The Tea on Sustainable Living

#19 | The problem with Amazon and convenience (or is there?)

December 07, 2022 Brandee and Hannah
The Tea on Sustainable Living
#19 | The problem with Amazon and convenience (or is there?)
The Tea on Sustainable Living +
Get a shoutout in an upcoming episode!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Transcript

Would Amazon and convenience exist in your utopia? What would that look like?

We surprise ourselves as we delve deeper into the Amazon problem. At first, it seems clear that Amazon is definitely in the naughty corner, but maybe there is more to it than meets the eye.

Today we’re exploring the need to add friction to our purchases, whether Amazon’s efficiency is commendable, and even taking a look into Hannah’s Amazon history.

So grab some tea, get comfy, and hit that play button. And if you have to hit pause to collect an Amazon delivery (Hannah did!), we won’t judge…

Find our previous episodes at

Send us a voice message at

Connect with us on Instagram at

Sign up for our newsletter:

Links and resources:

Podcast | #3 | Is plastic really that bad?
Article | Amazon Is A Marvel Of Digital Capitalism And That Is The Problem
Article | Resisting Amazon Capitalism
Article | Amazon Is a Symbol of Capitalism’s Wastefulness
Article | Just for When
Article | 25+ ethical alternatives to Amazon
Article | Alternatives to Amazon that deliver on value and ethics
Article | 15 Best Amazon Alternatives For Ethical Online Shopping
Article | Amazon Alternatives
App | Vinted | Sell and buy clothes, shoes and accessories
App | CoopCycle
Video | Leena Norms How to break up with Amazon. For good.
Video | How Amazon Makes Money: AWS

Support the show

-Brandee and Hannah

Note: This transcript is mostly unedited.

Brandee   0:05  

It's not easy living on a dying planet. But it is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making changes and taking action to try and save it. Where do you start? Is it even worth it? Can you really make a difference? Welcome to The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast, where we attempt to answer these questions by spilling the tea on living sustainably in a world that's going to shit. I'm Brandee.

Hannah  0:26  

And I'm Hannah. And for years, we've been navigating the big messy gray area of caring about our planet. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but we're not giving up yet. So brew yourself a cup of tea, get comfy. And let's try and navigate that gray area together.

Brandee   0:45  

Hello, Give-a-Shitters. This is Brandee.

Hannah  0:47  

And this is Hannah. And you're listening to episode number 18 of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast.

Brandee   0:58  

I did that last episode. But hopefully through the power of editing. You didn't notice Do you want to start it over?

Unknown Speaker  1:06  

It's fine. All right, good. Hey, there, they can hear the the bloopers

Brandee   1:11  

shudders Yes, we are back and Hannah, if you haven't already noticed is feeling a bit under the weather but better.

Hannah  1:16  

Yes, but today, but I'm saying I've got this nice husky voice just for you or today, listeners.

Brandee   1:24  

Phoebe from friends when she second has her sexy voice and then she gets better to go. I lost my sexy voice.

Hannah  1:32  

That's quite a good thing. Maybe I need to send some sexy voice notes out. All right, go. Get on Hinge. Hello.

Brandee   1:42  

Can I hear? Okay, all right. We should probably get to the episode. We're trying to do a batch today. So what are we talking about today?

Hannah  1:51  

We're talking about Amazon wounds. I'm Yeah, I was just we get quite a lot of Amazon deliveries in our flat. Yeah, yeah, I get a lot of mine.

Brandee   2:07  

I get a lot of reused Amazon boxes when I order from Vinted. Interesting. My Amazon purchases aren't are not frequent. I don't think I'm probably compared to the average Amazon buyer. But I do sometimes buy on their digital products. Like if I'm a new book comes out from a favorite author. And I just can't wait for the Library app to catch up to the new release or like streaming movies or TV shows that I can't find anywhere else.

Hannah  2:34  

Yeah, that's true. I hadn't even thought we're already at Touching on how like giant Amazon is.

Brandee   2:41  

I just took a big sip of my tea, but I forgot it wasn't my insulated mug. So it's really really hot.

Unknown Speaker  2:50  

All right, breathe free.

Brandee   2:55  

Anyway, well, that's

Unknown Speaker  2:56  

your taste buds garden for the weekend.

