A zero-waste shop and Amazon.com...not two phrases you would put together.
Let alone as a topic for an eco-blog.
Plus as one of the 4 ‘Big Tech’ firms, Amazon is everywhere, getting all the attention, and equally, criticism for its lack of sustainability.
Specifically, the farcical amounts of packaging that come as part of essentially every parcel. Seriously. You order a pillow, or, you could order a pen. The same amount of packaging.
And, yet, did you know?
It is feasible to find zero waste products and therefore, use Amazon as a zero-waste shop.
Read on. I promise not to waste your time
Intro – how does a zero waste shop work?
So, ignoring that pitiful pun, l am going to presume that you know what a zero waste shop is.
If you don’t, simply they are retailers, commerce or e-commerce, who commit to reducing their food and/or packaging to near or fully net-zero.
Since starting out among grocery stores, the concept has exploded since the late-2000s.
But how does a shop go zero waste?
Let’s use a grocery store as an example:
- No plastic: all food is displayed in bulk, while customers bring their own bags or containers. If they don’t, the store can sell them.
- Local Produce: all products on sale will originate from local farmers or producers to minimise transport while supporting local communities
- Check product origins: if a product isn’t or can’t be local, then the store will trace the product’s origins to ensure they are ethical, sustainable and so on
- Backup options: any food or produce unable to be sold or nearing expiration will have an alternative destination, such as food banks
Of course, each retailer will vary, but these are the principle.
How does this relate to Amazon?
Well, the concept and subsequent support for zero-waste are growing.
And Amazon is aware of this.
As with any business, they will spy new opportunities, and this has included establishing their own ‘zero-waste shop’ as part of their many departments.
They also highlight their techniques such as their plastic film recycling in which they hope to save 7000 ton per year.
But that is from the top-down, corporate level.
How can we, as individuals use Amazon as a zero-waste shop?
Now, l will be real here.
Amazon is a success because of how its appeal to us, as consumers.
It has a near-endless range of products, easily accessible and usually at reasonable prices.
- Not everyone, including myself, can afford to buy from high-quality, ethical and zero-waste shops.
- Or for some people, who perhaps live in rural neighbourhoods, they may not even be capable of finding zero-waste products.
At least that for practical day-to-day living. Even with the power of the internet and e-commerce.
We must rely on what works best for our individual circumstances.
There are ways to live sustainably on a budget you can see here.
And so enter Amazon.
But be aware, Amazon is the antithesis of zero-waste and sustainability. At least until they substantially reform their business practices.
Still, as l said, we as individuals can do our part.
Both with improving our own sustainability habits by becoming conscious consumers. And by helping to maximise any usage of Amazon as a zero-waste shop.
Contact Customer Service
During or after purchasing a product off Amazon, you should contact customer service.
This is easy to do now with their chat-boxes.
Once they respond, simply instruct them to highlight your order, or better yet, flag your whole account to avoid excessive packaging and plastic.
I do both. Just to be explicitly clear.
It could go along the lines of:
I am contacting based on the most recent order l made. I’m requesting for this order to have as both as minimal packaging and plastics as possible. This means all materials including bubble wrap, plastic or polystyrene containers and cardboard covers.
I would also like this to be flagged and applied to my entire Amazon account. I appreciate your time.
Of course, the details of this note will vary with each order.
It’s crucial to approach this step as an instruction, not a question.
Because psychology has shown, that if you phrase something as a question instead of statement it leaves room for people to interpret it as non-compulsory.
Which means they won’t do as you request.
I use the same technique when ordering a drink and don’t desire a straw.
So, simply when contacting them, ensure you’re assertive in your tone and it’s more likely they’ll comply.
Inevitably, this isn’t fool-proof.
But l have seen 6 of my last 10 orders packaged without plastic.
So it does work.
Search Amazons Frustration-Free Packaging
Sure, making forts out of cardboard boxes is fun.
But the excessive amount of Amazon is, least for me, infuriating at times. Farcical at others.
Amazon is aware of this, or least heard my outburst because they do provide the Frustration-Free Packaging service.
Essentially, this removes the box-around-a-box thing.
How many times have you ordered something small, say wire cable, only for it to come in a box you could effectively live in?
I mean it’s absurd.
So, by investigating this service you may be able to avoid excessive packaging and use Amazon like other zero-waste stores.
