Over 100 million people have Amazon Prime memberships, meaning 62% of the U.S. population has a membership. This number isn't that shocking when you think of all of the perks that come with having a membership. People are drawn to the convenience of free two-day shipping, that is even faster in some cities, the free books, movies and music, and the discounts at stores like Whole Foods.
It has become difficult to go a day without using or being exposed to something that is owned by Amazon. Even if you're not browsing the Amazon website, if you go to Whole Foods, use Audible or Twitch or even Goodreads, you are using an Amazon company.
This can be shocking and it makes it seem like Amazon is taking over the country, and it actually is trying to do that. According to Vox, Amazon is pushing to become the source of consumer needs for the U.S. government. This means that Amazon will be the company that provides the government with all of their needs: paper products, pens, office supplies, books, and pretty much anything else that the government may need.
So, what does this mean for us? This means a lot. If the U.S. government, along with local and state governments, turn to depend on Amazon for its consumer needs, it could mean the end for a lot of local businesses who depend on big accounts like a local government.
Driving out local businesses can mean more harm will be done to the community and the environment. If someone was living in a town that relies on small businesses that are then run out of town due to a lack of customers, then people are being forced to rely on the convenience of online marketplaces to do their shopping.
The number one online marketplace in the U.S. as of right now is Amazon, who, as of 2015, had a clean energy index of only 23%, compared to Apple's 100% and Yahoo's 73%. Although these numbers are old and only reflect the numbers of their data centers and not their overall carbon footprint, it doesn't look much better today, looking at the whole picture. Amazon Prime's free two-day or less shipping is a major contributor to the company's carbon footprint. Since free shipping is offered on pretty much anything someone could need off of Amazon, people are no longer waiting to fill their cart to reach a quota to get free shipping.
What this leads to is people buying one or two small things that they want and getting it shipped to their house. However, in those two days, some people have already placed another order of one or two little things. That's how we run into the situation where you get that pack of pens you ordered in a box that could fit 40 packs of pens. This is more cardboard and plastic packaging that ends up in landfills and adds to your carbon footprint.
Two-day shipping is also counterintuitive to the methodology of online shopping. Originally, online shopping was marketed as a great way to reduce carbon emissions, and it was. By being able to pack a truck full of goods to then be delivered in a planned route to a number of houses, companies were able to emit less carbon than if each person were to go to the store to get what they needed. However, with two-day shipping, trucks are being sent out half-full and the routes are more sporadic and deliveries are often being made to the same neighborhood, or even the same house, multiple times a week.
People are also using online shopping in a way that was not the original intention. Online shopping was meant to be used instead of going out and doing the shopping yourself. People have started using this along with regular shopping, meaning not only is carbon being emitted from the delivery trucks that are being used to deliver their items that were purchased online, but carbon is also be emitted by their cars when they go out to do more shopping.
In some cases and in some places it may not be possible to avoid using Amazon, but there is a lot we can do to help reduce the carbon footprint that we help amazon produce. First of which, is to fill your cart. Instead of only buying one or two things, buy everything that you may need. This might mean waiting a couple of days or even a week before ordering, but it also means that you are going to get a full package that was probably in a full truck.
You can also avoid ordering something online if you can buy it at a store that you will go to soon. By keeping in mind how we use online shipping services and the number of carbon emissions they produce, we can help to eliminate our overall carbon footprint.