Breaking up with Amazon is hard, but it’s not impossible. I know. I just did it.
And I’m 100% happier now that I did.
Yes, I’m kissing two-day shipping goodbye. Waving farewell to one of my kids’ favorite TV shows, an Amazon Original called Creative Galaxy. I’m giving up access to a worldwide network of cheap goods.
Why would you break up with Amazon, you may be wondering?
Because I’m tired of paying $119 a year for a service I don’t get the full value of.
Because Amazon puts spying robots into peoples’ homes.
Because they treat employees poorly (according to investigations reported in this CBS News article, this Guardian article, and NBC News clip).
Because ordering stuff online to be delivered in cardboard packaging kills more than a billion trees per year.
A billion trees!
Like most everyone I know, I used to love the feeling I got when that unmarked delivery van (or random Chevy or Nissan) pulled up to bring me a special prize.
Even if that prize was just ink for my printer. It still made me feel special.
Getting that feeling is a rush. It’s addictive. It’s so easy to get a fix anytime you want it.
But ever since I read about employee work conditions a few months ago, and ever since they invented creepy Alexa, I haven’t been able to bring myself to use Amazon for anything.
And truth be told, I haven’t missed it at all.
Until yesterday, though, I was still a little afraid to cut ties completely. Not using Amazon these past few months had just been an experiment, after all, to see what life would be like without the behemoth breathing down my neck all the time. So I made my purchases in person, at local stores instead. The kids watched PBS shows.
My experiment was going fine, until I started running out of my hard-core, go-to, green cleanser, Flo-Kem Green.
I hadn’t even bothered to look for it anyplace other than Amazon. It’s a unique product, typically sold only to custodians in big institutional facilities. It’s not sold at Target, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, my local co-op or any other store I’ve ever walked into.
Even if I could find it online, I assumed, it was probably more expensive than Amazon listed it for.
And who could beat free, two-day shipping?
But then I read the Wired article about Alexa being trained to pick up whispers. It pissed me off. Like, immensely.
I realized then that I’d only been dabbling in kicking the Amazon habit. It was rather cowardly, my faux abandonment of it. I’d been making excuses. Hiding behind my fear of what might happen if...
I knew it was time to make a real move and kick my Prime habit for good. So I did. I had to click a few dozen times through the cancelation process because Amazon kept asking me if I was really certainly sure I wanted to give up all those benefits. I happily clicked through until I saw those words, Cancelation Confirmed.
What I see now is that I’d been suffering from the illusion that I was stuck with Amazon. That I had no alternatives. That once I’d gotten sucked into the world of Amazon Prime, there was no way out.
And let me tell you, that is one icky feeling. Maybe you’ve felt it, too?
I call it Amazon Prime Addiction Purgatory, or A-PAP for short. And I’ll bet millions are suffering from it—they just don’t know it yet.
You dismiss the red flag that’s waving in your face; that small issue of always having to check with him first before you do or buy anything. It’s like he has all the answers, and you grow to depend on his resourcefulness.
Soon you start to believe he’s the only guy in town.
Besides, you tell yourself, who could resist his spiffy shoes and dazzling smile? And isn’t it sweet how he surprises you by showing up everywhere you go?
At first, you think that’s adorable. Then you start to wonder…is this creep following me?
Sooner or later you begin to realize he just can’t deliver everything you need. Plus, when it’s the two of you, all alone, he makes you pay—for everything.
Need a bear hug after a hard day? Sorry! That’s not included in your dating arrangement!
Need him to be your Plus-1 for a coworker’s wedding? That’ll cost extra!
Changed your mind about where to grab dinner later? Don’t even think about it! He’s already used your credit card to order the meal. The food is sitting at your table before you even arrive at the restaurant, whether you want it now or not.
In fact, you spend money without even realizing it—even when you’re not hanging out with him. Dollar bills just disappear from your wallet, a little at a time, month after month.
When you ask him about it, he changes the subject and lists all his other great qualities instead: “I’m punctual, entertaining, and I have connections all over the world!”
But you find yourself asking, Is that what I really want?
Because you know in your heart you don’t really care that he shows up early all the dang time. You couldn’t care less about all his entertaining tricks—you don’t have time to enjoy them anyway. And he’s a little skeevy, you decide, what with all his spying robots and unmarked vans.
So why are you wasting your time with this guy?
Because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re stuck with him.
That’s how I felt about Amazon. Hell, I even fell for the gimmick of their Affiliate Program, which I’ve never once earned one dime off of (and am undergoing the painstaking process of unlinking all of the products I’ve ever mentioned in my blogs, slowly but surely).
The good news? You’re not stuck with Amazon. It’s not the only game in town. We consumers do have other options.
It turns out that My favorite green cleaning product is sold elsewhere, and for a comparable price. And my kids are tired of Creative Galaxy anyway.
So, I’m sorry, Amazon. I know how sorry you are to see me go. But it’s over. We’re through at last, and I couldn't be happier.
Capitalism got you down?
Corporate America harshing the mellow of your well-meaning sustainability crusade?
Fear not, fellow Reductionist. You don’t need to live off-grid, check out of society, or use twigs and berries in lieu of cold, hard cash.
There are loads of ways to save, spend, and invest real money that won’t compromise your green lifestyle. In fact, you could even help the environment just by being a savvy consumer. Below are five ways to do so.
Bank With Green Credit Unions
Credit unions are member-owned financial cooperatives interested in helping people more than they are concerned about maximizing profits. Which makes them great places to park your cash if you’re into social justicey things like equity and fairness.
Unlike your average bank, which shells out dividends to the corporate one-percenters in charge, a credit union pays its lowly members any dividends it earns; also great for 99-percenters like you and me.