It’s not available for every product.
But its a start.
Use Amazon Warehouse as a zero-waste shop
The Amazon Warehouse you’ve more likely heard of.
Not only will it save on packaging, but it will save you money.
The Warehouse acts as an effective second-hand store, offering discounts, used products and bundles.
The limitation is you cannot tell what condition the product will be as Amazon doesn’t display them like say, eBay.
This isn’t obviously an issue with more traditional zero-waste shops since they are a fraction of the size of Amazon with a fraction of the consumer base.
So, with this l urge caution.
Realistically, only use it for products you know cannot differ greatly in their condition from ‘new’, or ones that are unimportant and you don’t need to be pristine.
Reject 2-day / multi-day shipping
This option might seem a little obvious.
But then you wouldn’t be reading this guide if it did, would you?
Still, you will want to request an order of multiple items to be packaged and sent together.
Understandably, it may well take a couple of days longer.
However, if it is something you urgently need, then you shouldn’t be ordering off Amazon, should you?
And if it’s your only option for that product?
Then plan better ahead for when you’ll need it, so you don’t have to rush to acquire it.
Of course, we cannot predict when we will need an item.
But the point is to try to maximise zero-waste. And so, some planning can go a long way.
Recycling your packaging
Obviously, l crucial step is to appropriately take care of your packaging upon receiving your product.
Now, in some cases, there will be materials we simply cannot recycle or reuse.
However, many can be. Including:
- Bubble wrap can be recycled at various major outlets or stores such as Target or Walmart (US) or Tesco (UK)
- Cardboard you can keep for use in your own future parcels or packages
- The air-filled plastic pillows can be deposited at locations which collect and reuse plastic bags
- And with bubble wrap, you can hand it over to various mailing or postal companies, unless of course, you want to keep it to pop
I might have done that last one a few too many times…
Some zero-waste products on Amazon
Considering this post is about Amazon, here are some of my favourite products that l recommend and you will benefit from.
Think of them as some starters to build on.
In the kitchen
1. These organic sponges serve as an amazing alternative to the cheap and tacky ones you buy elsewhere. Yes they are costlier, but they last substantially longer; MONTHS longer based on my family’s own testing as l encouraged them to purchase them!
2. These artisan and quality-crafted cooking utensils are genuinely what l started using once l left university and became more informed on the significance of sustainability. Might not seem like much, but how crucial is it to have long-lasting products to remind us of our zero-waste efforts as well as what we consume?
3. Try these stainless straws, which are…. I mean you get to be sustainable AND have a fanciful choice of colours to choose from? Come on that is cool, be you a student and housemates or a family household.
1. Just look at how cool and simple this cork clock is? Like seriously, cork doesn’t sound very appealing, but even something like that can be stylish and even minimalist. A wise investment if every l saw one.
2. Something you may well take for granted but are pretty important bedroom components are bedside tables. Seriously, the times l lived somewhere and didn’t have them made me realise how much l do need or want them. And none are better than some sturdy, simple bamboo ones such as these.
1. A classic, but a staple. You need somewhere to store and organise your bathroom products (which are eco-friendly too right?), which makes this wooden 5-set piece very ideal then no? You’ll be surprised how quickly you like them, and initially buying one set, results in you buying one for each family member!
2. Who wouldn’t want a bamboo bathmat? I can confidently say this is the first thing l remember having when l was younger in my bathroom, albeit a different style. But l loved the style of bamboo, period, and this is why l encourage you to try this one. It will last you years and be a pleasant addition of decor too.
3. To complement the rest of your bamboo and wooden-themed products are these soap traps which utilise recycled wood and don’t leave any nasty or grimy streaks of soap as you them. I bought some for my family and they mentioned how light but study they are, subtly adding how nicely they added to the bathrooms aesthetics. Try them!
Takeaways – try Amazon as a zero-waste shop
So, there are, as of right now, the easiest ways on how to use Amazon like a zero-waste shop.
Or at least treat it as one when buying.
As mentioned, this isn’t fool-proof. However, not everyone has the practicality or financial setup to allow them to search for or buy from premium and independent distributors.
We must make the best of our own circumstances.
But following these steps and applying to Amazon as best as possible will significantly reduce our waste and contribute to conscious consumption.
Just need to apply a little proactivity.
What do think? Have l missed anything?
Leave me a comment either way.