Amazon, the company that catapulted founder Jeff Bezos to billionaire status (and to the edge of space), has long been touted as environmentally unfriendly; the company emits the same level of carbon emissions as the country of Norway, according to a report released by Amazon in 2019.
Its impact on the environment, and on the lives of its warehouse workers, means that many conscious consumers have switched to alternative companies that are more ethical, environmentally friendly, and aligned with their personal values.
The good news about switching from Amazon is that there are plenty of options, thanks to the myriad of ethical alternatives available to consumers and customers.
But it’s also important to acknowledge that switching from Amazon is a privilege due to all sorts of factors including affordability and accessibility.
Many people use Amazon for its delivery speed, variety of products, accessibility in rural communities, cheap pricing, and wide range of products; that’s why it’s still a step towards progress if you’re able to switch out Amazon for certain needs, if not all of them.
Ethical Alternatives to Amazon:
Depending on what you use Amazon for, you may not know of ethical alternative companies and options for the things that you buy.
Ethical Alternatives to Buying Books on Amazon
Jeff Bezos initially founded Amazon as a bookselling empire, ultimately putting many physical bookstores out of business.
Amazon is able to leverage its massive scale to sell books for incredibly cheap. They’re able to slash prices (sometimes to a point of losing money) to ensure they have the lowest price — in the hopes of making the money back from other purchases and means. (RIP Barnes & Noble)
It’s a radical act to choose to buy books from a more ethical marketplace, knowing that you’ll ultimately be paying more than you’d pay with Amazon.
But choosing ethical and sustainable alternatives is a choice that thousands of people are intentionally making, in an effort to support other booksellers.
Here are a few thoughtful alternatives using Amazon for books:
Local Indie Bookstores
There are still countless local independent bookstores in communities all over the United States — and they would be thrilled by your support.
When you visit a small bookstore in person, you get access to world-class customer service, great recommendations on their favorite books, plus you're making a positive impact by keeping money in your local economy.
The Independent Bookseller has compiled a list and map of every single independent bookstore currently in business.
You don’t have to spend money to read books. Local libraries are absolutely amazing — and, of course, have a huge selection of books and resources.
Bookshop.org is an independent bookseller that partners with local bookstores to allow you to support a local bookstore with every purchase.
When we make book recommendations at Good Good Good (here on our website or in our weekly Goodnewsletter), we usually like to Amazon (for convenience) as well as Bookshop.org and other non-Amazon platforms. On the occasions that we’ve tracked the clicks on these links, we’ve actually seen a significant increase in the number of clicks through to Bookshop.org and a decrease in clicks to Amazon. Within our community, we’re definitely seeing a cultural change in people being willing to spend a little bit more money to make a meaningful difference with each book purchase.
Plus, Bookshop.org is 100% carbon neutral, as certified by Climate Neutral — just like Good Good Good.
You can also check out ThriftBooks, an online bookstore which sells a wide selection of affordable used books. In addition to simply not supporting Amazon — buying second-hand books has the added benefit of decreasing the number of new books that need to be printed.
Alternatives to Using Amazon’s Audible
Not everybody realizes this, but Audible is an Amazon product.
While it’s convenient to be able to access spoken word entertainment like audiobooks and podcasts through a monthly subscription, Audible is actually harmful to the industry at large.
Most notably, when Amazon creates Audible Exclusive audiobooks — like Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime — those audiobooks are not made available to libraries or bookstores to lend and sell. This harms accessibility.
Fortunately, there are easy-to-use Audible alternatives:
Libro.fm is the only audiobook provider that directly supports local independent bookstores.
Libro.fm is just like Audible in that there’s a monthly subscription (roughly $15, just like Audible), and you get a monthly book credit where you can actually own and keep the audiobook (similar to Audible), but for every book you download, you also get so support a local independent bookstore of your choosing (unlike Audible).
Outside of Audible Exclusives, Libro.fm has the exact same wide selection of audiobooks.
Libro.fm is at the forefront of supporting local bookstores and it’s one of the easiest swaps away from Amazon you can make.
Scribd allows you to pay a monthly subscription and get access to unlimited audiobooks each month. While its selection isn’t as vast as Libro.fm’s is — it’s a great way to get easy access to enough popular audiobooks to fill your day with words.
OverDrive and Libby
These free apps partner with local libraries to provide free access to digital ebooks and audiobooks. While you may have to sit on a waiting list for a few weeks for new and popular books, Libby and OverDrive are ultimately the best ways to get access to audiobooks for free.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Amazon Shopping
For general supplies, you can check out marketplaces like Thrive Market (which offers healthy and organic food as an alternative to Amazon Fresh, as well as body products), EarthHero (a green business that offers all eco-friendly and sustainable products), or DoneGood (which hosts a variety of ethical brands and products that are eco-friendly and pay fair wages to workers). Also, UncommonGoods is an environmentally friendly B Corp that has a great selection of home goods, personal care products, and gifts.
Alternatives to Amazon Prime Video
This is where things get tricky. In 2010, Amazon launched Amazon Studios — a television and film producer and distributor that has since produced Emmy- and Academy Award-winning shows and films like Transparent, Manchester by the Sea, The Salesman, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Around the same, Amazon launched Amazon Prime Video as a digital streaming competitor to Netflix — where they would host Amazon Originals (produced by Amazon Studios) as well as licensed content from other platforms.
Amazon Originals are available exclusively through Prime Video — which means there’s essentially nowhere else you can watch them, except through Amazon. But there are some ways to work around this.
How to Watch Amazon Originals Without Supporting Amazon
If you’re heavily invested in the next season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but want to minimize the money you spend with Amazon, you have a few options.
- Your first option is to subscribe only to Prime Video without subscribing to a full Amazon Prime subscription.
It’s a cheaper rate, and not having easy access to Prime shipping will probably help minimize the temptation to order something random with 2-day shipping.
- Your second option is to piggyback on someone else’s Amazon Prime or Amazon Video subscription. (You just need to make sure you’re following Amazon’s Household terms of service for who it’s appropriate for you to share an Amazon account with.)
- Your third option is to just catch Amazon Originals in the theaters when you can. Unlike Netflix, which releases most of its films exclusively on Netflix, Amazon often releases their Amazon Studios films in theaters first — and then brings them to Prime Video later.
While seeing an Amazon Originals film like The Big Sick or One Night In Miami in theaters will still give some money to Amazon, you’ll also be supporting a local theater in the process. And it’ll ultimately be less money than you’d spend on a monthly subscription.
- Your fourth option is to check and see if your local library has access to Amazon Original series and films on DVD or through their own digital streaming service.
Alternatives to Amazon Prime Video
If you’re down to simply avoid Amazon Prime Video altogether, there is, of course, a limitless amount of streaming content available to you.
Alternatives to Amazon Kindle and other tech products
Alternatives to Amazon’s Kindle e-readers
While many people still prefer reading from print books, the pure convenience of digital books on an e-reader is hard to beat.
E-readers give you the ability to carry around unlimited books, have a built-in backlight that allows you to read at night without disturbing a partner, and might even encourage you to read more. Plus, an e-reader is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
First of all, we recommend that you don’t simply read ebooks on a tablet or a smartphone. As described by Wirecutter: “Nonreflective, electronic-ink displays give you a more paperlike visual experience (including enjoyable reading outdoors and less eyestrain compared with an LCD screen), plus lighter weight and a significantly longer battery life. And a dedicated ebook reader offers fewer distractions—you won’t be tempted to switch apps to check Twitter or your email.”
How to ethically use a Kindle
To be honest, the Kindle itself is hard to beat. If a non-Kindle e-reader alternative works well for you, go for it. But it’s still possible to ethically use a Kindle device without supporting Amazon.
Buying a Kindle ethically
Kindle devices have always been inexpensive because Amazon ultimately wants to make money from you buying their ebooks.
This means that a lot of people have purchased affordable Kindles to test them out, only to find out that they don’t use it as much as they hoped. A lot of lightly used Kindles are available for an even bigger discount on eBay.
You can buy a Kindle without ever giving Amazon a dime — and reducing the environmental impacts of manufacturing new pieces of technology.
Using a Kindle ethically
Amazon’s profit from Kindles allegedly comes from two places: You buying ebooks exclusively through them — and through the collection of your data.
You can essentially eliminate both of these with enough intentionality.
Instead of buying your ebooks through Amazon, you have a few options for reading books through other means.
- If your local library uses Libby or OverDrive, you can simply connect your Kindle account to your local library and have all of your books sent over to your Kindle. This is completely free. Your books will stay on your Kindle for however long your checkout time is (usually 2-3 weeks) and will disappear after you’ve returned them.
- If you buy DRM-free ebooks with a compatible format, you can actually just forward your ebooks to a special Kindle email address (Amazon calls it your “Send-to-Kindle Email”) and they’ll automatically show up on your Kindle.
