Amazon is known for its cheap prices and fast delivery of books and thousands of other products to your door. But what you won't see in your shopping cart is the huge land and energy cost of the massive "fulfillment centers" where all those products await shipment.
Internationally Amazon’s 168 fulfillment centers account for more than 100 million square feet of floor space. Two of the top 12 buildings with the biggest land footprints in the world belong to Amazon. In the United States alone, these buildings add up to 10 times the land area of Disneyland. As the company continues to grow, new fulfillment centers will put even more wildlife habitat at risk if they’re not carefully sited and powered by rooftop solar.
This footprint comes at a cost: Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, in large part due to habitat loss. Amazon’s fulfillment centers take up giant swaths of land, and their footprint gets even bigger when you consider what it takes to run such massive warehouses. In order to power these operations, they rely on electricity from fossil fuels and some large-scale renewable sources — taking up additional land to extract and transport fuels, generate electricity, and transmit it over long distances, as well as contributing to the climate crisis.
Amazon can reduce its land and climate footprint by powering its fulfillment centers with rooftop solar panels. Simply by putting solar panels on its 72 existing fulfillment centers in the United States, Amazon could generate enough electricity to power up to 100,000 American homes.
Amazon is named after a unique, rich and threatened ecosystem. Yet the huge footprint of Amazon’s operations poses a serious threat to biodiversity worldwide. By putting solar panels on its fulfillment centers, Amazon can help lead the way toward an energy future that’s good for wildlife, people and the planet, and in doing so, make it easier for other companies and individuals to follow suit.
It’s clear that we need a 100 percent renewable energy system by mid-century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A sustainable energy future is not only possible, but we can achieve it without paving over the planet to meet our growing energy generation and transmission demands.
By using the already-built environment rather than sacrificing public lands and sensitive wildlife habitat to large-scale energy projects, rooftop solar minimizes environmental harm and advances social justice. Unfortunately, due to policy barriers and a lack of leadership from companies like Amazon, the potential of rooftop solar remains unfulfilled.
Amazon’s cloud computing branch, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has already been called out as being one of the “dirtiest and least transparent” companies of its kind by Greenpeace and other environmental advocates — and they responded to this pressure by committing to sourcing AWS’s energy needs from renewable sources. But they haven’t made any promises as to where their renewable sources will come from, and Amazon.com has yet to commit to transition to 100 percent renewables.
As the world’s biggest retailer by market value, Amazon has the capital, the roof space and the responsibility to invest in the transition to a wildlife-friendly energy future. As a powerful, growing company, Amazon has the responsibility to consider wildlife in its decisions – from siting future buildings to minimize wildlife impacts to meeting as much of its energy needs from rooftop solar panels as possible.
Our planet deserves a better, more sustainable energy system. Join the Center in asking Amazon.com to shine by putting solar panels on all of its U.S. fulfillment centers.