Shopping has become easier than ever before with most shopping occurring through online stores. You can browse through seemingly infinite choices before choosing the product you want and shipping it to your doorstep within a week.
It’s easy to be swept up in the ease of online shopping, ignoring everything that happens between when you click the “buy now” button on your computer and when you receive the package a few days later. I’m guilty of this too, always mindlessly turning to Amazon whenever I need to order anything. Understandably, it’s hard to resist this one-stop service that conveniently seems to have whatever you are looking for readily available, especially when it can be delivered to you within days.
The many aspects of what makes Amazon so practical overshadows the larger collection of things that make Amazon detrimental to our society. Amazon warehouses have some of the lowest reported working conditions in the nation, assigning workers long shifts with little breaks and low wages. Workers have reported dangerous conditions that lead to injuries, conditions that the corporation only fixes when these injuries occur.
Better World Shopper, a public research organization dedicated to spreading information on ethical and unethical companies, ranked Amazon a D-. This grade is assigned to companies that they find “engage in practices that have significant negative impacts on people and the planet."
This is not good news, especially for someone like myself who heavily relies on Amazon for most of my shopping. With Amazon owning a large amount of companies across different industries, it can be difficult to buy products without supporting this unethical corporation. Fortunately, there are lots of other retailers online that treat their workers and the environment better, allowing you to shop mindfully without breaking the bank.
The most popular of these platforms is Etsy, a place full of small businesses that provide all different types of products. From clothing to musical instruments, you can easily find a wide array of products provided by small businesses worldwide. Etsy is a great alternative to Amazon because it provides a similar range of options all in one website. The products on the platform are also very reasonably priced, so you will not lose a ton of money by switching to this retailer instead of Amazon.
The downside to Etsy is that you cannot buy many name-brand products through the website like you can with Amazon. Most of the retailers on this site are small businesses, so the perks that come with a large brand are missing. Also, since it is a global program, there are many stores overseas, meaning you might have to pay a little extra on shipping compared to what you spend on Amazon. Despite these negatives, Etsy is still a great alternative to Amazon that has an immensely smaller negative impact on the world than the larger platform.
Groceries are tricky because for something so essential, there are not a huge amount of choices to pick from. Nearby campus, the options are really between Kroger, Publix or Walmart. Kroger received a D+ from Better World Shopper, whereas Publix and Walmart received an F rating. Without a ton of options for grocery shopping online, most students have to rely on these options, especially those who do not have cars. Fortunately, there are other more ethical options a little further away from campus like Trader Joe’s or The Fresh Market. You can order your groceries online and have them delivered on The Fresh Market’s website or at another store through apps such as Instacart.
The biggest issue with these more ethical options is that they tend to be more expensive than Kroger, Publix, and Walmart. This is especially an obstacle for college students who don’t have a consistent flow of income. If you cannot afford to do your shopping at one of these stores, you can still shop mindfully by picking brands that operate ethically. Betterworldshopper.org is a great tool to be able to look up different brands and determine whether or not they operate ethically.
Most of the clothing that is available online is made in factories overseas that exploit the lack of laws that restrict poor working conditions by paying the workers extremely low wages with little to no breaks. This is called fast fashion, and it can be hard to avoid it since most large retailers fall under that category. One sure way to avoid fast fashion is to shop recycled and upcycled clothing. You can find previously owned clothing both online through websites such as Etsy and ThredUp or in person at stores such as Goodwill or KARM stores. You can also utilize other marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace and Ebay to find pre owned clothes for cheap.
I know that shopping mindfully takes a lot of work and can oftentimes be more expensive than the alternative, but you are making more of a difference than you would think simply by shopping at small businesses or ethical corporations. Mindful shopping is a great way to make real change without changing your lifestyle too much. It’s something simple and easy that we all can incorporate into our lives, even if that means starting small like buying holiday gifts through Etsy instead of Amazon.
Change doesn’t have to be painful and strenuous. Society can be moved towards a healthier, more sustainable place simply by shopping mindfully, a true baby step towards a better world.
Ben Goldberger is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in Anthropology and Political Science. He can be reached email@example.com.
Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.