Alternatives to Amazon:
A Guide to Ethical Online Marketplaces

by | Nov 19, 2020

W hen you choose alternatives to Amazon, you are choosing to support companies or marketplaces that better align with your values. And since you’re already on your search, we won’t spend our time talking about why Amazon is bad. Instead, let’s look at some of the online marketplaces that mind their impact on the planet, people, and communities they touch.

If you’re diving into some online shopping, there are some great destinations to choose that don’t come with all of the destruction of Amazon. And better yet, these Amazon alternatives not only offer high quality and affordable goods, they also labor over their other priorities as well: ethical supply chains, fair labor practices, and environmental stewardship. 

Meet Our Partner: A Good Company

The first step to change is letting people know about the cause, and our partners at A Good Company are all about making change in the world of conscious consumerism!

A Good Company is on a mission to transform mindless consumption into conscious decisions. They create everyday products that are anything but ordinary, putting in the extra mile for each product and process, to ensure that they are always as responsible as humanly possible. How do we know that sustainability is their top priority? Because they share everything publicly from product ideation to the details of packaging materials.

Check out our friends at A Good Company, or learn about other Grow Ensemble partners here.

When you’re kicking Amazon to the curb, you’re engaging in conscious consumerism. You are deliberately choosing to vote with your dollar. So, while you may be missing out on same day deliveries, those are almost never necessary. If immediacy is needed, in non-COVID times, you could often just go to the store yourself.

But big picture, if you’re deciding to be conscious in your buying, that often means being a little more intentional and thinking ahead so you avoid any last minute compromises. It’s part of the gig! And once you’ve adopted the habit, it’ll save you lots of stress too (procrastinators, there is hope!).

The great thing is that you don’t have a shortage of options. Of course, you can always shop with your local businesses in person, in real life when you’re able to (we love our neighbors!). But even online, companies that provide ethical Amazon alternatives are here, and they are ready for you to break free of that robot hold Amazon has on you and welcome you into their loving arms.

Companies like our partners at A Good Company, don’t want you to make the switch all willy nilly. A Good Company, for example, is fully transparent about what they do, how they do it, where they are going, and what they are thinking.

They want you to join the movement, not just the transaction!

Amazon Alternatives

Everyday Goods: A Good Company

What you’ll find there

When you go to A Good Company’s site, you’ll find your everyday goods, all made with sustainability in mind from start to finish. What are these sustainable everyday products? Toothbrushes, hair ties, toilet paper, floss, notebooks, pens, phone cases, USB cords, water bottles, arts and crafts supplies for you creatives and DIY-ers…all the things you may rely on each day, but with all the ethics weaved in before it even gets into your hands.

Every product has that effortlessly cool look to it. From the simple, sleek water bottle you fill up as you head out the door, to the stone notebook and recycled pen you pull out at your work meeting, to the basic tee you rock a couple times a week…or every day…being planet-friendly just hasn’t ever been such an easy choice.

Why they’re better than Amazon

A Good Company CEO, Anders Ankarlid spearheads the mission to change mindless consumption into conscious consumerism. Conscious consumerism often means not buying, and when you do buy, it means buying products with long or endless lifecycles (and buying those from the companies supporting your own values and ethics standards). 

a good company flossCentral to A Good Company’s existence is changing the face of e-commerce completely. This starts with materials. A Good Co. is unmatched in product development creativity. Their hair ties? Recycled materials. Floss? All starts with waste corn purchased from farmers. Pens? You mean the ones made of grass and recycled plastic or the ones made from melted down illegal firearms?

When you get an A Good Company treat in the mail, it’ll come in climate-positive packaging, made completely of stone paper—so your delivery looks good, feels soft, and is planet-friendly in a way that not many others can boast. They keep you up to date on new products they are planning or working on along with insight into the sustainability they’re working into it.

And their advocacy for change doesn’t stop at their products. In addition to spreading information on the issues of e-commerce and the creative solutions they and others develop through partnerships like ours and their own blog, A Good Company started its own holiday: Green November! Confused and grossed out by the consumer “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, A Good Company took the opportunity to plant some trees with each 10 euros spent.

You may see at some point in your checkout that A Good Company doesn’t offer free returns. The nerve! I mean, giving up same day shipping and now you have to pay for returns? True to form, this return policy is out of care for the environment. Free returns means more mindless purchasing and a lot of wasteful shipping expenses (financially and environmentally). So, shipping is on you. BUT, they do have a money back guarantee for the first time you purchase each of their products. 

