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Amazon.com and the Environment

Last updated: April 7, 2009

Online shopping is inherently more environmentally friendly than traditional retailing, and at Amazon, we're constantly looking for ways to further reduce our environmental impact.

Based on the questions and comments we've received from our customers, it's clear that you share our concern about the environment. The information on this page is designed to answer some of your most frequently asked questions. We encourage you to check back often, as we'll be updating this page with information about our progress.

What is Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging?

Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging is a multi-year initiative designed to make it easier for customers to liberate products from their packages. Launched in November 2008 with 19 best-selling items from leading manufacturers including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Microsoft and electronics manufacturer Transcend, Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging eliminates hard plastic "clamshell" cases and those annoying plastic-coated wire ties, commonly used in toy packaging.

Image of frustration free packaging.

In addition to making products easier to open, Frustration-Free Packaging is more environmentally friendly since it requires less packaging material and uses 100% recyclable cardboard. The product itself is exactly the same-Amazon has just streamlined the packaging.

To learn more, visit www.amazon.com/packaging.

What else is Amazon doing to reduce packaging waste?

Since 2007, Amazon has made significant progress to reduce excess packaging in its shipments to customers and has introduced additional types of recyclable packing materials to protect items while in transit.

Amazon has developed a software program that determines the "right-sized" box for any given item to be shipped to a customer, based on that item's dimensions and weight. As a result, the number of packages shipped in a wrong-sized box has decreased dramatically, significantly reducing packaging waste and transportation costs.

In 2008, Amazon also sent 35% of its larger-sized packages to customers without any additional packaging, further reducing packaging waste and transportation costs

In 2009, Amazon launched its Packaging Feedback program, which allows customers to provide direct feedback on the packaging of their Amazon.com order and to upload images of their Amazon.com packages. This new feature is available at www.amazon.com/packaging-feedback.

Does Amazon use environmentally friendly packaging materials?

Yes. Most Amazon.com orders are shipped in corrugated containers which on average contain 43% recovered fiber content. Once used, these containers are 100% recyclable for use in the manufacture of other paper products.

In Amazon's U.S. fulfillment centers that primarily ship larger products such as televisions, kitchen appliances, and other household items, we've introduced paper packing materials that are 100% recyclable and are made from 50% recycled content.

The air-filled pillows that are sometimes used to protect items in Amazon shipments are 100% recyclable and non-toxic. If a customer cannot reuse or recycle these cushions, they can be deflated and disposed of. Deflated air cushions take up less than 1% of their inflated volume.

How is Amazon changing its operations to save energy?

Earth Kaizens Environmentally conscious Amazonians work together to implement environmental and energy initiatives across all parts of the company. Composed of hundreds of Amazonians, this group is known as "Earth Kaizens," from the Japanese term meaning "change for the better." Amazon employees at all levels dive deep into every nook and cranny of a process to identify waste and design alternative solutions that are more energy efficient.

The power of the Earth Kaizens comes from the cumulative impact of many people participating in a large number of focused projects, each delivering reductions in energy consumption and waste. The energy savings from a single Kaizen project may not seem significant, but shared across our global network, they can produce meaningful results.

Here are a few examples:

Lexington, Kentucky Amazonians in our Lexington, Kentucky, fulfillment center analyzed the type of work performed in the bulk-storage area of the facility and learned that although a large portion of this area was not used during the weekend, the power remained on. Additionally, the team took light-level readings and determined that the area had too many lights installed for the type of work that associates were doing. As a result, over 120 lights were permanently shut off, and an additional 34 lights are turned off during the weekend. Their efforts resulted in an annual reduction of over 450,000 kilowatt-hours of power usage for this one facility; that's enough electricity to power 33 homes in Kentucky for an entire year.

Coffeyville, Kansas At the Coffeyville, Kansas, fulfillment center, conveyor belts are used throughout the facility to route orders through the packing and shipping process. Previously, the conveyor belts operated continuously while the facility was open. An Earth Kaizen team determined that timers could be installed on the conveyor belts, so that they automatically shut down when they weren't in use. As a result, the facility now uses 30% fewer kilowatt-hours of power usage to operate the conveyor belts.