When it comes to data collection, you can simply go into your settings and remove as much personal information as possible.
Under Settings, then Device Options, then Advanced Options, you can change your Privacy settings to stop the collection of personal data. You can also potentially Deregister your device (Settings, then Your Account) depending on which features you need access to.
Ultimately, Amazon wants to use your data to try to sell you more stuff — so if you’re already trying to minimize the amount of money you’re spending with Amazon, you’re probably already winning.
If you’re looking for a Kindle alternative, the best alt e-reader in the business is Kobo. Created by Rakuten, it’s nearly identical in features to the Kindle, and has nearly the same selection of ebooks — all within an affordable price range.
Alternatives to buying tech through Amazon in general
Shopping for technology can be done sustainably as well and doesn’t have to be done through Amazon. There are other ways to get your gadgets and goods, but shopping local is best; you can use Locally to see what stores are available near you.
If you’re unable to shop in person and appreciate Amazon for its online convenience, you can actually use eBay to shop for second-hand electronics and gadgets, so you can give a second life to products instead of needing a new product to be manufactured.
Alternatives to Goodreads
Goodreads is a really cool tool for tracking your reading goals from year to year. It was founded in 2006 and quickly grew to hundreds of thousands of active users. Amazon acquired Goodreads in 2015, gaining access to the reading habits of more than 16 million readers.
While Goodreads is free to use, Amazon uses it to drive more book sales — as well as collect data about what kinds of books and products you may be interested in.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Goodreads, Book Riot put together a helpful guide. We've become big fans of The StoryGraph. (We’ve also seen many community members put together their own personal database through tools like Notion or Airtable.)
Alternatives to buying clothes through Amazon
This deserves an entire article of its own, but in short, it’s always important to buy your clothing from brands that treat their employees and manufacturers fairly, harvest and create their materials sustainably, and think through the entire lifecycle of their products (ensuring you aren’t contributing to the harmful cycle of fast fashion or textile waste).
Poshmark is a great place to shop secondhand for clothes, some home decor, and beauty products as an alternative to Amazon's offerings. Rather than buying something brand new, you’ll save resources and reduce potential textile waste. Plus, you can sell your own clothes on the platform to give them a second life.
What if I can't fully switch away from Amazon?
If you can’t make the complete switch away from Amazon, that's okay. Amazon is cheap and convenient — and it’s a valuable tool for those who rely on it for its accessibility. It's still possible to make small changes that align with your goals and values.
Small changes you can make to shop Amazon more ethically:
Set up Amazon Smile
One small change you can make is to set up Amazon Smile to support nonprofits with your purchases. While this shouldn’t be an excuse to spend more, it’s a way to do some small good if you do have to shop from Amazon.
Change the packaging your Amazon shipments use
While we haven’t been able to independently confirm this, it’s been reported that you can request no plastic in your packaging by going to Amazon's customer service page and requesting that all future orders be plastic-free with minimal packaging (and when absolutely necessary, use degradable material).
Choose environmentally friendly shipping options on Amazon
When you don’t need a product immediately, selecting the No-Rush Standard Shipping option will oftentimes allow your products to be shipped more efficiently and sustainably, depending on your location.
Buy from sustainable brands on Amazon when you can
While it's always a best practice to buy directly from brands' websites when possible, you can still be a ethical consumer by buying from companies you trust and believe in when you do shop on Amazon.
Make purchases through affiliate links from publishers and creators you believe in
Amazon’s affiliate program allows publishers to make a commission when they refer a reader to Amazon and that reader makes a purchase.
Commissions range from 1% to 10%, depending on the product. And Amazon actually pays publishers for the entire contents of the shopping cart — not just the product that they referred.
If multiple publishers refer a reader to Amazon, Amazon will pay based on the last click before checkout.
All of this means that if you have to buy something from Amazon, you should consider clicking an affiliate link from a publisher or creator that you believe in right before you complete your purchase.
It’s a nice way to say thank you — and divert some of the money of your purchase from Amazon towards someone who creates valuable content you appreciate.
(By the way, here’s an Amazon affiliate link from Good Good Good — in case you want to bookmark this page.)
Lastly, cutting Amazon out where you can is just as important as not using it at all. It’s a luxury to be able to cut Amazon out of your life completely, but being able to make essential small changes to your order is a great way of promoting conscious consumerism and doing good where you can.
Good Good Good endorses products we genuinely recommend. If you end up making a purchase through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support!