How Amazon’s Emissions are Hurting Communities of Color

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Environmental harm is inequitable

For all of us, a healthy environment is a priority for our families. Think about your own community and the place you live in. Some of us can trust that our children can step outside and breathe the air without damaging their lungs. But for many people in the US, especially people of color, every breath of air means harm to the body. Many are forced to contend daily with the transgression of polluting industries.

Amazon is complicit

Amazon’s operations are complicit in environmental racism. Amazon’s logistics network of trucks spew climate-change-causing greenhouse gases and toxic particles as they drive to and from warehouses that are concentrated near Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. Public warehouse facility location data from MWPVL International indicates 80% of Amazon’s non-corporate facilities are located in zip codes that have a higher percentage of people of color than the majority of populated zip codes in their metropolitan area. This is represented by the facilities shown above the line in the graph below.

Communities are fighting back

Communities on the front lines have not been silent. In the Inland Empire, several community groups are fighting back against the expansion of the San Bernardino airport. The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), Sierra Club, Teamsters Local 1932, Warehouse Worker Resource Center, Inland Congregations United for Change and more have joined together as the San Bernardino Airport Community Coalition and are fighting for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between Amazon and the community surrounding the San Bernardino airport. If Amazon signs the CBA, the company would be required to provide living wage jobs for local residents, zero emissions electric trucks, and other mitigations against pollution that the development will cause.

  1. All new warehouse development projects or warehouse leases require that the developer has signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). The already proposed CBA addresses concerns for both clean air and good jobs, including: zero emission delivery vehicles and permanent jobs with living wages and health benefits.
  2. Racial Equity Impact Assessments integrated into business decisions to determine whether communities of color will be disproportionately harmed.
80% of Amazon’s non-corporate facilities are located in zip codes that have a higher percentage of people of color than the majority of populated zip codes in their metropolitan area.
  • We chose zip code as the most granular connection between ACS data and building address. Zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) to zip code mapping is approximate; more info can be found on the Census website.
  • Median zip code is calculated by sorting all zip codes in a given metropolitan area (e.g. Seattle, WA) by the percentage described above, then selecting the middle zip code (or, averaging between the two middle zip codes in cases where there was an even number of zip codes). Zip codes with 0 population were excluded. A value in the x-axis of the graph can be read as follows — a data point in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA region with an x-axis value of 11.38% implies that half of populated zip codes in the Seattle area are less than 11.38% Black, Latinx, and Indigenous.
  • We chose percentage in the median zip code rather than aggregate percentage in the metropolitan area as a comparison point to include the impact that disproportionate population density has in exposing people of color to the effects of environmental racism — white communities are often less dense, with zip codes that are both larger in area and less populated. This tends to mean that there are a lot of zip codes to choose from that don’t include a high population of people of color within a given city, even in metropolitan areas with large communities of color. In a non-segregated metropolitan area, median and aggregate percentages would be equivalent.
  • Corporate Locations: We were unable to source a publicly available list of Amazon corporate offices. We searched for for office addresses for the biggest Amazon corporate locations [2] in the United States (Seattle [3], Northern Virginia [4, 5], New York [6], the Bay Area [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14], Boston [15], and Los Angeles [16].
  • Demographic Data: American Community Survey 2014–2018 5-Year Data by Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) [17]
  • Metropolitan Area Data: HUD Crosswalk [18]
  • Jeff’s Houses [19, 20]