Amazon’s Impact on the Environment

As the holidays quickly approach, obtaining gifts for family and friends will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The business giant Amazon occupies a 38.7 percent share of e-commerce sales in the US, a market that will be primarily used for holiday shopping this 2020 season. People have heavily relied on this retailer during the pandemic and have often overlooked its impact on our environment in face of a dire need for essentials like toilet paper and sanitization supplies. How does the business of shopping on Amazon impact the environment, and should consumers reconsider where to shop this holiday season?

When asked if she thought Amazon was an environmentally friendly company, sophomore Grace Sheehan responded: “I would like to believe that Amazon is environmentally friendly; however, currently, I do not. Recently, I have seen many commercials or advertisements from Amazon claiming that they are taking steps forwards in their eco-friendly business campaign; however, I know from news articles that Amazon has long been under fire for being a huge contributor to pollution.”

In 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge, a commitment to be a net-zero carbon business by 2040. In this pledge, Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon, revealed the plan to invest in Rivian, an “environmentally-conscious” automaker which in the future may supply the vans for Amazon.

“Amazon has demonstrated its leadership in adopting low carbon technologies at scale,” said Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe. “Their investment in Rivian and subsequent order of 100,000 electric delivery vans will substantially shrink the carbon footprint of Amazon’s package delivery network. We’re excited about a future of decarbonized delivery services,” continued Scaringe.

Despite this ambitious and promising start, in June 2020 Amazon released its “Commitment to Sustainability” report which detailed that the company had actually increased its carbon footprint to 15 percent. Amazon claimed that the surge in emissions correlated with its 22 percent increase in net sales. This brings to question if Amazon can keep its climate promises as it grows and expands.

As many Monroe residents pass the new Amazon distribution facility on Route 25 in Trumbull, they may be wondering if their holiday gift deliveries will be arriving faster this year. 

“Judging on the amount of vans and distribution vehicles, I can tell that these types of centers are huge contributors to pollution,” Sheehan stated. 

Amazon Prime’s dedication to its two-day shipping, though speedy and efficient, has a direct correlation with its carbon emissions and emits 5.76 metric tons of carbon dioxide alone.

The 15 percent increase in Amazon’s carbon footprint is small in relative value, but it is equal to 51.17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere —the equivalent to 13 coal-burning power plants running for a year. The increases in greenhouse gases will have other effects on our planet in the realm of global warming.

“Some laboratory experiments suggest that elevated CO₂ levels can increase plant growth. However, other factors, such as changing temperatures, ozone, water and nutrient constraints, may more than counteract any potential increase in yield,” stated NASA in a statement. 

Masuk teacher Jamie McKee is the faculty advisor of the Social and Environmental Activism Club, which works towards raising awareness and funds to address current local and global issues. McKee acknowledges Amazon’s environmental efforts.

“I do use Amazon for shopping, and I believe that they have made strides towards using more sustainable packaging,” said McKee.

This holiday season, shoppers should acknowledge and understand where their money is going. Amazon is making strides to a better future in e-commerce, but ultimately it is the job of the consumer to make the right decisions. 

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