Contrary to many sustainably-minded individuals who seem to love to hate on Amazon, I am a huge fan of ordering on Amazon and you’ll see me linking to and recommending products from there often. I don’t buy everything from there, but it’s great to have the option to purchase from them when I want or need something specific.
I’ll write a future post on what items I buy from them versus what items I look for locally. Hint: don’t order toilet paper, jugs of water, or fragile items that will require a lot of bubble wrap or styrofoam.
Assuming you’re set on ordering from Amazon, here are some tips for how to order zero waste on Amazon and have your items be delivered to you as sustainably as possible from Amazon warehouses.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase or sign up for a program, I may earn a commission. This is at no additional cost to you.
Ship More Efficiently
The less flexibility there is with shipping times, the more likely the shipping will be inefficient.
This is because if a package needs to arrive in 2 days, but the truck in only 60% full, it needs to leave the warehouse. But if there’s more leeway in timing, the truck can wait until it’s 100% full before driving off. This results in less greenhouse gas emissions emitted from transportation vehicles.
Select ‘FREE No-Rush Shipping’ and Get Rewarded Too
When you arrive at the Amazon Checkout, you have the option of selecting what kind of shipping speed you want. For those who pay for Amazon Prime, you have the option to forgo the 2-day shipping speeds and opt for FREE No-Rush Shipping instead.
As a bonus, they also gift you $1 to purchase select digital items. These $1 credits can be stacked on orders so you can get your digital items completely free.
Select ‘FREE Amazon Day Delivery’
Alternatively, if you have a bad habit of ordering something one day, and realizing the next day that you need to add to your order, you can just select to have all your items arrive on your self-selected Amazon Day delivery.
This is also useful if you don’t have a safe package delivery room. You don’t have to constantly keep an eye out on whether your package has been delivered and you need to rush home to get it. It’ll come on the day that you select.
Ship to an Amazon Locker or to Your Office Building
Shipping to everyone’s individual homes is less efficient than just being able to deliver to one-stop. The delivery truck might stop at your neighbor’s house. Park and deliver 1 package. Then, start the truck again to drive down 5 houses to get to your house. Park and deliver. Then start the truck again to deliver to the next house.
Instead, if there’s an Amazon locker by your home, or if your office has a package delivery room, consider getting your packages sent there. This way, not only are your packages safer, it’s more efficient for delivery trucks to just have to make that 1 stop at a locker or your office since most likely other people who have placed orders have selected that delivery location as well.
Subscribe & Save
Lastly, ordering items by ‘subscribe & save‘ is better than order products one at a time because it gives Amazon more time to prepare and anticipate your order & delivery date.
The additional time to process your order also gives them the opportunity to bunch up a number of your purchases together, which reduces excess packaging.
You also get a nice 5%-15% discount for enabling ‘Subscribe & Save’.
Pro tip: I always select a 6-month recurring delivery because it’s much easier to move a subscription up to a current month if you happen to need something versus having to individually delay products you don’t need because you didn’t estimate timing correctly.
Shop More Efficiently
Buy Only What You Need
Obviously, it should go without saying that you don’t need to “keep up with the Jones’s”. Reality check: the Jones’s are probably living paycheck to paycheck and are saddled with debt or cluttered living spaces.
Only buy what you need.
As the French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, reminds us, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Unfortunately, sometimes an item just simply does not work out. Perhaps the product description was wrong, or you decided you don’t need the product anymore. Amazon has a great return policy so if you really are not going to use something, you can most likely return it to Amazon within their return window (usually 30 days).
What does Amazon do with all these perfectly good, but open-box items? They sell it for discounted prices in the Amazon Warehouse.
That, and sometimes they will buy back used products from customers and act like a two-sided marketplace. If it’s still in ‘like new’ quality, they will buy from one side and sell on the other side providing a trusted way to make both parties happy.
Before buying a new item, see if there’s a used, open-box item that’s just as good, at a great discounted price in the Amazon Warehouse.
Amazon Renewed and Refurbished
When customers upgrade to a new device, they might sell back their old device to Amazon. The Amazon Renewed program will renew and set up the device to its manufacturer’s state (verify that everything is working exactly as it should) and can offer this like-new device to customers for an attractive price.
If you’re looking for an older model of Amazon devices, this is a fabulous place to look.
Read Reviews Thoroughly
Returns are a completely unnecessary form of transportation emissions that you can and should try hard to avoid most of the time. You’ve probably heard of the quote: measure twice, cut once. I’ve adapted this quote and say “research 3 times, order once”.
No impulse purchases allowed!
Saves money, saves the planet’s resources, and avoids transportation emissions of shipping and possible return shipping.
After Your Order
Offer Boxes & Packaging Material to Others
Every single day there’s probably a person in your neighborhood who is moving into a new home and in need of moving boxes. When I’ve accumulated a number of boxes, I’ll post it in my Buy Nothing group (here’s how it works!) and someone will come get it, giving my shipping boxes a second life.
The same goes for packaging pillows and bubble wrap – so useful for moving fragile items, but something that eco-conscious people do their best to avoid buying. But if it’s to give bubble wrap a second life, I’m all for using it.
Build a Fort for Your Cat
In case you didn’t know your zero waste cat, she loves cardboard boxes. Put a flattened one on the floor and she will sit on it.
Leave an opened box just laying on the floor, you’ll find him napping in it as soon as you turn around.
Here are some other exciting (and sustainable) toys for bored cats.
Fill a Box with Donations
Amazon sponsors this Give Back Box that few people know about where they cover the cost of shipping your donations to a charitable organization. There are many benefits of this partnership:
- You can reuse your Amazon shipping box;
- You can purge your home of things that you don’t really use, and donate it to someone who will actually use it;
- You can receive a tax deduction receipt for your donation as donations are tax-deductible; and
- Amazon covers the $15 shipping fee that the Give Back Box program usually charges.
Recycle Your Packaging Properly
If you can’t divert your box with any of the above ideas, and you don’t have any additional ideas of your own, make sure you recycle your box in the appropriate place.
Also, make sure you FLATTEN your box before putting it out into your bins. It’s the considerate and sustainable way to recycle because non-flattened boxes take up A LOT OF space so there’s less space for other people’s recyclables.
In my apartment building, when the recycling bins are “full”, people just start tossing their recycling in the garbage bins.
Around 93% of corrugated cardboard boxes are recycled.
Don’t be the lazy 7%! And don’t be the enablers of the 7%.
Writing to Amazon: Yay or Nay?
The reality is that Amazon uses automation to pack your boxes. If it doesn’t use automation, it employs warehouse workers that are pressured to hit aggressive packing efficiency rates.
Writing a letter to customer service to make a note on your account to avoid excess packaging is not going to be followed when it comes time to actually pack your order. Can you imagine them stopping the entire production line to look for a specific account number and remove an air pillow from that box, only?
I HIGHLY doubt it.
However, while it might not make a difference in your final package, as more and more people complain to Amazon customer service about excess packaging, I believe the management of the company will notice a trend, that when large enough, will pressure them to change.
So by all means, please do write to them and write often with each example of wastefulness you encounter.
Focus on Your Actions; Not Amazon’s
The main point I want to convey is to focus less on being angry at Amazon packaging and focus more on what YOU can actually do.
If you think Amazon packages inefficiently, write to them via customer service but ultimately, if you are ordering the items, the packaging is your responsibility.
You can shop more efficiently, ship more efficiently, and find creative ways to reuse or recycle your packaging. These are the best tips I know for ordering with less excess packaging from Amazon.
I hope you keep these pointers in mind for your next order and remember – only buy what you NEED 🙂