Brandee   2:59  

could repeat your last statement, I would greatly appreciate that.

Hannah  3:05  

I was saying that. Amazon, I just even saying that I kind of forget how big Amazon is. So my so I also Yeah, I get like I have a Kindle. So a lot of the like if I get ebooks, a lot of them are from from Amazon, because Kindle is a. That's what it comes installed with because it's an Amazon product.

Brandee   3:29  

Yeah, and even with a Library app, it's connected to Amazon, and their library books. I'm not like buying it. But it's so stiff to go through Amazon to get to get it on the Kindle app, there might be another. I don't know if there's another option. I just remember at the time of signing up for this library app to like to check out digital and audiobooks, eBooks and audiobooks. I set it I just connected it to Kindle. She asked to go through Amazon. So I don't know if there's another option anyway.

Unknown Speaker  3:58  

So we I think,

Brandee   4:01  

I think we want to use this episode to sort through our thoughts on Amazon because this complex, it isn't Yeah, like Surprise, surprise, most things. It's not a black or white thing. As much as I feel like in my

Unknown Speaker  4:14  

statement. We say that every week.

Brandee   4:18  

I feel like in my head, I associate it as bad. I think Amazon bad. So I think maybe I do put it a bit more in the black category. Despite just having said that I do occasionally buy like byproducts from there. But yeah,

Hannah  4:35  

I think I would also agree with that. And I'm like, Oh, I'm again. I should feel bad about this. But I'm not

Brandee   4:46  

why do we should feel bad about it. For me, it's I mean, you can look at it. What are the working title of this is the problem with Amazon and Jeff Bezos. And then like the notes Amazon versus Jeff versus the system them, which is capitalism. So it's like, there are so many things at play, if it's just like Amazon and the website and the products, it's the sheer volume of it. That bothers me. And one of the articles will link just the sheer waste. That happens, because I remember when I used to buy products regularly, like physical products regularly from them, and something would be wrong or wouldn't get delivered on Monday would end up being delivered just late, they would just resend it and not ask for or give a refund and not asked for the item to be sent back. If they're if it was like a problem with an item. So they're just very quick to be like, Oh, well just send another what does that another cool. You're losing money. Which I think I'm sure they're their books and articles that go into like, all of this, like fancy business setup and how I think that still works in their favor. Usually, like they're okay with losing a bit of money, because it's the customer like, oh, great, I'll have to go and return this. Because they're just gonna they're gonna make it easy for me. And people like that. So I guess it must work out for them in the end. But yeah, I'm sure there's some fancy theories and financial explanation so that but what did I read in one article? Oh, about?

Hannah  6:17  

Sorry, I'm just my doorbell is ringing. I'm gonna go. Okay. Well, you go like that. Well,

Brandee   6:22  

look up this article. Ironically, that was an Amazon delivery.

Unknown Speaker  6:31  

Oh, what good timing.

Brandee   6:32  

Should we bring her in on this? So I found the articles from Tribune mag. Based in UK Amazon is a symbol of capitalism's wastefulness is the title and quote within the article is, a new report has revealed that just one Amazon warehouse in Scotland destroys 130,000 unsold goods per week, a reminder of the waste involved in production for profit rather than public need.

Hannah  7:02  

Yeah, it sounds pretty shocking.

Brandee   7:04  

Anecdotally, it gets even more shocking. Just the sheer amount of waste. Did it

Hannah  7:10  

talk about how that compares to other companies? Like I don't,

Brandee   7:16  

I don't remember. I know. Other companies were referenced in one of the articles I found I can't remember. I think the main focus was Amazon.

Hannah  7:26  

Yeah. I always I mean, I, I mean, that's shocking. 130,000 items I can't even imagine. But I want to like, is that just how the system is currently working?

Brandee   7:40  

Yeah, no, they're not alone and destroying things like fashion industry, which will I think we're gonna have another fashion related episode soon. Ish. About like, destroying like, the previous week's items so that no one can wear it. Oh, that was in I saw that in like the minimalism documentary. Yeah, and I just watched it on go. So not not alone, that they destroy items. But because Amazon is so big. Right scale of it is scary. Yeah. wasteful?