Hebron/Campbellsville, Kentucky Allentown, Pennsylvania Previously, when Amazon transferred products from its larger automated fulfillment centers to its network of smaller distribution centers, it shipped the products in single stacks of pallets loaded into trucks. Because Amazon's smaller distribution centers didn't normally use forklifts, they couldn't unload double-stacked shipments. After analysis by the Kaizen team, Amazon bought forklifts for the distribution centers allowing them to accept double-stacked pallets. Now each truck can carry twice as much cargo, resulting in an overall savings of $2 million a year on fuel and additional carrier costs.

Swansea, Wales Amazon opened a new fulfillment center in Swansea, Wales in 2007. During the planning process, an Earth Kaizen team worked with the management team to determine the most efficient ways to light the facility. First, the team decided to increase the size of the skylights and windows throughout the building to improve natural lighting in the work areas. Second, the team had motion sensors installed throughout the facility so that lighting was used only when needed. As a result, the fulfillment center now uses 40% fewer kilowatt-hours of power each month than originally planned.

Bad Hersfeld, Germany The Earth Kaizen team in our Bad Hersfeld, Germany, fulfillment center determined that the high-rack and pallet area of their facility was being lit long before the first associates arrived to work. Working with the local facilities technicians, the team developed a process to turn on the 2,400 fluorescent lights in the area only when associates were working. Their efforts resulted in an annual reduction of over 10,000 kilowatt-hours of power usage in the facility.

Orleans, France Amazonians in our Orleans, France, fulfillment center previously disposed of all kinds of waste--from corrugate cardboard to plastics--in a single compactor. An Earth Kaizen team re-engineered the process to sort different kinds of waste into separate compactors, so that corrugates and plastics could be recycled. As a result, the facility now recovers more than 60% of its disposal costs by selling the corrugate and plastic to recycling vendors in France.

Glenrothes, Scotland An Earth Kaizen team in our Glenrothes, Scotland, fulfillment center analyzed the heating and hot water supply systems in the facility and learned that the heating was activated at all times, even during the summer months when none was required. Additionally, they discovered that their systems were supplying hot water even when it wasn't needed. The team updated the systems so that gas and electricity were used only when needed. As a result, the facility reduced their daily gas and electricity consumption by more than 90% per day--an annual reduction of thousands of cubic meters of gas and kilowatt-hours of power usage.

Ichikawa, Japan A complex system of conveyor belts is used in fulfillment centers to move products from their shelves into the boxes that are then shipped to Amazon customers. An Earth Kaizen team in our Ichikawa, Japan, fulfillment center devised a simple but effective solution to reduce conveyor power usage by creating a visual guide that shows employees how to power down the conveyor belts when not in use, saving over 20,000 kilowatt-hours of power usage per year.

Guangzhou, China Associates in the Guangzhou, China, fulfillment center receive products for Joyo Amazon customers from many vendors. Once the products were moved into the warehouse, the packaging materials were previously discarded. An Earth Kaizen team re-engineered the process for sorting packaging waste, so that cardboard boxes and packaging could be recycled. As a result, the facility now recycles more than 40,000 boxes and more than 8,000 kilograms of packing material per year.

Eco-Friendly Building Design In December 2007, Amazon announced plans to open its new corporate headquarters in Seattle in mid-2010. The new urban campus will consist of a dozen sustainable, eco-friendly buildings that meet LEED certification requirements. LEED, which stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," is a national industry measurement tool created by the U.S. Green Building Council to define the industry's most environmentally conscious projects. Amazon's fulfillment center in Whitestown, Indiana, received LEED certification in 2009. The facility was constructed with recycled building materials and features resource-efficient plumbing fixtures and lighting controls.

Amazon is also in the process of switching to high-intensity T5/T8 lighting in each of its fulfillment centers around the world. These fluorescent fixtures produce 50% more lumens per watt than industry-standard clear metal halide fixtures. During 2007, the switch to T5 lighting in our Seattle fulfillment center resulted in a decrease in energy consumption of more than 50%, from 13,800 kilowatt-hours per year to 6,600 kilowatt-hours per year.

How is online shopping more environmentally friendly than traditional shopping?

The efficiencies of online shopping result in a greener shopping experience than traditional retailing. This study explains some of the benefits of the online shopping model.

Where can I find green products on Amazon.com?

Amazon.com has launched AmazonGreen (www.amazon.com/green), a cross-category program that includes a list of products that customers have selected as the best green products offered by Amazon.com and a place for customers to discover Amazon's entire green product selection.

To learn more about green products and ways to save energy in your own home, visit www.amazon.com/green.

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