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The Green Life: Are Grocery Delivery Services Green?

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May 01, 2013

Are Grocery Delivery Services Green?

Grocery delivery green drivingIt isn’t easy being green. Sometimes, adopting eco-friendly habits — whether avoiding plastic bags or researching sustainable food options — only seems to add more stress to our already hectic lives.

But one green habit might be as easy as skipping next Sunday’s grocery trip. A study published in the Journal of the Transportation Research Forum reveals that grocery delivery is easier not only on you, but on the planet, too. Using Seattle as a model, engineers at the University of Washington found that delivery service trucks generated 20 to 75 percent less carbon dioxide than personal vehicles driven to and from the grocery store. 

While zero emissions are ideal, grocery delivery offers a conveniently green option for those who don't live walking or biking distance from a store.

It turns out that delivery services also help grocery companies green their wallets. Goodchild and study lead author Ericka Wygonik, a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington, observed that delivery service providers produced up to 90 percent less carbon dioxide if they used routes that delivered to groups of residences, rather than individual households at separate delivery times. 

These results come at a time when several grocery outlets have begun to offer delivery services.  Safeway, which has over 1,600 stores across the U.S. and Canada, offers a delivery service, while online grocer FreshDirect delivers to homes and offices in the New York City area. And Peapod makes home and business deliveries in the Midwest. Google's even jumped on the bandwagon, revealing plans last month to pilot a same-day shopping delivery service — Google Shopping Express — in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Goodchild and Wygonik’s study raises the possibility of government or industry incentives for online grocery shopping. In future studies, they plan to investigate the effects of doing double-duty and combining grocery trips with work commutes. They’ll also look at how a delivery service’s home base location could influence emissions.

Image by iStockphoto/Catherine Yeulet

Read More:

Green Grocery Tips: The Farmers' Market

Green Your Grocery Store Trip: Nix Paper and Plastic

Taking Guesswork Outta Groceries: There's An App... Well, You Know

HS_Melissa_BLOGMelissa Pandika is an editorial intern at Sierra and a graduate journalism student at Stanford University. Her interests include environmental health and justice, urban environmental issues, and conservation biology. She has a soft spot for cetaceans.


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