Answering Your Most Frequently Asked Questions About the Bluedot Marketplace

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If you’ve been wondering how affiliate links work or why a sustainable living publication would ever link to Amazon, this post is for you.

In a world of disposable goods, it's hard to know which products are sustainable. At Bluedot, we do the legwork for you by selecting items made with regard for the planet and its people. These products aren’t all perfect, but they are better, leading us to our pledge: Buy less, but when you do buy — buy better. 

These words head Bluedot’s Marketplace page, where we feature short reviews of companies making products that we think are worthwhile. In March of 2023, we launched the BuyBetter Marketplace newsletter to offer more content on a topic that’s actually pretty contentious: shopping. 

While we reply to all of your emails, we wanted to address your most common questions publicly. We love hearing from you and we always welcome your feedback. Please write to us anytime. And now, on to your questions. 

Note: This post may include affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of our links, we may earn a commission, essentially a small digital finder’s fee. These commissions help us fund the valuable journalism that you see on Bluedot. Thank you for supporting us!

What is affiliate marketing, anyway? Why do you use it? 

At the top of some of our emails and web pages, including this one, you’ll see a disclaimer announcing that our posts “may include affiliate links.” You’ll see similar notices on some other websites that include links to shoppable products. 

Affiliate marketing is a system where merchants pay commissions to affiliates (usually publications or influencers) for the visits, sales, or sign-ups that the affiliates generate. If you click a link and make a purchase, you pay the same amount that you would have paid otherwise, while we may make a small commission. 

That means that you can support Bluedot by clicking on our links. If you end up buying something after you click one of those links, we may make a commission. It’s almost like donating to us, and we really appreciate it. Your support helps us bring you stories without charging you to see them. 

We publish affiliate links because the revenue we generate helps Bluedot create valuable content, most of which has nothing to do with shopping. Please know that we will never recommend products we don’t believe in, and that we do not necessarily receive a commission from all of our recommendations.

Why does a sustainable living magazine even have a shopping newsletter?

We recognize that all of our readers are on a different sustainable journey. Some may rarely buy anything new or shop from big stores online. That’s terrific. Others may shop mostly from online retailers or are just starting to make purchases based on environmental considerations. Our goal is to make it easy for people to find lighter-footprint alternatives to common items, which is why we make recommendations for things ranging from outerwear to dog gear to pantry staples. 

Is everything we recommend perfect? No. This is the BuyBetter newsletter. But, every time people switch from a conventional item to one made with recycled materials, or made by a company that’s actively investing in ocean cleanup, we chalk it up as a win. We also offer suggestions on how to repair, repurpose, and extend the life of products, as well as topical tips for eco-friendly living. 

Why do you link to products on Amazon? 

While a behemoth, Amazon is the retailer of choice for many people. There are just so many items available on Amazon, and a number of these actually can be good choices — for instance, the compostable, bio-based, zip-top baggies that I use and that many of our readers have purchased. These have no equivalent in most grocery stores and are a far better choice than virgin plastic baggies. Amazon makes it easy for people to try items like these that they probably wouldn’t try without it. (We do, of course, recognize that ease of purchase as a double-edged sword.) Additionally, Amazon has been cleaning up its act, even if it leaves much to be desired.

Why do you include products made in China, or abroad? 

We love highlighting products made in the United States, but to limit ourselves only to companies producing in the United States would mean not introducing you to a lot of innovative brands. We do look into production and manufacturing conditions as much as possible, and strive to feature only companies that operate ethically. 

One product we recommend is Lomi, the countertop composter made in China. The company, a B Corp, receives high marks for worker financial security, safety, health, and wellness. While the product does travel a long way, it is Climate Neutral Certified. (That means that the company has measured, reduced, and compensated for its emissions through Change Climate Project, a reputable third-party certifying body that helps brands offset their carbon emissions.) Using a Lomi helps people reduce their landfill footprint as well as their methane emissions. All in all, we think it’s a good product. 

Another brand we like is Nisolo, the company making shoes and accessories with sustainability scores. This unique system functions almost like a nutrition label for the Earth, with categories for both People and Planet, and Nisolo’s website offers detailed information on its factories. 

Isn’t thrifting a better choice? 

We love thrifting. In fact, we’ll soon be launching a column about it! Some websites make it relatively easy to thrift and find antiques online: places like 1stDibs, Poshmark, Etsy, eBay, and more. In general, though, it’s not necessarily the easiest category to highlight in the BuyBetter newsletter, given the ever-changing item assortment. We do applaud companies that have trade-in programs and feature their own online thrift stores, like Worn Wear by Patagonia, Eileen Fisher Renew, Cuyana Revive, and Mightly Lightly Loved

Why aren’t you promoting local shopping? 

I’m of the old-school mentality that holiday shopping is most fun when done in a favorite neighborhood and on foot, the way my parents and I always shopped when I was growing up. I like greeting real people and seeing and touching things — not to mention the benefits of reduced packaging waste and emissions.

But, as with thrifting, it’s tricky to write about local shopping in a national newsletter. Readers of our Martha’s Vineyard site will enjoy this list of favorite stores on-Island. Our other locations frequently feature profiles of local businesses. And, we encourage the rest of you to support the locally owned businesses in your cities and neighborhoods. Wherever you shop — be it around the corner or on Amazon — we encourage you to seek out products made to last from Earth-friendly materials.

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Elizabeth Weinstein
Elizabeth Weinstein
Elizabeth Weinstein, Bluedot’s Marketplace Editor, lives in Manhattan with her husband; papillon Finley; and cats SanDeE* and Modell. When she’s not asking the folks at Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom to try on their most sustainable sneakers in a size 9½, she can be found at the Union Square Greenmarket or gardening on her rooftop terrace.
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