What more e-commerce during the pandemic means for the health of people and the planet

People are shopping online a lot more since the pandemic began. Boma Brown West of the Environmental Defense Fund says now is an opportunity for online retailers to be more open about how their products are made. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

A lot of physical stores are closed, and people generally try to avoid coming in contact with others. That means a lot more packaging to get that Charlie Brown face mask shipped to your house.

That excess packaging is just part of the problem, according to Boma Brown West. She focuses on corporate sustainability for the Environmental Defense Fund. She says this moment is an opportunity for online retailers to be more transparent about how their products are made.

“When it comes to products, when it comes to that whole world of consumerism, we’re ultimately responsible for 60% percent of greenhouse gas emissions and upwards of 50 to 80% of land, material, and water use. Those are big impacts that every day products can have on the planet,” says West.

She continues, “What we’ve now learned too is that consumer products also are one of our major exposures to toxic chemicals. So from a health and from an environmental standpoint, we have to think about climate impact, we have to think about health impact, we have to think about materials impact as well.”

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.


Boma Brown West - Environmental Defense Fund

Madeleine Brand

Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Nihar Patel, Rebecca Mooney