Meal Kits Are Less Carbon Intensive Than Grocery Store Shopping

Jamie Schwartz – UNI: js5849

  1. Sustainability Problem: Waste/Energy
    • Food production accounts for roughly 20-30% of GHG emissions
    • USDA study from 2010 finds that 31% of food production is wasted, 21% at consumer level
  2. Article Summary:
    • Initial critique of Meal Kit delivery services is that their use of plastic is bad for the environment
    • A comparative study showed that preparing a meal from Blue Apron was less carbon intensive than cooking the equivalent meal with supplies procured at grocery store
    • The study acknowledges that the plastic used in the meal kits is more wasteful than what you acquire from the grocery store
    • However, portion control provided from the meal kit allowed for all of the food to be used/consumed, where as larger portions must be purchased at the store which leads to food waste, which is more harmful to the environment
    • Additionally, the supply chain is more streamlined for meal kits which reduces GHG emissions in process of getting the meal from farm/distributors to your home
    • As a result, despite a higher plastic output with meal kits, they are overall less carbon intensive than store purchased meals, due to the streamlined nature of supply chain practices and portion control
  3. Organizational Stakeholders:
    • Meal kit providers
    • Distributors/shippers
    • Product packaging suppliers
    • Grocery stores
    • Consumer
  4. Implementation of Tech*:
    • *Tech already exists, but could be room for a pivot in business model to highlight reduced GHG emissions/improve in that realm*
    • Source an alternative to plastic packaging to further reduce GHG emissions associated with product
    • Add circularity to business model by providing a consumer waste pickup service in conjunction with future meal deliveries, which could lead to composting, etc.
    • Add marketing scheme that not only highlights convenience but acknowledges the reduced GHG emissions of meal kit compared to shopping at store

3 thoughts on “Meal Kits Are Less Carbon Intensive Than Grocery Store Shopping

  1. This was a super interesting and informative take on meal kits. I would have never looked at it from this point of view. We don’t see all the plastic and waste that is part of the production and distribution process of our food at the groceries, so it’s easy so ignore it.

    The article mentions that they studied this by having researchers use Blue Apron vs buying the ingredients at the grocery and conducted a life-cycle analysis of the meals. I think to really drive this forward there should be more studies conducted on meal kits (which is mentioned in the article as well).


  2. I found it really surprising to read how these companies were less carbon intensive in the study through the LCA approach. I’d be interested to see how delivery distances/location is integrated into the analysis, as I assume densely populated cities would facilitate shorter delivery distances. The point about understanding the actual environmental impacts of food production and how to reduce them, looking at a ‘whole system’ approach really resonated with me.

    On the theme of food deliveries – I thought you might find it interesting to have a look at : During covid quarantine in London, I started using a vegetable delivery service/online platform called Oddbox which focuses on reduction of food waste through selling vegetables that were otherwise going to waste due to not looking “right” or because too much was grown…stats suggest up to 40% of all produce in the UK is wasted before it leaves farms (mad!).


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