Hannah  8:07  

Yeah, it's true. But then on the other hand, it's hard. Not the way thing but the sheer volume of products is kind of one of the good things about Amazon. As a consumer, you know, or it feels I'm like, Okay, this is great. I can order some things, my garden, and some groceries and a book. And some batteries, which is an order I have made in the past. And I'm doing all in one go from one website. And it all arrived very quickly. And that seems pretty great.

Brandee   8:48  

Yes. The access, the convenience, the affordability, yeah, are all great things going on people. I feel like we should have started with a bit of a disclaimer that I feel like when I like share my issues with Amazon, like I'm mostly saying it from my very privileged position, like I don't rely on Amazon or similar websites for, you know, affordable household items that like I need, you know, on day to day. So, because that is a reason not to say it's all bad, because there are people who, who rely on it.

Hannah  9:24  

Yeah, and it could it's very accessible, you know,

Brandee   9:27  

but then it's, for me, it's, it's a bit too accessible, which is why I had to put it in that like, quote unquote, bad category in my brain. Because I used to make similar purchases. very varied and weird combination of things because you can get them all on Amazon.

Hannah  9:50  

And but do you think that that is, if it were non wasteful, do you think that's bad?

Brandee   9:58  

I think I think you have to look at like the types of products are selling to and where they're coming from how they're made, because a lot of times, they're like cheap crap. And often I remember when I would regularly buy from Amazon ordered physical goods, you think you were ordering something from a brand, but then you'd get like a knockoff. So it's like, wait, I wanted the thing I wanted that hopefully would have lasted longer. So you get this like, cheaper version that's like, either comes broken, or it's dysfunctional or it breaks in a week? I don't know, I think I just generally have a problem with the it's just too frictionless. To, you know, one click buys and to instant gratification that I mean, it. Clearly it works, which is why I had to remove myself from it, because it was just, like my recent problem with vintage just like going on just for the sake of it. Because it was on my phone and scrolling. So

Hannah  10:58  

yeah, I mean, it doesn't really promote

Brandee   11:01  

what consumerism,

Hannah  11:03  

right sustainable habits, because, yeah, it's too easy. And there's too much there. So like,

Brandee   11:10  

you, I feel like you often just add things to your cart either to get the free shipping. You don't need because it's too easy. There's not like, it doesn't allow you to like stop and think do I really need this? Because they want your money? Because that's that's the whole business model to make money. Yeah. What do you think?

Hannah  11:29  

I mean, I agree. And I agree, and I don't well. Yeah, this is where like, well, it's all complex, I guess. I'm not sure that it's a bad thing to be able to get things very efficiently and get multiple things at once and multiple different types of things.

Brandee   11:56  

Right, but you shouldn't get all of that at the cheap cost you do at Amazon, because someone else is paying the cost for that efficiency.

Unknown Speaker  12:06  

Hmm, yeah, that's true.

Brandee   12:08  

So for me, I don't think I'd have a problem with that if it was priced fairly, the workers who helped box and ship and deliver all the goods were all paid fairly, which would mean a higher price, which would create some friction. Like there's a local food delivery, though, Co Op, bicycle deliveries, they have higher fees. And I'm willing to pay that if sometimes I get a craving for Chinese food, I will order that because it's not on that app. I've ordered from one of the regular ones, like just eat. But for the most part, I start with the more expensive one because I know there. Yeah, the fees are fair. Which Yeah, not not everyone can, can do that. So then that's what my head starts spinning.

Hannah  12:58  


Brandee   13:01  

And then one of the articles I found, which definitely link was. So usually, like, I'll pull like links and put it in our outline. And then just like copy a couple of quotes. For those listening, like copy a couple of things bullet points underneath to like to mention this one was just like to like, it's like the most of a page. Whereas it was the same one at the Scotland. So it goes on to say, well, it's important to investigate Amazon's role in this problem, I think referring to if it was the waist or how workers are treated, it's much bigger than just one company. In fact, the revelations demonstrate a structural problem with the mass consumption central to our economic system. Amazon's model of shipping vast quantities of goods and small packages that arrive at the customer's doorstep within a few days, if not a few hours, is not sustainable, and likely never will be. But it's the product of a decade's long push to price, low prices and convenience above all else, and to see workers and the environment as collateral in that quest. So no, I don't think it's inherently bad for like the, for things to, you know, be done more efficiently and come quicker, but when people on planet are suffering because of it, which this article and other ones that I'll link demonstrate. Yeah, that's where I have an issue.

