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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's faster, cheaper and easier to buy everything online than it was just 5 years ago, and consumers have more and more options. But there's a cost.

The big picture: The trends driving retail — speedy delivery, zero shipping fees and fast fashion — are harming the environment. And there's little incentive for big companies to consider their impact.

What's happening: Amazon made free 1-day delivery the new norm in the U.S., pushing its big competitors like Walmart and Target to speed up delivery and drive down fees, too.

  • Free and fast shipping are eliminating shoppers' motivation to bundle their orders. They're instead ordering a steady stream of packages to their doorsteps, pushing e-commerce and logistics companies to keep up by adding trucks, jets and even air hubs.
  • On top of that, the packaging materials that come with delivery boxes are exacerbating the global plastics crisis.
  • Stores like Forever 21, H&M and Uniqlo are selling cheap, lower-quality clothes that are easy to buy but often end up in landfills after a few washes. Clothing is the fastest growing category of waste in the world.

What to watch: Under pressure from activist employees and consumers, big retailers are setting goals to decrease their climate impact. Amazon aims to cut carbon emissions on shipments to net zero by 2030.

Read more about the impacts of climate change we're tracking:

Go deeper

Cyber war scales up with new Microsoft hack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last week's revelation of a new cyberattack on thousands of small businesses and organizations, on top of last year's SolarWinds hack, shows we've entered a new era of mass-scale cyber war.

Why it matters: In a world that's dependent on interlocking digital systems, there's no escaping today's cyber conflicts. We're all potential victims even if we're not participants.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
29 mins ago - Science

Spaceflight contests and our future in orbit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wealthy private citizens are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who can go to space — and some of them want to bring the average person along for the ride.

Why it matters: Space is being opened up to people who wouldn't have had the prospect of flying there even five years ago, but these types of missions have far-reaching implications for who determines who gets to make use of space and for what.

1 hour ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: America looks for the exits after a year of COVID

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.