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Are Food Delivery Services Eating the Way Towards Greener Futures

Examining Behavioural Habits Against Environmental Factors

We know that shopping locally is far more beneficial than buying mangosteens from Thailand, but what’s the difference between picking up your groceries and having them delivered? We’ll look at factors like carbon emission of the transportation involved, food waste on the distributor’s side, and your own shopping habits to find out.

But first, why does this matter? Well, carbon emissions are continuously on the rise. Our collective prospect seems bleak with many countries barely on track in The Paris Agreement. So, we’ve got to do our part in trying to minimize our individual carbon footprints until larger institutions catch up.

One immediate change we can all make is through considering how food travels from vine to cutting board. The typical process for our products is to go from farm to a manufacturer’s warehouse to a distribution center or a physical storefront. This transportation accounts for 11% of the product’s carbon footprint. However, studies show that at least four percent of that is dependent on the very last step into your house.


Green arrow in front of a grocery store

Brick and Mortar Stores

The traditional shopper visits their grocery store in person and likely drives back with a full trunk of goodies. For these shoppers, their carbon footprint will be dependent on how much they buy and how often they go out. The ideal scenario is to bundle all your products into a single trip and take a mode of transport that isn’t carbon-intensive.

In comparison with our options down this list, there is another hidden factor. Grocers buy perishables in bulk to ensure their customers can walk in at any time to a stocked selection. As a result, in Canada 4.82 million tonnes of fruit and produce is thrown away by supermarkets for either being damaged or for no longer meeting quality standards. Luckily online shopping skips rotting on the shelf by going from the manufacturer’s warehouse to your porch.


Shopping for grocery online with an ipad

Receiving a Grocery Delivery

Why go in person when so many large supermarkets will deliver straight to your home? Just pick out the items you want online and then wait a few days for the shipment to come. In dense urban areas, trucks are able to drop off multiple orders in one go thereby offsetting the emission of people who would have driven instead. Not that suburban communities shouldn’t use a delivery service. If the nearest store is over five hundred kilometres away then by all means order online. Regardless of where you live we still recommend purchasing all your items in one go. Ordering a box of granola every day, because you can doesn’t mean you should.


Meal kit delivery service for tacos

Meal Kits Subscriptions

Meal kit delivery services are great because you reduced carbon emissions from having multiple orders delivered on just one trip. Also, you’ll typically waste less food from having your ingredients portioned out for each meal. Depending on the service you can also customize vegetarian or family options. One of the main negatives brought against using such subscriptions is the excess packaging from having things like four pieces of garlic in a plastic bag. Yet, the overall result is a 33% drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional grocery stores.


eating tacos with a pug for company

A Delicious Wrap

Meal deliveries have the potential to be more environmentally-friendly than traditional in-store shopping options. Whether or not this rings true is dependent on us. How frequently do we buy groceries, how much do we buy, and most importantly how is it coming to our door? By using services like HelloFresh and Chefs Plate we can reduce carbon transmissions from our personal vehicles and the likelihood of food waste occurring at home. For further reading and consideration also purchase local products when you can. Let us know in the comments what your current food plan looks like.

[Update May 4th,2020]

In France, food waste laws are changing the ways in which grocery stores deal with their excess stock. Instead of heading towards landfills, grocers instead are donating their supplies to charities and shelters. Failure to do so can result in a hefty fine of $4,500. It will be interesting to see if this law will also be adopted back home here in Canada as well.


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