Life in the Time of COVID
By: Maria Casey
Amazon. Where else can you get batteries, rosé, a plant stand, and paleo pie crust delivered in two hours? Well, as it turns out, nowhere. Only other behemoths like Wal-mart and Jet.com (which is owned by Wal-mart) come close. And we all know that if you’re looking to shop ethically, Amazon and Wal-mart aren’t the best choices.
But, oh, the convenience!
It seems like now that we have it, we can’t live without it. At my house, we place an Amazon order almost every other day. We love it, and that’s what companies count on. If they can make it just a little easier to click the order button, we won’t think about the true cost of our actions. As Joni Mitchell said: “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
Kind of like the climate crisis, our appetite for convenience may be undermining the things we hold most dear.
Well, first of all, the obvious must be stated—Amazon is massive. In 2018, its revenue topped $232 billion . Take the infamous working conditions, plus the environmental cost (it’s worse than you think), and you have an equation that adds up to suffering, and that doesn’t feel great.
So what is a modern human supposed to do?
Luckily, smaller online businesses with big ethics are popping up all over the place. If you’re willing to shop at a few different places, you can keep your convenience without sacrificing your values. And, to make matters even better, you’ll be supporting companies doing the hard work of making this world a better place.
Read on to discover a few that just may become your new favorites.
What happens when two college students with tech credentials are a little bummed out by the tech bust and bored by their tutoring jobs? They get together to change the world! This dynamic duo wanted to use their powers to fund literacy and keep unwanted books out of landfills, so that's what they did.
You might be thinking that there’s no way a company like that could make money. But over 26 million donated books, more than $28 million raised for literacy and libraries, 320,019,014 reused or recycled books, and 16 years in business might make you think twice. When you purchase, Better World Books donates a book to someone in need. Then they fund literacy through grants, special projects, and partnering with nonprofit organizations.
They’ve also never thrown away a book. Each book is either sold, recycled, or donated.
Now for the nitty-gritty: they don’t have everything, and there’s no two-day shipping here. But Better World Books does have a large selection, and they offer free shipping—it just takes about a week.
If you’re looking for a new book or want a more complete selection, try a literary cult favorite. Among their staff recommendations are: "25 Women to Read Before You Die" as well as monthly and yearly top picks. And they have a $3.99 flat rate for shipping, so be sure to stock up! If you’re ever in Portland, make a point to visit —Powell's is a book lover’s dream.
From virgin organic coconut oil to eye gel to a stylish new reclaimed wooden utensil holder—Brandless has everything! And at low prices, too: $3, $8, and $9 respectively. By building direct relationships between you and their suppliers, they can keep their costs low and offer you the savings.
Brandless offers many environmentally-friendly products, such as bamboo toilet paper and cleaning concentrates. Their cleaning products are non-toxic, they support clean beauty, and their partnership with Feeding America means that every time you shop, they donate to someone facing food insecurity.
Shipping is always free over $48, and if you get a subscription, you’ll get free shipping on items that you order regularly.
Thrive Market makes it incredibly easy to find your favorite organic, vegan, paleo, and keto products at wholesale prices. Memberships cost $59.95 per year, but you can try the service free for 30 days. And with every paid membership, Thrive donates another to a family or person in need through the Thrive Gives program. Their mission is to make it possible for everyone to afford healthy food, no matter what their income bracket.
Shipping is free, but only for orders over $49. Thrive says that the price threshold encourages customers to order between 10–15 items at a time, which reduces the impact that ordering one or two has on the environment. Not only that, but they use sustainable packaging, are a carbon neutral business, and operate zero-waste warehouses.
Credo Beauty is an addictive one-stop-shop for clean beauty and makeup. This online store carries four out of our top-five eco-friendly makeup lines, plus so many more. If you like skincare and makeup as much as we do, be prepared to buy all the things.
Credo offers free shipping for orders over $50, and your goods will come packaged in a recyclable box filled with 100 percent recyclable, eco-friendly padding. Although it can be daunting to try beauty products sight unseen, Credo has a 30-day return policy.
Between Brandless, Thrive, and Credo, you should be able to find most of what you need for your kitchen, beauty routine, and home. But what about that bottle of rosé? Why not buy it directly from the winery or join a wine club? That way you’ll never run out of libations when you need them the most. As for the more obscure brands you love, go directly to the source instead. Most companies will offer free shipping after you hit their minimum order.
Although nothing can beat the instant gratification of two-hour shipping, perhaps knowing that you’re supporting ethical businesses helps ease the void left by your old Prime addiction. Your dollars matter. When you use them vote for companies that share your values, you make a difference.