Their goal is to get you products you don’t want to return in the first place, so if it doesn’t work for you, they’ll refund you 100% without any return shipping necessary. Solid values-based compromise, we think.

Food: Thrive Market

thrive market

What you’ll find there

Good tasting, good for you eats, healthy home care, and clean beauty products. You can shop by diet so you’ll be directed straight to the gluten free, organic, or keto aisle for your perusing. You’ll see that all of the food you’re adding to your cart is ethically sourced for your guilt-free enjoyment. This is an awesome option for an online grocery store for you, your babies, your pets, and your dinner guests. A highly recommended replacement for your Amazon prime subscription.

Why they’re better than Amazon

Something we love about this recently certified B Corporation is their focus on accessibility. Far too often, nutrition is limited to those who have the means to choose their purchases based on something other than price. For stores like Amazon-owned Whole Foods, that’s the case for nearly everyone across financial statuses.

In terms of pricing, Thrive guarantees the best deal….really. If you find a low price on a product that Thrive offers, they’ll match it. And and and, for each paid subscription, Thrive Market spots a subscription fee for a family who otherwise wouldn’t be able to join. 

Thrive-market-BOX-AND-PACKINGAnd did we mention their zero-waste warehouses, sustainable packaging, and carbon-neutral shipping? Yesyesyesyes….

But the queens of accessibility don’t stop there. If you visit their site, you’ll see “Accessibility Adjustments” in the footer. What’s that you may ask? Well, you can adjust your site experience based on your visual, auditory, and attention abilities. Need a more focused page? Maybe larger text size or page color adjustments? Need less animations or reduced on-screen flashing? No matter your cognitive, sensory, or motor skills needs, you can customize your profile so you can get the full Thrive experience! Love it.

Other Options

We have heard about Azure Standard, however, we haven’t tried them out ourselves. But, their mission and first-on-the-scene evolution caught our eye. They boast accessible, highly-vetted healthy food and products sent out from their warehouse (not yet for you in the far Northeast though).

If you have experience in their space, let us know!

Homegoods: Made Trade

made tradeWhat you’ll find there

We are big fans of our friends at Made Trade. You know that artisan-made, culture-rich vibe Athropologie and Anthropologie-mimicked Amazon products sell? Now imagine that exactly…except actually artisan-made and culture-rich, and that is Made Trade. 

Made Trade has all things fashion and home: clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture, home decor, dishes, and more. 

Why they’re better than Amazon

Their values are at the core of everything they do: fair trade, heritage, POC owned, women-owned, made in the United States, sustainable, and vegan. You can shop by the specific value you align with, or dive into their curation head first. No matter your approach, you know you’re getting the real deal and supporting the humans and communities that bring warmth into your home.

made trade handmaking loomA lot of the goods at Made Trade are affordable, and even a single item makes for a warm welcome in your house and a conversation piece for years to come. But, one question I had that you may have with some of the products at Made Trade (and I had it for other stores like Anthropologie too) is why so expensive? In a conversation with their team, I asked what the deal was. Well, before I could hit my forehead with my hand, they told me that when something is hand-woven, for example, it takes time, effort, and mastery over an art—an art often with Made Trade products, has been preserved over thousands of years. And those humans should be compensated appropriately.

Well, when you’re looking for ethical options, there’s just not much to argue with there.

Toiletries, Home Care, and Personal Care: Grove Collaborative

grove collaborativeWhat you’ll find there

All things keeping your house clean plus accessories to keep it sustainable. Grove Collaborative is a subscription service for all those must-have in the home: toilet paper, cleaning products, countertop compost bin, laundry detergent that got an entire glass of red wine out of my favorite t-shirt….and all of it in its most eco-friendly form.

Grove offers their own products along with those of other ethical and eco-friendly companies. Their suppliers and partners are also audited annually for compliance with a labor assessment in their factories along with monitoring and improving of supply chains that Grove conducts with third party partners to ensure every product in their marketplace is coming from only socially responsible companies as well. 

Check out our full Grove Collaborative review for more details on what Grove has for you and the products our team love. 

Why they’re better than Amazon

Another certified B Corp, Grove is in business to bring healthier home and personal care products to you all in one place. All of their products are non-toxic, effective, sustainable, and cruelty-free. 

grove collaborative beyond plasticBeyond what’s in the bottles, they are on a path to be completely plastic-free by 2025 through their “Beyond Plastic” products because they recognize we have to save our oceans to save our planet. As of now, they are plastic neutral, meaning for every ounce of plastic purchased, they collect and recycle an equivalent amount of plastic directly from waterways…they’ve already removed 3.7 million pounds of plastic! 

