When I saw my mum ordering six bottles of chilli oil from Amazon, I began to protest with great frustration and, upon reflection, perhaps with a little too much indignation. “Couldn’t we wait to buy it in the shops, and did we really need it?” I cried, as I rattled out the endless list of crimes of the world’s biggest marketplace. My mum was quick to respond, as she lamented that there was no chilli oil in the shops, and having already cut down on how much of our traditional cuisine we usually eat (due to an unsurprising lack of South Asian groceries in the Scottish Borders), the least she could have was a bit of spice with her pasta. I quickly surrendered; my mum is an NHS frontline worker who was the breadwinner in our household. It’s because of her we are surviving. Who was I to take away her chilli oil?
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability and ethical consumerism was becoming the norm: whether it was reusing red carpet dresses, cutting down on meat, or simply trying to think twice before buying your eyeliner with seven pieces of plastics on the lid, many of us were trying to be better consumers. To some degree, we were succeeding; single use plastic usage went down and anything that could be used more than once was now trendy.
Yet, we are now all faced with new dilemmas. Everything is shut down, and we have turned to the internet to save us; more specifically, the one place we go to for cheap, fast delivered goods. The Amazon that many avid Marxist anti-consumerists wish to burn down, but is only thriving more and more.
Many of us, including myself, have tried to boycott and persuade others to do the same to the online website. However, it is extremely important to recognise that to be able to choose alternatives is a privilege; lots of people cannot afford (including my own family, who are middle-class) to go elsewhere on a regular basis. It was after Channel 4’s documentary on Tuesday, titled The Truth about Amazon, that I decided to do some research and suggest some relatively cheaper alternatives for when we can spend a little more or wait that bit longer.
Books – Hive.co.uk
Yes, you read that right. Hive is not only a place to seek during your drunken stupors in late night Edinburgh, it’s also a brilliant book website that contributes to local independent book shops on the high street. Not only do they have a wide variety of books available (I recently bought three books from Blackwells, and found the exact same books for cheaper on Hive), they also have a student discount. A couple of other alternatives I found are Wordery.co.uk or Books etc; yet I found these online sites with less to offer. However, feel free to use them too if you find your desired book!
Clothes – Good on you app
Advocated by the wonderful Emma Watson, ‘Good On You’ does what it says on the tin: it finds clothing alternatives that are ethical for you and the people making the clothes too. You can search by brand or any piece of clothing you’re wanting to buy. The app will tell you how ethical the brand you’re shopping for is, and give you more ethical alternatives if necessary. It will be hard, at times, to find the exact piece you’re looking for in some of these places, so keep an open mind; you’ll eventually find what you want with a bit of extra time.
Make-up, medicine, skincare and more: Boots
This may appear to be an obvious one, but many Boots pharmacies are still open and are providing as much as they can in store and online. On their website they have specifically mentioned that they are prioritising products that are most needed; and this way, you are guaranteed the safety and quality of any health products you need. If you’re more interested in alternative, herbal medicines with a wide range of vegan options, check out Holland & Barrett.
Anything else: Ebay
Again, this may appear to be a weak alternative to Amazon; however for your odd bits and bobs that can’t be found anywhere else, Ebay is your best bet. In order to keep smaller business going, on their front page the site have prioritised these places, taking the customer directly to a list for customers to choose from when you click on the link. Furthermore, in the company’s official response to Covid-19, they have stated they are working to create a portal for essential NHS and social care workers to supply PPE.
Other things you can do to reduce your impact on services is ask yourself how essential each item is, whether you could get it anywhere else and not be worse off, and if you can wait longer. These are tough times, and of course none of us will be perfect. If you need to order from Amazon, it can’t be helped; however, I can only hope these alternatives offer some more ethical options for all of us.
Image:Ira sniel via Flickr