. Quite a while ago I began using Amazon for pretty much everything but grocery shopping. A big part of my motivation was the blindingly easy way you can get stuff. I felt that I could take some comfort in the belief that Amazon shopping could result in a smaller carbon footprint. When using Amazon, I wasn’t driving my car to shop and with its logistics Amazon would get me my things in hopefully a more ecological way.
I have begun to realize some problems with this strategy.
- I now get very small packages delivered “next day” and that can’t result in a lower carbon footprint. Next day can’t be ecological.
- Amazon does not treat their workers well. My stuff is cheap in part because workers are low-paid and overworked.
- The packaging! Everything seems wrapped in plastic! And the cardboard!
So how can I deal with this?
First, I have to admit that almost any non-Amazon option is going to cost me more in time or money. Of course, it will, because buying from vendors who pay a fair wage, use organic methods and don’t use so much plastic will almost always cost more. I understand that any advice we give should be tempered with the knowledge that there are many folks out there who must count every penny to get through the month. These folks are often overworked (see above about Amazon drivers/workers) and they don’t have a lot of time to shop around.
However, I do have time and I do have enough money. I can change some of my behavior. Doing this, I will hopefully not feel “superior” to those folks who have to struggle harder and don’t have the options I have.
How do I change my behaviour?
One option is to look for “fair trade” products. These are “certified” to provide at least a living wage to the farmers/growers/workers who produce the product I buy. You can Google “Fair Trade '' and the name of the product you need. For the most part these products will be foods, crafts and such. Great for tea, coffee, clothing and gifts. This won’t get you everything, but it is a step in the right direction. Add the words ``fair trade” to your shopping list on Amazon. That will also help.
Another issue which I have only recently begun to understand is just how bad the “plastics problem” is for our health and for the environment. I often have a very difficult time finding non-plastic heavy options for my purchases. Yes, we can recycle plastics, but recycling is a very inefficient “hit or miss” process. Some estimate that ninty percent of the plastics we have used ends up in landfills. We should continue to recycle, but we also must realize that the real problem is the producers who keep flooding us with plastics. It is very difficult to buy anything without a “plastics boost” in the product itself, in the packaging or in the added packaging from Amazon.
So yes we need to buy less stuff that includes plastics. Yes, we need to recycle. We can also “buy local” from folks that don’t use plastic. But we can’t be distracted in our effort to create new policies that cut the massive flow at its source. We can’t let the folks who are generating all this plastic make this our “sorting problem.” We won’t come anywhere near solving this problem without new policies which reduce the use of plastics. The primary focus must be on the makers. Some companies are moving in the right direction. We need to push others.
That said, I must teach myself how to avoid plastic. That is a big challenge given I can’t buy fruit at the grocery store, a measuring cup or almost anything else without coming face to face with the plastic issue.
We can do this. We just need the will to change and have the faith that tells us that it can be done.
What do you think? How do you address these issues? Send comments below.