How E-Commerce Impacts Disadvantaged Communities – and What We Can Do

drawing of cars on a road with mountains in the back

By Miguel Jaller on July 7, 2020

"How we buy things has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Online shopping is up 30 percent in the U.S. since 1999, accounting for almost 12 percent of all retail goods. Online companies have enticed shoppers with free shipping, free returns, and promises of faster and faster deliveries. Current stay-at-home conditions have reinforced this trend, increasing online orders another 30 percent since the COVID-19 epidemic began. Online purchases of some goods were up 10 fold in April and May.

We found, in a March 2020 study, that the upsurge in faster delivery times and more deliveries would lead to many more warehouses and truck trips closer to city and town centers–where people live. 

Real estate data from our more recent study support this prediction. In five of California’s most populated regions, goods delivery companies are moving to smaller and more numerous warehouses and distribution centers, located closer to densely populated downtown areas. This shift increases truck traffic, even if the overall amount of cargo remains constant. More truck traffic means more greenhouse gas emissions and more pollution and noise in local communities. 

Unfortunately, this increased pollution and noise tends to disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities."

Read the full story at UC Davis Science and Climate