- Online shopping and e-commerce are increasing due to changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic and the ease of use of mobile devices.
- Huge clusters of mega-warehouses are sprouting up across the country, bringing lackluster jobs and harmful pollution to weary communities.
- E-commerce requires cheap labor, but also extensive delivery services that erode air quality near residential areas, negatively impacting everyone, especially people. vulnerable.
As the pandemic continues to spread, online shopping is increasing. A 2021 PwC report describes the pandemic as having created a “historic and dramatic shift in consumer behavior”.
In September PwC surveyed 9,370 consumers in 26 territories or countries about their shopping habits, refining the channels they use to purchase products such as clothing, books and electronics.
Mobile purchases, in particular, are on the rise. 41% of respondents said they make weekly or even daily purchases using their mobile or smartphone, up 2% from March 2021 and 29% in 2016.
U.S. retail e-commerce sales reached $767.7 billion in 2021.
According to a report by Statistical:
âRetail e-commerce revenue in the United States was estimated to be around US$768 billion in 2021. The Statista Digital Market Outlook predicts that by 2025, online shopping revenue in the United States will exceed 1. $3 trillion.”
With a global network of thousands of warehouses, Amazon is the leading e-tailer in the United States. In 2020, the company’s annual revenue grew 38% to $386 billion.
However, the growing consumer appetite for shopping convenience from online retail giants is costing local communities their health.
What’s going on in the Inland Empire, California?
In December 2021, the writer Evan Halper with the LA Times reported how clusters of mega-warehouses built to meet the demand for online shopping have created what the researchers call “diesel death zones”.
Located in the Inner Empire, Fontana is known as the epicenter of California warehouses. It is home to more than 50 warehouse locations – including Amazon and UPS – which occupy around 16 million square feet of the city.
Many of these warehouses sit next to residential housing and schools, and thousands of trucks contribute to traffic pollution in the city every day.
In April 2021, Fontana approved a new Slover and Oleander warehouse project next to Jurupa Hills High School.
Two months later, at a town council meeting, 53 community members appealed to stop the project, expressing their concerns about increased traffic and pollution.
Fontana is an area already overloaded with pollution. The new project would add approximately 114 daily truck trips and 272 daily passenger car trips..
Although only one city council member voted in favor of the appeal, it caught the attention of California Attorney General Bob Bonta. Its environmental justice office filed a lawsuit against the city of Fontana in July 2021 challenging the project.
In one Press releasehe said:
âFontana residents shouldn’t have to choose between economic development and clean air. They deserve both. Unfortunately, the city of Fontana took shortcuts when it approved Slover and Oleander’s warehouse project.
âWe are going to court today to force the City to go back and take a hard look at the environmental impacts of this project â and do everything in its power to mitigate potential harm to local residents and workers. – before moving forward.”
Create a stable and eco-responsible job market
A decade ago, before the warehouse boom, unemployment in the city was high.
The mayor of Fontana touts the jobs created by the warehouses, describing them as “employment centers” and “the key to our economic vitality”.
According to the new Inland Empire Business Activity Index released in October 2021, business activity in the region increased by 8% in the second quarter of 2021, outpacing the growth rate of 6.6% in the United States.
Some community members voted in favor of the project at the June city council meeting, including members of a local union who described the jobs created by similar warehouse projects as a lifeline for the local population during the pandemic.
Warehouse jobs can be grueling. “It’s a lot of wear and tear on the body,” a former Amazon employee told the Guardian Last year.
She quit after injuring her arm during a shift, but returned as it was the only place she knew she could find work during lockdown, describing it as ‘pretty much the only option “.
San Bernardino Airport is located 16 km from Fontana. In 2019, an expansion was approved to house a 658,000 square foot air cargo warehouse for Amazon, which would result in 26 thefts and at least 500 truck trips every day.
The attorney general’s office also filed a lawsuit against the developers of the project in San Bernardino, accusing them of failing to take into account the high rates of asthma and other health problems already experienced by residents of the area. local community.
The impact of air pollution on children and babies
Babies and young children are more exposed to toxins caused by pollution as their bodies develop, and proportionally they breathe more air than adults.
Stanford University researchers recently found that breathing dirty air alters gene expression in young children in a way that could predispose them to heart disease in adulthood.
During this time, a Study in progress of more than 12,000 schoolchildren at the University of Southern California found that those exposed to high levels of air pollution had smaller, unhealthier lungs by the time they reached adulthood.
Talk to The Orange County RegisterDr. Afif El-Hasan, an Orange County pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Lung Association, said people should be “extremely concerned” about pollution levels in the Inland Empire and the risks to animals. children who live there.
“If you basically condemn these children to reduced lung capacity for life and don’t give them healthy air to breathe, they’re going to have problems later on, whether it’s directly in their lungs or in some other part of their bodies. .”
Unless efforts are made to clean up the air in the area, “it will affect the allocation of resources later, when all these children who have been exposed to all this air pollution are getting very sick and needing expensive treatments,â he added.
How to reduce e-commerce pollution?
Governments and organizations can take certain actions to mitigate concentrated air pollution from warehouses, and we can also make choices as consumers.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District Board regulates air quality in the Inland Empire region.
In 2021, he went through a historic decision which requires warehouses of 100,000 square feet or more to minimize their environmental impact, for example by using electric trucks or installing solar panels.
The rule will come into force in 2022.
Some companies are using fourth-generation technologies such as AI to plot less fuel-intensive routes.
In Pittsburgh, for example, machine learning reduced vehicle engine idling by 40%, leading to an estimate 20% reduction in carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council has pledged to ship it zero initiative. It demands that Walmart, Target, IKEA, Amazon and other major polluters of ocean imports to the Port of Los Angeles achieve 100% zero-emissions shipping to Los Angeles by 2030.
Individuals can do their part for the environment by using their purchasing power to make more environmentally friendly choices online. Shopping at local independent businesses is an option.
Many local businesses that relied solely on brick-and-mortar footfall before the pandemic have also launched e-commerce websites.
There are plenty of ethical e-commerce alternatives that are just as convenient to use as some of the biggest brands online. In 2020, Allwork.Space wrote about Librairie.organ online retailer that supports independent local bookstores.
If you want to educate yourself on ethical consumption, you use services like Ethical consumer to explore the ethical ratings of thousands of companies, brands and products.