Take a look around your home and you’ll likely find plenty of goods that traveled by cargo ship to your doorstep. A set of IKEA plates made in China. A dresser full of pandemic-era loungewear, ordered on Target and made in Guatemala, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Tracing the impact on the environment from shipping any of these goods is incredibly tricky to do. The data — if you can find it — involves many companies, countries, and cargo carriers.
Such obscurity makes it hard to count the full cost of our consumption. But a recent report helps unravel some of the mystery.
Two environmental groups, Pacific Environment and Stand.earth, worked with prominent maritime researchers to track goods imported by the 15 largest retail giants in the United States. They then quantified the greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants associated with those imports, usually ferried across the oceans on cargo ships running on dirty bunker fuel. In 2019, importing some 3.8 million shipping containers’ worth of cargo generated as much carbon dioxide emissions as three coal-fired power plants. These shipments also produced as much smog-forming nitrous oxide as 27.4 million cars ... Read more