We’ve all got one, right? An Amazon wish list full of things we’re waiting to go on sale or magically appear on our doorstep.

Our Amazon Sh*t List is a little different.

We’re not the biggest fans of Jeff Bezos’ bookstore. Sure, the prices and delivery speed are unbeatable, but Amazon’s questionable corporate ethics and enormous environmental impacts make it a no-go for anyone that cares about the their fellow humans and the planet. So we’re compiling a list of things to consider before one-day shipping that watering can instead of supporting a local business.

Amazon Warehouses are Dangerous and Ruthless

In an eye-opening article, The Atlantic – in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting – reveals that Amazon warehouse workers are frequently suffering injuries while trying to keep up with increasing demand and strict efficiency quotas.

“The rate of serious injuries for those facilities was more than double the national average for the warehousing industry: 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2018, compared with an industry average that year of 4.”

Will Evans, The Atlantic

According to 2018 logs, weekly injury rates skyrocketed two times throughout the year. Would you like to guess when those peaks occurred? Here’s a hint: the answers rhyme with “Myber Smonday” and “Drime Pay.”

The Atlantic article reveals multiple accounts of employees – fearful of losing their jobs – cutting corners or breaking safety rules to achieve their quotas. It also links warehouses with Amazon’s famous robots to a higher rate of worker injuries and details the tragic story of Phillip Lee Terry; whose on-site death due to inadequate training and lacking safety standards was brushed under the rug by Amazon, OSHA and the state of Indiana.

The bottom line is that Amazon’s breakneck pace makes for dangerous, inhumane warehouse conditions and the company hasn’t addressed it. As a matter of fact, its doubling down with free one-day shipping.

The Environment Will Pay the Price for Amazon’s One-Day Shipping

In a Vox article titled “Amazon’s 1-day shipping is convenient – and terrible for the environment,” Terry Nguyen explains how Amazon’s new one-day shipping with no minimum spells disaster for packaging and emissions pollution. Previously, Amazon required a $25 minimum for free shipping, which meant bundling and shipping small items together. Under the new policy, it’s up to the customer to bundle items or defer to no-rush shipping (*gasp*) to avoid receiving a shipment of a single, individually packaged small item.

Anne Goodchild, a University of Washington professor, sums it up nicely in a statement for The Goods:

“Delivery services can be efficient and cost-effective, but speedy delivery can create problems” … “As we move towards faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate. When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding.”

One-day delivery calls for more freight vehicles and trucks, “which is the top producer of US carbon dioxide emissions.”

Enjoying our take on Amazon’s Earth-friendliness (or lack thereof)? Subscribe to our free newsletter The Burn Off where we identify a “Climate Bum” each week!

No Rest for the Overworked

According to The Atlantic story, Amazon “contracted drivers worked under grueling conditions to meet their delivery goals; they were forced to skip meals, drove recklessly, and urinated in bottles to deliver more packages in less time.”

Those horror stories can be found in detail this Buzzfeed piece.

At one point, ordering through Amazon may have been more Earth-friendly that making a trip to the store. However, the onset of one-day shipping likely tipped the scale in the other direction. One-day shipping or not, ordering from Amazon supports a company that has sacrificed speed for everything else.

By thisisbossi from Washington, DC, USA – 2008 12 26 – Altoona – Onmyodo 3, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74143612

Packaging, packaging, packaging

In a Washington Post article, Kristen Millares Young reports how Amazon’s new “streamlined” packaging (plastic envelopes) wreaks havoc on recycling infrastructure.

“That Amazon packaging suffers from the same problems as plastic bags, which are not sortable in our recycling system and get caught in the machinery,” said Lisa Sepanski, project manager for King County Solid Waste Division, which oversees recycling in King County, Wash., where Amazon is based. “It takes labor to cut them out. They have to stop the machinery.”

From “Why Amazon’s new streamlined packaging is jamming up recycling centers,” in The Washington Post.

Hopefully, plastic mailers are just a stepping stone toward fully recyclable or, better yet, compostable packaging. But for now, there simply isn’t sufficient infrastructure to recycle them. The only option is to find a drop off bin at a chain store like QFC, Safeway, and Lowe’s.

However, according to the article “only 4 percent of plastic film accrued by U.S. households is recycled through collection programs at grocery and big-box stores” … “the other 96 percent becomes garbage, even if put into curbside recycling, and ends up in landfills.”

It’s no secret the recycling system is broken; and Amazon is only fueling the plastic crisis. Let’s just hope they’ve factored in emissions from petroleum-based plastic packaging into their 2040 Climate Pledge.

Products you won’t find on Amazon, but you will find in the Emeraldology Shop:

Speaking of Pledges…

Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos have made some serious pledges… usually when they’re in hot water or trying to change the news cycle. For example, Amazon announced a $2 billion fund to invest in climate change technologies on the same day it released its 2019 carbon footprint report, which showed a 15% increase in carbon dioxide emissions. That same week, it purchased the naming rights to an NHL/WNBA stadium in Seattle and called it “Climate Pledge Arena.” You can find my thoughts on that epic greenwash here.

In fact, Amazon’s 2040 Climate Pledge only came after thousands of corporate employees threatened to walk out in September 2019. Two of the organizers have since been fired for speaking out against the company’s lackluster climate policies.

If You Can’t Silence Them, Fire Them

In response to the September 2019 climate walkout, Amazon update its employee policy to forbid its workers from publicly criticizing the company (talk about a fragile ego). Since then, it’s used the policy to fire workers for speaking out against its environmental policies, warehouse and labor conditions, and COVID-19 safety measures (or lack thereof).

And, for the cherry on top, Amazon ended it’s $2 an hour hazard pay raise for warehouse workers in early June, which, as we now know, was just before a massive spike in US COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos “added $32 billion to his wealth since January and is now worth $149 billion.”

The Bottom Line

It’s not just one or two things with Amazon: it is a litany of ethical and environmental letdowns that makes it impossible to support with a clean conscious. It seems there isn’t a shin Amazon won’t kick… except those of its shareholders and executives.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds of small businesses in Seattle and everyone else sacrificing for their employees, making Earth-friendly products and actually paying taxes. Most of them sell online, if not exclusively so. You may have to wait longer than one day for shipping or even pickup in-store, but that has clearly become the Earth-friendly alternative to Amazon.

Feature photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash.