It is fair to say that 2020 has been incredibly trying for many people. Countries around the world went into lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19, which proved to be detrimental not only to the economy but also to people’s everyday wellbeing. Few would wish to redo the disaster that was 2020, but a few people did come out of it well. You know the sort I mean – we’re talking about billionaires. The only individuals who have really benefited from the pandemic are extraordinarily rich businessmen. Tech and industry billionaires saw an increase of 27.5% in their wealth to £7.9trn from April to July this year, and their wealth seemingly continues to rise. After seeing the wealth gap widen between rich and poor over the course of the pandemic, I’ve taken every opportunity to criticise the likes of Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg to friends, family and anyone who will listen. However, in criticising billionaires, I realised how hypocritically complicit I was as a consumer in the creation and maintenance of their wealth.

Like many people, during the first national lockdown, I spent a lot of time indoors with not a lot to do. And like many people, I mindlessly perused Amazon to buy things that would keep me busy over the summer. To my shame, I continued to use Amazon despite my growing reservations about the company. How could I complain about the lack of workers’ rights and the decimation of independent and high street stores when I was contributing to the company causing these problems? It was hypocritical of me to question the ethics of Bezos’ company whilst unethically doling out money for Amazon services. I have also spoken to many people who share my concerns over the company’s murky ethical practices, but who use the website regardless, and it concerns me that these individuals may have also lost the right to criticise Amazon.

“In criticising billionaires, I realised how hypocritically complicit I was as a consumer in the creation and maintenance of their wealth.”

Amazon is successful precisely because it is so convenient. It has an excellent selection of films and TV series, you can order almost anything you want, and it offers excellent prices and delivery times. But if we want to retain the integrity of our ethics, we should do more to put our money where our mouth is. I believe that we should use our power as consumers to deprive companies like Amazon their ultimate power – money. Once we do this, we can then challenge companies like Amazon to adopt better ethical standards, whilst supporting independent businesses that are more worthy of our support.

For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of alternative businesses that we can support instead of Amazon. None of them are perfect – unfortunately it seems like a prerequisite that all companies are at least a bit ethically poor – but at least these companies are worth supporting over Jeff Bezos. So have a browse through and see if anything catches your eye – these companies might even inspire some Christmas shopping ideas …

“If we want to retain the integrity of our ethics, we should do more to put our money where our mouth is.”

  • Bookshop.org - I discovered this site recently, and it’s just as efficient as Amazon. I used it to buy some books recently and I was impressed by the sleekness of the website and its commitment to supporting local bookshops during lockdown (10% of its profits go to supporting independently owned bookstores, and you can even choose a specific local bookstore to order from). It also works with organisations like Penguin to donate books to community centres, schools and homeless shelters, and it is much more ethical and charitable than Amazon.
  • Charity shops - You never know what you’re going to get when you enter a charity shop, but that’s part of the magic of charity shops! Unfortunately, charities have had a tough go of it this year, so will need support when they reopen again. The Oxfam charity stores and Amnesty International bookstore in Cambridge are good local places to support, and Oxfam has an online store that you can order from as well.
  • Thrift stores and markets - a great place to pick up pre-loved vintage clothes, shoes and accessories. I particularly love the vintage Rockit stores located throughout London, but I’m sure there are plenty of thrift stores and markets local to you that you can support.
  • Your local bookstore - Cambridge is full of independent bookstores like Heffer’s, or the booksellers in market square. Even Waterstones and WH Smith are worth supporting over Amazon as they regularly donate to and work with charitable organisations. Some bookstores are also continuing to sell online during lockdown, so check your local favourites to see if they are still active! You can use the Booksellers Association to find your local stores and see if they do online delivery. I personally recommend New Beacon Books, as well as Sevenoaks Bookstore and Gosh! Comics if you want to dip into comic books over the winter.
  • Facebook selling groups - I’m part of the CUSU womcam buy/sell/giveaway group where I’ve sold many secondhand items and bought many things that would have otherwise gone to waste. These groups are great online spaces to support other individuals in your area and reuse secondhand items.
  • Online booksellers - Amazon has an admittedly impressive book selection, and on top of that it offers great prices for them! Their book deals were something that previously drew me to their site. However, I have since discovered that there are online booksellers that offer the same books for the same, or cheaper, prices. Bookshop.org is a great example of this, but wordery, World of Books and Better World Books are also great sites to use.
  • Online cinema – It’s an unavoidable fact that Amazon has some wonderful films and TV series on their website, but there are other places where you can find your online cinema fix. The BFI has its own BFI player which contains an incredible array of independent and world cinema for only £4.99 a month. BBC iPlayer, All 4 and ITV Hub also offer great content for free. Curzon also has an online selection of indie art films available for members– you also get a free film to watch when you register!
  • Electronics – for all you soon-to-be-graduates, here are some great sites to use to get all your electronic and household items! Box.co.uk has a selection of kitchen appliances, TVs and laptops on sale, as does John Lewis. Currys PC World offers excellent deals on all things tech.
  • Ethical Superstore – This website contains the best and most comprehensive selection of organic, Fair Trade and eco-friendly items out there. Some of their brands include Divine chocolates, the Ecover line, Faith in Nature and Traidcraft, and their website covers household departments ranging from pets to Home and Garden.
  • HMVonline - the high street chain has struggled to stay afloat this year, since they mostly rely on cinema releases to get new films in store. With the delay of multiple films, they are relying on online delivery to get them through the pandemic. Give them a little love by visiting their online shop this Christmas.


Mountain View

How to get your money's worth out of the digital university experience

Honourable mentions:

  • Hive.co.uk. - Hive offers free UK delivery on an assortment of items, including stationary, books, CDs, films and eBooks. It also works to support independent booksellers.
  • Big Green Bookshop – the online site contains a limited selection of book titles, but it can order and deliver specific books requests that you have from them.
  • Etsy – the perfect place to pick up artisan items from independent sellers! The app even has a feature that enables you to find creators that are local to your area.

· Selling apps – Schpock, Depop, Vinted and Preloved are great sites and apps where you can sell and buy second-hand items for great prices!