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Is having food home delivered more environment friendly & energy efficient than going to the shops?
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Different types of food delivery services are discussed below:

  • Many aspects of online food delivery are the same as online shopping in general, covered in “Is Online Shopping Environment Friendly?” (OneSharedEarth, June 2020).
  • Large weekly grocery deliveries can be more environment friendly only if we don’t make additional supermarket trips by car during the week. However the offer of next-day (and even same-day) deliveries can have a major impact on the environment. The offer of constant availability of fresh food results in increased levels of food waste, and in order to satisfy swift delivery requirements, additional vehicles are required on the road - often only partly loaded.
  • Home delivery by a large-scale organic vegetable box company has lower carbon emissions than if the customer drives a round-trip distance of more than 6.7 km to purchase organic vegetables, according to this study.
  • Home delivery of meal kits, containing pre-portioned ingredients for cooking a meal, is covered in “Are Meal Kits Environment Friendly?” (OneSharedEarth, June 2020).
  • The environment impact of other food delivery services like hot-food delivery in cars and motorbikes, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, is questionable.

 

Bibliography

Are Meal Kits Environment Friendly?” (OneSharedEarth, June 2020)

Coley D, Howard M and Winter M, “Local Food, Food Miles and Carbon Emissions: A Comparison of Farm Shop and Mass Distribution Approaches” (2009) 34 Food Policy 150

Is Online Shopping Environment Friendly?” (OneSharedEarth, June 2020)

Saner E, “Delivery Disaster: The Hidden Environmental Cost of Your Online Shopping” (The Guardian, February 2020)

Yalabik B and Milligan S, “How to Make Your Online Shopping More Environmentally Friendly” (The Conversation, October 2019)

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It depends on how you usually travel to and from the supermarket, and how your food is delivered. If you usually walk, cycle or use public transport, then having food delivered in a van is less environmentally friendly. According to the Office for National Statistics, roughly one-fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from road transport. Walking, cycling or using public transport as opposed to relying on smaller road vehicles for food delivery helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy/fuel consumption. However, if you usually drive a car to and from the shops, then home delivery is likely to be more energy and fuel efficient. Multiple deliveries can be made to homes in the same area, minimising road miles, emissions and fuel usage. There is not necessarily a clear-cut answer to this question, as multiple factors such as where you live, and how frequently you shop, should also be taken into consideration.

Even if food is delivered on bikes or on foot, there are other environmental factors to consider that might mean that going to the shops is more environmentally friendly than delivery. For reasons of hygiene or practicality in transportation, delivered foods may arrive with excess packaging, for instance. Emine Saner notes that ‘nearly a third of solid waste in the US comes from e-commerce packaging’. In order to ensure minimal packaging waste is generated, it might be more environmentally friendly to physically go to the shops (by walking, cycling or using public transport) to buy package-free products (wherever possible), which can be carried home in a reusable shopping bag. For more information on different types of reusable shopping bags, see OneSharedEarth question, 'Which type of reusable shopping bag is the most environmentally friendly?'.

Bibliography

Office for National Statistics, ‘Road Transport and Air Emissions’ (2019), accessed at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/roadtransportandairemissions/2019-09-16#greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-road-transport-make-up-around-a-fifth-of-uk-greenhouse-gas-emissions

Saner, E., ‘Delivery Disaster: the hidden environmental cost of your online shopping’, The Guardian (17 February 2020), accessed at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/shortcuts/2020/feb/17/hidden-costs-of-online-delivery-environment

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