It can be difficult to completely quit all online shopping. Sometimes, there might be something that you really do need and cannot source from local stores, nearby shops, or even independent e-commerce sites, which leaves you with the final (dreaded) option of ordering your item from Amazon. Ideally, if you have the option to support alternative businesses, then do so, especially given Amazon’s unsustainable and unethical track record. But if you must use the e-com behemoth, there are still some steps you can take to try and reduce the impact of your order as much as possible. Below, our guide to achieving almost zero-waste on your Amazon orders.
1. Contact Amazon customer service
Open up a chat with the customer service on Amazon’s website, and ask them to make an extra note in your account to avoid plastic packaging or any unnecessary packaging as much as possible on any of your future orders. While this will not guarantee that distributors will follow your suggestion, it does make it more likely that your request will be taken into account when it is being shipped out. According to zero-waste educator Polly Barks, after her request was put in, 3 out of her 5 packages were plastic-free.
2. Find a secondhand version on Amazon Warehouse
Try to look for your item on Amazon Warehouse Deals, the e-commerce giant’s secondhand arm that sells used products for a big discount. The warehouse showcases a number of items and the item’s condition – which can range from lightly used to acceptable to heavily worn out – is reflected in the price box. Not only will you be saving some money, buying secondhand is a great way to help recover and lengthen the lifespan of products and avoid contributing to new unsustainable production.
3. Look for Amazon’s “Frustration-Free Packaging” service
Amazon has created a “Frustration-Free Packaging” service, a program that sends your item without unnecessary layers of packaging or boxes within boxes. Instead, your order will come in a recyclable box without excess packaging materials, and is usually – though not 100% – plastic-free. This is available for around 300,000 items on Amazon, so it is worth checking whether your wanted item is listed.
4. Download web plug-in Treeclicks before you order
Founded in 2019, TreeClicks is an extension for web browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. Once you have the plug-in downloaded and turned out, TreeClicks helps users plant trees when they shop on affiliated e-commerce sites, which includes Amazon. It uses advertising fees received from these partnered companies for bringing customers customers to these sites, and diverts a portion to the revenue to tree planting projects in India at no additional cost to users.
5. Choose one shipment & longer shipping times
If you happen to be ordering multiple items from different vendors or distributors, remember to request for all your items to be sent together in one parcel. It will most likely take longer for you to receive your purchase, but it will mean that less cardboard boxes and plastic packaging will be wasted if it all comes in one bulk delivery. Avoiding the fastest shipping date will also mean steering clear of air delivery, which is the most carbon-intensive of all transport options.
6. Recycle and repurpose all your leftover packaging
It is almost impossible to be 100% waste-free when it comes with online orders, let alone Amazon orders in particular. So what can you do with the leftover packaging? Repurpose those cardboard boxes until they are no longer of use and can recycled. Make sure to properly segregate plastics for collection, the best thing you can do is to lengthen the lifespan of packaging as much as possible by reusing and upcycling and responsibly disposing and recycling items. If you are unsure which items can or cannot be recycled and how to properly dispose of packaging, check out Amazon Second Chance where more information can be found about each type of packaging the company uses.
March 2020 Update: This article has been updated to include Amazon Second Chance as a useful resource for recycling information.
Lead image courtesy of Well Spent.