Hannah  14:16  

Right, especially when you compare, like you say, I didn't like Amazon is known for not treating its workers. particularly well. And that's just like the, the workers we know about, right, like not all the workers who are making products that are then sold, right, you know, on Amazon. So no, no, I don't know. I find it hard. Like I think I think you know what we were talking about, like obviously the cost is one of those key things that shows that it's not sustainable because it shouldn't be possible. It's like not possible to do this. In the way it's being done with it. out exploiting people on the planet. But I don't think aiming for something like Amazon, you know, to basically like a courier service, right, like getting products to people quickly, in a centralized way, isn't necessarily a bad thing. The way it's being done, I guess isn't, but I don't know. Yeah. I don't know if that isn't inherently, like aiming for convenience.

Brandee   15:36  

Can you have that, though that, that level of efficiency and convenience, and not have collateral, like the article mentioned?

Hannah  15:46  

I don't know. I mean, if people, you know, I guess probably do it need to be less variety of products, because we produce too many things. Yeah, I see, though, that was like I knew would need to have people being paid more. But But then after that, I mean, this might just be lack of knowledge. Perhaps there are other reasons why that is unsustainable. But you know, we live in a highly connected world. Why shouldn't

Brandee   16:20  

start with capping? CEO salary? There's no reason they should be? I don't know. There's no reason anyone should have billions of billions of dollars. Right? No, I thought that was kept. And that could I don't know how it all evens out how the math works out, but pay the workers fair and the careers fair. And

Hannah  16:42  

yeah, I mean, yeah, it would definitely be more expensive. But I don't think that aiming for the kind of convenience that Amazon provides, isn't necessarily a bad thing. On inherently unsustainable,

Brandee   16:59  

yeah, I just don't know if it can be done. The same cost, like it just thinks,

Hannah  17:04  

yeah, I don't think it would be the same cost at all. I agree, the costs would go up. But then the cost should go up on most things. I think feels like

Brandee   17:14  

I think a lot of us could benefit from a bit more friction and waiting a few more days to get an item. That's, let's say items that are not like needs or essentials for your household. I heard someone recently compare, like not getting like for the prime you get like two day free shipping. That's like one of the perks. I heard someone like compare that to like, how crazy is that? Like? It's basically an adult throwing a temper tantrum? What do you mean, I can't have that immediately. What do you mean, I have to wait, I want it now. And then I picture what's their name from Willy Wonka? For whatever, yeah, I need it now. Like, do we though?

Hannah  17:56  

Yeah. But it doesn't mean that it's not necessarily like, nice to have things. Now.

Brandee   18:02  

I'm not saying it's not nice. It's just

Hannah  18:05  

it's I don't know, I think I mean, I understand where you're coming from. But if we'd like, this is the picturing like, the utopian Amazon, which everyone's being paid fairly, and it's sustainable.

Brandee   18:19  

The Amazon wouldn't, wouldn't be wouldn't be in this utopia.

Hannah  18:25  

But I don't know. I wouldn't know it. That's kind of it's kind of like a moral to say that we should wait for things is kind of making like a moral like that. It's good for us to wait for the glimpse of making a sort of moral statement.

Brandee   18:39  

I think we could bend out saying Shut up, we could benefit from waiting a bit our bank accounts, our closets, our kitchens, because that was one of the areas that I would buy on Amazon that I did not need my kitchen gadgets.

Hannah  18:55  

Very odd. I didn't really expect to have this episode somewhat defending Amazon. But yeah, I don't know. No, not defend, but I, you know, I see why conceptually. It's like a good idea. I think, just badly executed.

Brandee   19:14  

Yeah, I think I think the issue comes with, like the scale of it all. So massive. And apparently they actually don't make most of their money from products. So really, they're web services. They're like web hosting or something, which I don't know much about. But people say that.

