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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

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

58 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.