Conscious consumerism is the awareness people have of the products they buy, including how they are made and how they affect the environment and individual (as well as societal) health. But these days, phenomena like Amazon and Amazon Prime keep growing, making “conscious” consumption feel impossible. The vetting process at Amazon is pretty non-existent, so it’s hard to know where some of these products are coming from, how they’re made, how the people making them are treated, etc. Even further, the very structure of the online marketplace promotes buying stuff and not thinking about its source. With the advent of Amazon Prime and same day delivery, the problem deepens, as instant gratification often wins out over ethical shopping.
If you’ve seen any of Amazon’s recent commercials, they take a heartfelt angle to gloss over these realities. For example, one features a Dad proud to be an Amazon employee driving an electric van, knowing that he’s working toward a greener future for his kids. It paints a pretty picture of the company, but leaves out some not-so-pretty truths. Importantly, the huge customer base of Amazon combined with its nonstop, superspeed delivery has made a significant contribution to elevated greenhouse emissions. Over the last few years, Amazon has put out several of these commercials about clean energy and happy employees, completely leaving out all of the damage they’ve done and do. Warehouse workers around the world claim that they have been treated inhumanely at work and drivers are being worked to the bone, putting company needs ahead of human rights like bathroom and lunch breaks. Meanwhile, founder Jeff Bezos is worth almost $200 billion.
Bottom line: if you want to be a conscious consumer, shopping at Amazon is probably not the way to go. But considering the convenience the company offers, it can be tough to get people to shop elsewhere. However, most people don’t actually want to hurt the environment or exploit workers, and just need more viable options. There are, in fact, several online marketplaces that sell ethically and sustainably made products, using carbon offset shipping. Keep reading for five online shopping platforms that you can feel better about using for the holiday season and beyond.
Based in Boulder, Colorado
My absolute favorite is Earth Hero, which sells just about every type of product besides foodstuffs: zero-waste kitchen utensils, compostable phone cases, home decor, pet and baby products, “clean” beauty and more. It also offers custom corporate gift boxes and bulk eco-friendly tableware for businesses. It’s relatively affordable and offers free shipping for orders over $50. All of its featured suppliers go through a vetting process to make sure they have a low carbon footprint and that products meet standards for high quality and low waste (meaning they are recyclable or compostable). It’s a certified B Corporation, a carbon-free partner, and donates one percent of its profits to various environmental organizations. If you sign up on their email list, you’ll receive a 10 percent off coupon.
Based in Denver, Colorado
This platform houses around 90 different brands. If you go to Done Good’s ‘Our Brands’ page on its website, you will see each one, what types of products the company sells and whether it’s eco-friendly, empowers workers, vegan, toxin-free, recycled/updated, gives back, organic or all of the above. You can click on each brand and you can go straight to shopping for their particular products. If you’re passionate about buying from women-owned and operated companies, you can easily find one that does so and go straight to browsing their products. It has everything from clothing, self-care products, coffee and tea, to accessories and electronics. It’s a certified B Corporation and 1% for the planet member.
Based in Portland, Oregon
If you’re all about aesthetics, Made Trade is the ethical online shopping marketplace for you. The website itself is captivating and all of its products are beautiful, as well as ethically made. The brand criteria for Made Trade are based on whether a brand is fair-trade, heritage-made, USA-made, POC or woman-owned, sustainable, and or vegan. The products sold include high-quality home decor and furniture, clothing, shoes, and fashion and travel accessories. The prices range from affordable to high end, but luckily you can filter items by price depending on how much you want to spend. It is a 1% for the planet member and shipping is 100 percent carbon offset.
Our Common Place
Based in Los Angeles, California
Our Common Place is all about women. It’s female-founded and all of its products are geared towards the feminine. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the business is its collections of ethical, non-toxic, and cruelty-free make-up, skincare, and wellness products. The beauty and wellness products include lipstick and lipliner, facial cleansers, masks, serums, feminine care, and more. In addition, it sells clothing, shoes, accessories, home decor, and furniture. Products are organized by value-based categories, so you can shop by causes like “cruelty-free” or “sustainable.” It is part of the female founder collective and 1% for the planet member.
The Little Market
Based in Los Angeles, California
Many people know Lauren Conrad (a.k.a. L.C.) from the MTV shows Laguna Beach and the Hills, but don’t know that she runs an online marketplace she co-founded called The Little Market. It can be easy to see her and other people from those shows as being frivolous, but Conrad is using her position to support women makers around the world. The Little Market is a nonprofit fair trade platform that helps artisans have a wider reach with customers. If you’re looking for a special gift to give this holiday season, this is a great option for handmade products born from multiple artistic and community traditions. Some offerings include totes made by Bangladeshi women and ceramic bowls from artisans in Morocco.
These are just a few of the available eco-conscious and ethically made product online platforms. There are others, of course, selling everything from food-specific to clothing-specific (see here for more). It’s important to note that these alternatives aren’t always going to be as affordable and accessible as Amazon (or other online shopping giants like Walmart and Target). But considering that these corporations, with their huge advertising budgets and internet takeovers, make it challenging to think beyond their offerings, a little guide like the one I’ve offered can help us better match our values with our behaviors. In the end it does feel really good to buy a product that is sustainably and ethically made, and shipped from a place that is actually working toward carbon neutrality. It might not change the world, but until something happens to regulate the wasteful horror of global corporations, it’s a small step we can take.
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