Hannah  19:31  

I didn't know that at all. I mean, it's true, especially in the model now that having a kind of big company that's producing all these things or contracting other companies to produce things or making smaller companies use them as a platform because otherwise there's no people won't use them does, you know, kind of remove competition, because you can't compete with the prices. Now that Amazon is offering, if it's creating via for the making things in bulk,

Brandee   20:05  

I think yeah. That, you know, that was one of the issues you first mentioned in that an outline about like, I forget how you phrased it like crowding out like the small businesses, which I mean, kind of ties into what I was saying about that we could benefit from, like more friction, like going out to a local bookstore going out to a local store that sells like kitchen. What, like home goods, to support those local businesses. Instead of just going on Amazon and doing like the one click Buy,

Hannah  20:35  

do you think summit also has to do with the kind of lifestyles we live in now? That everyone is busier? Yeah. You know, and they say, I mean, in so many different ways, right? Like the supermarkets have taken over from the local shop. And that's partly because they're more convenient, right? If you only can have you only have to go to one shop. Yeah. Unless you really have time where you really enjoy it. Better for most people, even if you'd like, we would like to think that we want to shop at you know, smallest places. And I know the truth is in the foot ball.

Brandee   21:23  

Yeah, I mean, I tend to go back and forth to that. I'm certainly I'm surrounded by grocery stores and I'm able to walk there on foot. Huh? And yeah, if you're young, like a lot and a lot of America you have to drive to the store. So if you're on a drive to all these places, it's better to like do it all in one go go to the furthest one and work your way back. But you are still a does still add up a bit so rain? Yeah, I can see an argument for it's it's always better to go to one place. But I think for me, like I forget which episode I mentioned it in, who was like, was it plastic or trying to Yeah, like buying, trying to mix it up between bulk and, you know, the chain grocery stores. I still try to do that I can be a bit better. So I'm like saying all these things as much for like myself as that's for those listening. Yeah, I mean, I think going to local shops.

Hannah  22:19  

I mean, I think living in Spain made me realize how inherently lazy I am. As I don't think it's just me because it's true in Spain on where I've been living. There are a lots of smaller shops. Still, there's lots of small fruit and veg shops. And there's some book shops and I do shop in them occasionally. But most of the time I go to Lidl, that's the truth. I go somewhere where I can get everything in one go at something I want to change. I'm sure I've talked about this before, and I haven't changed, but I am becoming more aware again, of the amount of plastic involved in that way of shopping. Yeah. And I feel like that's something that I would like to reduce. But yeah, that's the truth of it.

Brandee   23:05  

So we're within our 10 minute warning. What else do we want to say about Amazon?

Hannah  23:10  

Yeah, I don't know. I feel like we've touched on a few issues. I don't really no, I feel like I probably will carry on shopping at Amazon. But I probably shouldn't.

Brandee   23:25  

What if you like removed? Do you have like your payment info saved? Yeah, removes that.

Unknown Speaker  23:31  


Brandee   23:32  

just create a little bit more friction. I don't know, what are the things you're buying, like things you truly need? Or do you feel yourself going down? A slope of like just adding things to the cart?

Hannah  23:42  

Not really, because I'm not like a big shopper is sure. I feel like I'm like a splurge splurge. And then I spend what's nice, though, should be a catchy way of saying, I feel like every few months, I'm like, oh, I need to buy that thing. And then I buy it. And yes, a few other things will end up in there in the cart at the same time. I'm just looking. I've got I'm opening Amazon. I wonder if I can see. See the orders I've had the last. Okay, that's in 2022. Let's say it's a bit more than I expected. I've had nine. I've done nine orders from Amazon in the last year. Which let's see.

Brandee   24:25  

Oh, and they even have these but they still do that but I remember coworkers telling me about they have these like buttons. You can like put like this little you know, there's commercials about like the easy button. It's basically something like that that you put like I think smaller. You can put like under your sink Rukia paper towels and once you're out you just hit that button and you get an automatic order of new paper towels, whatever which fasho seems I can see the appeal to that. But that feels like a bit much. Yeah,

Hannah  24:57  

but it kind of was I mean I don't do that. But my my I'm just throwing her under the bus my housemate does. She has like a add on in, I think on Amazon, like her cat food. So that she knows that it will always come. Yeah, I've I don't think that's like necessarily like a bad thing, right?

Brandee   25:18  

I think it is. Again, it's just if you can stay at the top of that of the slippery slope, the slippery slope stoep fleet, the slippery, steep slope. Yeah. Because I guess it yet depends on your personality. I it was too easy for me to like, slip down that slope and go.