They offer checking accounts and savings options for personal or banking needs, just like ordinary banks. But their minimum amounts to open are usually way less, and they have fair options for people with horrible credit and high debt.
Traditional credit unions are typically hyper-local and profession-specific. They’re not-for-profit, and are democratically-run. Meaning you can apply to become a member and open an account just because of where you live or work, and once you’re in, you get to vote for the board of directors who’ll run things.
See? You can have the power.
Credit unions typically have lower rates on loans, too, and higher interest rates on savings than banks do. They have low fees for services and are known around the world for offering better, more personalized customer service than your average corporate bank.
I’m not a finance expert, but I have enjoyed credit union membership throughout my lifetime, and I can vouch for them being sensible, reliable places to save and borrow from.
And now, green credit unions are sprouting up across the country, and they specialize in sustainable enterprises. How cool is that?!
Take Clean Energy Credit Union, based out of Colorado. They operate to “promote clean energy, environmental stewardship, and cooperative enterprises…”
They do so by financing loans for people who want to outfit their homes with solar panels or purchase an electric vehicle, for example. I love this. Industry is finally listening to the needs of the people, and it’s a huge step in the right direction.
There’s one small hoop you have to jump through to join Clean Energy Credit Union, which is to first sign up for membership to a thing called ASES, otherwise known as the American Solar Energy Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization “that advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy.” But Clean Energy CU provides a discount coupon code right on their website that gets you into ASES for a mere $10. And then you get a magazine. Hopefully it’s digital.
While I adore regular ol’ credit unions, I want to see more offering sustainable activity-specific loans and membership options. How about one that will finance a loan only if you prove you’ve changed every lightbulb in your house to LED? How about one that requires an oath of environmental consciousness to join? Or where the credit union will plant a tree every time you use one of its ATMs?
Responsible Credit Cards
Tired of hearing your credit card company’s name in the news uttered in the same breath as phrases like “insider trading,” “fraud,” and “lawsuit”? Me, too.
Then switch to a green—or at least socially responsible—credit card.
Green America, a nonprofit that exists “to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society,” offers a comprehensive list of responsible credit cards you can switch to.
These are available to consumers like you and me because they hear that we’re tired of corporate fat-cats making bazillions off of exploitative practices like fossil fuel over-consumption and unfair wages for their overworked employees. Huzzah!
Socially Conscious Banks
Not sure if your bank is one of those whose CEO is getting Champagne-tipsy off the fees you pay for the luxury of swiping your debit card at the grocery store? It just might be, and if that makes your blood boil like it does mine, try switching to a bank with a conscience.
Nerd Wallet offers a list of socially responsible banks that provide savings, checking and loan services just like any other bank, just without the diamonds and caviar for their CEOs.
Take Aspiration, an online-only bank that donates ten cents for every dollar of revenue to charity, and then they let you donate to the cause of your choice through your own account. Which means you can help fund anything that matters to you, with corporate America’s seal of approval.
But that might sound radical. So, because Green America gets that it’s hard to change old habits and disrupt existing systems, they give us step-by-step instructions on how to “Break Up With Your Mega-Bank.” Like that D-bag you dumped in high school, surprisingly, dumping your bank is easier than it seems.
Buy Through Certified B Corps
What do all these eco-conscious, socially responsible financial institutions have in common? They’re Certified B Corporations, or “businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
Certified by B Lab, a nonprofit that does administration, technology and governance advocacy work, Certified B Corps have all met rigorous specifications. B Lab evaluates their business models, operations, employee benefits, supply chain and service models and more, all with an eye toward each company’s environmental impact and overall social consciousness.
If you care how the companies with whom you do business carry out their services, it’s worth it to examine whether their practices meet the Certified B Corp standards. Here’s a directory listing every single one.
What’s In Your Portfolio?
If you dabble in the stock market, talk to your financial planner about investing in renewables. While money managers often recommend investing in fossil fuel-burning power companies, tobacco producers or toxic chemical peddlers, they only do so because, frankly, those portfolios do generate money for investors.
But if having a clear conscience trumps the almighty dollar and you still want a piece of the stock market pie, choose a portfolio that steers clear of harmful industries. Plenty exist that invest in clean energy like solar, wind, geothermal, or green batteries.
Note: these environmentally-oriented portfolios don’t perform as well, generally, as standard ones. Go figure. Green industries haven’t quite caught up to the mainstream…yet.
Exhibit A: The Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy Portfolio, which says it “tracks a modified equal-weighted index of companies involved in cleaner energy sources or energy conservation.”
This portfolio includes companies like Ballard Power Systems, provider of clean energy fuel cells, and Itron, Inc., a smart-cities consulting and management group. While the portfolio appears to do fairly well, generally, it’s down a smidge as of this writing. But choosing from a menu like this one at least doesn’t make you feel icky.
Besides, projections in the renewable energy department are looking up, says the latest report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Wind and solar are set to surge to almost ‘50 by 50’,” they say. “That’s 50% of world generation by 2050 – on the back of precipitous reductions in cost, and the advent of cheaper and cheaper batteries that will enable electricity to be stored and discharged to meet shifts in demand and supply. Coal shrinks to just 11% of global electricity generation by 2050.”
So get in there early and start investing your green in green now! And, as my financial planner always says, don’t freak out when you see the lines on that chart take a nose dive, because they always go back up…eventually.
The Reductionist is not an expert in banking, finance, or money management. If you choose to follow the suggestions listed here, you do so at your own discretion and do not hold The Reductionist liable for any risk assumed by you.
I'm Janeen; writer, mother, wife, and full-time, radical Reductionist. I share stupid-easy tips on how to save money while reducing your impact on the environment, & I'm committed to helping others live a life of simple sustainability.