Respecting the Environment: Nordstrom + Urban Freight Lab

Improving deliveries and reducing emissions

If you’ve ever shopped online and come home to find a note on your mailbox that said “Package could not be delivered,” you understand the frustration of multiple delivery attempts. What you may not know is those delivery attempts can impact the environment and livability in your city. Our Transportation team is trying to address those problems through a partnership with Costco, UPS, USPS, Charlie’s Produce, the City of Seattle and the University of Washington. Together, we’ve formed Urban Freight Lab, which is focused on addressing the negative logistic and environmental impacts of delivering packages in dense urban areas.

“We also recognize the environmental impacts associated with those deliveries, and we want to play a role in minimizing those impacts where we can.” – Loren VandenBerghe, Nordstrom Transportation director

Delivery trucks, cars, bicycles and pedestrians all compete for space on city roads, curbs and sidewalks. With the increase in online orders, more deliveries are happening than ever before. It’s important those deliveries be efficient and uncomplicated to avoid traffic jams and safety issues that come from delivery truck congestion, along with the carbon emissions that come from that additional fuel use. Those issues are exacerbated when a package can’t be delivered on the first try—something that happens between eight and 10 percent of the time in cities, as a result of things like customers not being home, driver concerns about package safety, or an adult signature needed for delivery.


“If we can cut that number [of undeliverable packages] in half, we will significantly lower traffic congestion and emissions in cities, as delivery trucks could make five percent fewer stops while still completing the same number of deliveries,” said Dr. Anne Goodchild, Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center director at the University of Washington. Goodchild is spearheading the Urban Freight Lab’s efforts to understand how building owners and city planners can make package delivery more successful. Though the group’s research is currently focused on Seattle, the hope is their findings can be translated to other major U.S. cities.   


“For Nordstrom, getting online purchases to our customers quickly and easily is a critical component of great service,” said Loren VandenBerghe, director of Nordstrom Transportation and an early supporter of the Urban Freight Lab. “We also recognize the environmental impacts associated with those deliveries, and we want to play a role in minimizing those impacts where we can. It’s not something we can do alone, which is why we’re excited to be a part of this collaboration.”