The Future of Food: Environmental Lessons from E-Commerce

Reference Type:

Journal Article

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Published In:

Environmental Science & Technology

Year:

2020

Author(s):

Isabella M. Gee
Brent R. Heard
Michael E. Webber
Shelie A. Miller

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Our food system is experiencing dramatic changes as the expansion of e-commerce, introduction of new products, and innovations in supply chain structures all pose to transform how we buy, sell, and distribute food. However, the environmental impacts of these transformations remain unclear. This feature reviews existing literature on environmental implications of e-commerce, discusses relevant trade-offs, and identifies pressing gaps in research. Some trade-offs discussed are those between centralized and decentralized delivery service types, those unique to a rural landscape, and those within the interplay of transportation and consumer behavior. The impacts of fulfillment centers, of refrigerated logistics, of e-commerce on consumer shopping and food waste habits, and of e-commerce services in rural regions are identified as pressing knowledge gaps.