Unknown Speaker  25:37  

Well, I mean,

Brandee   25:39  

yeah, you can also as an alternative keep a recurring event and like a Google Calendar, or cat food. Yeah. Yeah, I think you can only make your own decision of whether right what works for you? What works for you? And is it the best thing like if you're listening to this podcast, you're probably trying to make some changes and live a bit more consciously.

Hannah  26:02  

Right and I think other like shot like those kinds of recurring purchases as well, like other like I was looking at the was the toilet paper? Who gives you that? Yeah. And they have it you can set it up so you get a recurring order from them.

Brandee   26:15  

Yeah, I did that because it was to save a few extra euros. And then it came too quickly. And just toilet paper everywhere. So I stopped it because it was like, I can't I can't use it that quickly.

Unknown Speaker  26:28  

Yeah, and I'm

Brandee   26:29  

again surrounded by grocery stores, I can go out and buy a small pack of one to a roll of toilet paper. If like my I don't order it like on time. It's like it's fine. And who is it? I think Josh feels Melbourne says in in the minimalist podcast all the time. Is that talks about toilet paper being just for when I don't know how to just in case? Worst case, the showers right there. It'll be fine. You're a and you're like, it'll be fine. Yeah. So that's a good way of looking at.

Hannah  27:02  

I'm just like in trading because I'm looking at my Amazon orders. Now maybe this is something if people are looking to reduce to do because I'm noticing basically everything I bought off Amazon in the past year has either been electronics, they so like, cables and keyboard or gun things.

Brandee   27:23  

Which I want to talk to you about a future episode around electronics.

Hannah  27:30  

So yeah, I guess for me the electronics because I don't really know where to go buy them. I mean, I'm sure I could work it out. But it's just like oh, okay, Google, Amazon. Anyway, that's a good interesting little piece of data for me.

Brandee   27:45  

So I think we could actually move for you and listener and we can I can find other resources and ideas if you're wanting to come back and look for more, I don't know. more sustainable more environmentally more people friendly alternatives to Amazon. I like those but I think just removing turning off the one click purchase and removing your credit card. Yeah, obviously if you're doing if you're someone who relies on the recurring purchases then then that might not work but if you are someone who goes on there and feel like you end up buying more than you need and another thing I think getting clear on like what you need because for myself to like that's a good reminder for myself today. I think those will be good places to start. Alright, thank

Hannah  28:29  

ya anything that sounds good i think

Brandee   28:33  

i think so and support local because if if you can do a bit of take a few minutes do a bit of research of like where you can get electronics near you don't know if the various categories of things that you buy do a Amazon audit and then just have like a note like in your notes app or whatever just have a look at the list ready to go some local places you could go to instead so you don't have to wait till you need something. Right be there.

Hannah  28:57  

Yeah, especially Yeah, exactly. Especially for things that are a bit more awkward. Yeah, you know that's true to have it already done when you're not in a in a rush.

Brandee   29:06  

Yeah. Or like shoot I need this cable. Yeah. I don't know what you would really need a cable for that can be a whole nother episode about like need versus wants and all of that

Hannah  29:20  

well I mean if you if you if you're like phone charger cable has died, then you can

Brandee   29:28  

does that has become a need?

Unknown Speaker  29:30  

Yeah, I would say so. Yeah.

Brandee   29:34  

All right. You're sure let us know your thoughts on Amazon. Follow us on Instagram if you're not already at the T on sustainable living. DM us there or send us a voice message at the TN sustainable And yeah, we what do you think about Amazon? Are you Team Good team bad somewhere in between?

Hannah  29:54  

What did you last been Amazon? What are your alternatives?

Brandee   29:58  

Yeah, do your research and how to Know what alternatives you found? And yeah. All right and the next one.

Hannah  30:05  

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast. Now go share it with a friend, a co worker, a partner, a family member, or whoever. A pet, your cat, someone on the street.

Brandee   30:17  

Whoever you think could use a little more support on their sustainability journey, share it.

Hannah  30:28  

You can send them over to our website, And while you're there, check out the show notes for more info on today's topic. 

Brandee   30:37  

All right, Give-a-Shitter, tea you later. Get it? Tea you later? As in, see you later? So punny…

Hannah: Brandee!

Transcribed by