Why Amazon Prime is the Kiss of Death for Environmentalism

Most of us (around 100 million, at least) know how much we’re willing to pay for thoughtless convenience — about $120 a year. 

That’s what Amazon charges for its Prime service at last count. In case you’ve been untouched by the creepy, instant, and isolating reach of Prime’s witchy long-reaching fingers, here are a few of their prime-ary benefits:

  • Shipping as fast as 2-day, 1-day, and in some cases 2-hour
  • Prime Video privileges
  • Whole Foods Market 2-hour delivery in select cities
  • AmazonFresh meal kit delivery
  • Prime Wardrobe service — sending you fashion pieces to try-before-you-buy and mail back if you don’t want them
  • Prime Pantry household essentials delivery

Are you noticing an emerging pattern? 

The pattern is: lightning-fast satisfaction for a long (and growing) list of services requiring multiple streams of delivery (USPS, drones — or “Prime Air,” etc.) 

And although you can get paper towels delivered right to your doorstep two days after you realized you were running low, the effect Amazon Prime’s instant gratification has on the environment is undeniable.

Let’s get down to examining the top five reasons that Amazon Prime is toxic to the Earth.

  1. Amazon frequently employs standalone contracted drivers to deliver wares. The problem with that is the vans being utilized are smaller than freight vehicles, which means they cannot deliver as much at once, which increases the number of return trips to the warehouse. Additionally, these vehicles are responsible for about 25% of the American carbon footprint in terms of transportation… which is, of course, the top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
  1. Amazon publishes almost no data on its energy use. Two years ago, Greenpeace blasted Amazon for withholding information about its energy use, its materials, and its use of hazardous chemicals — only proffering the information when subpoenaed or otherwise leaned upon. 
  1. The egregious number of boxes has increased with 1-day and 2-hour shipping. Faster and faster shipping eliminates the possibility that Amazon can effectively consolidate packages, which would reduce the number of trucks delivering them as well as packages used. In fact, according to Buzzfeed News, 1-day and same-day shipping have further congested cities, added pollutants to the air, and thrown more cardboard into landfills than ever before. 
  1. Free returns inspire more buying and more returning. If you knew that you could buy five dresses, keep one, and return four for free, with refunds, wouldn’t you? Then the journey is doubled, along with plastic foam, tape, and boxes — the carbon emissions doubled along with it. 
  1. Its size alone helps dictate legislation and the free market economy, threatening the sovereignty of local businesses with a lower carbon footprint. When Amazon allows fossil fuel companies to use their enormous servers, they’re voting with their behavior. When Jeff Bezos doesn’t pay taxes on his incredible wealth and his warehouse employees, who of course make their shipping claims possible, struggle to live on $15/hr, he’s voting with his behavior. When small businesses and even regular retailers can’t compete with Amazon’s insanely low prices and convenience, those places go out of business. 

Since 2009, Amazon has received more than 40 million comments about its packaging.

They’ve heeded those comments by, at best, trying and match product size with the box size. 

And the argument can be made that as long as the consumers recycle their boxes, no harm, no foul, right? 

The water and energy required to transport those boxes to recycling centers is an albatross of its own. 

And if cardboard boxes end up in landfills, there is less room for other items that cannot be recycled, leaving those items with nowhere to go unless more landfills are built.

Not to mention the fact that although cardboard boxes are recyclable, the chemicals they’re made with can poison water supplies when they break down. It also releases methane in the breakdown process. 

This isn’t news to Amazon. 

Already this year, the company has come under fire in the media for union-busting, replacing Bezos as CEO (shifting blame away from him), and mistreating its employees.

Some of its issues, Amazon has sought to resolve. 

For example, last year the company purchased 20,000 electric delivery vehicles, and it followed up with some pretty serious green vows. 

For a behemoth like Amazon, change of this scale takes time. 

But if the public never take their eye off of Amazon, and votes with their dollars, the company will go where the money is.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.