Like some of the others on this list, they carbon offset their shipments. And, they are on a mission to plant a million trees in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation.

Finally, when you’re dealing with repeat products in your home, cost is important. Grove keeps things as affordable as a grocery store trip, and where they don’t they’ll price match any product. Save money and the planet? Done.

Other Options

BLK + GRN is an all-natural marketplace that curates products by all Black artisans for home care essentials, skincare products, baby products, and there’s even a little something for your pets. Their mission is to connect Black people with natural products, eliminating the toxic ingredients that threaten our health, and their curation is one we can all enjoy. Each product is curated with precision and intention to bring only good-for-you products into your home.

Books: Better World Books

better world books

Congratulations on finding your one-stop shop for reading materials. Better World Books is an extensive online shop for your reading and planet-caring needs. For those of us kicking the kindle to the curb, Better World Books is ready to put a book in your hands.

Check out our social entrepreneurship book list if you want to kick off your better-for-the-world reading with some discussion of the changemaking companies on our list or if you think you may want to build something to join their ranks!

Why they’re better than Amazon

As a certified B Corp, Better World Books is out here for the cause. They offset emissions in the delivery of your latest read, have donated well over $28,000,000 to fund literacy and libraries, and have shared 300 million recycled and used books to make the most of each print.

If you’re an audiobook kind of person, Better World Books is still doing it old school with CD’s. 

Other Options

Indie Bound isn’t quite the online store that Better World Books is, but that’s because that’s not their bread and butter. They are the go-to when you want to find your local indie bookstore, get a book list, or keep up with the indie bookstore ecosystem (for example, did you see the Don’t Box Out Bookstores campaign?). So, if you’re looking for a physical store near you that you can support, check them out. Brick and mortar stores and local booksellers delight, Indie Bound is on your team!

Outdoors: REI

REI CoopWhat you’ll find

As you probably know, REI is the retailer for all things top of the line outdoor apparel and equipment. And they are at the top of the line in quality products and planet care. 

Why they’re better than Amazon

REI was created by friends with a shared passion for the outdoors, and their original passion continues as we all join their co-op. These focuses aren’t just remnants of what once was, they continue to define who they are even to this day. REI is a community of enthusiasts. They are transparent about who makes up the REI workforce and how they are treated by REI.  

They believe the outdoors is for everyone, and they want us all to get outside! Okay. I accept. 

REI Opt outsideBlack Friday? No thanks. REI asks their employees to #OptOutside instead, encouraging them to join service projects that day. It’s not just their employees they want to get outside either. That’s why they also offer rentals and “recommerce” where they resell secondhand goods still in good condition. Not only does this extend the lifespan of their products, but, as you know, we love people active in the accessibility game!

And, as avid learners ourselves, we can appreciate REI’s initiative for environmental journalism, to bring all of us great stories and insight into the planet, its health, and its role in our lives through their magazine Uncommon Path.

It’s transparency, accessibility, and advocacy makes REI who it is. Real humans who want other humans to enjoy real nature first and foremost.

Shop Direct

If none of this sounds like what you want, then get exactly what you want off Amazon, but go directly to the company who makes it (when that producer isn’t Amazon itself). When you order goods off Amazon, the small businesses you’re buying from lose a percentage of that sale to Amazon.

And the solution here is simple. When you find a product, just go directly to the supplier’s website and buy from them. You may have to deal with standard shipping, but it’s a microscopic compromise in exchange for supporting the literal survival of the planet.

Nixing Amazon for the Marketplaces that Care about You and the Planet

When you open up your browser for some online shopping, your ability to opt for a marketplace that doesn’t exploit the humans and environment is greater than you probably know! Maybe your ethical online retailer doesn’t offer same or next day delivery, but you’ll probably survive. And always keep in mind: you aren’t staging a one-person boycott—we are right there with you in the fight for quality, high-integrity companies that we can be excited about supporting.

Annie Bright

Annie Bright

Grow Ensemble Co-Founder & Dir. of Partnerships

Annie Bright is from Corpus Christi, TX, and now lives in San Antonio. A life-long student, after getting her law degree, she has decided to pursue a master’s degree at the Fletcher School at Tufts. With a diverse professional history ranging from advertising and writing to education, and impact experience spanning from refugees to homelessness, she has an insatiable appetite for curating purposeful content for our posts and podcasts as well as using her brains and heart for leaving the world a better place than she found it.

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