Meal kits have a smaller carbon footprint than grocery shopping.


Talk about counter-intuitive. But it seems that food waste is much more damaging than a little extra plastic and cardboard.

So should we all start purchasing Blue Apron?

It doesn’t look like they took into consideration that people will still need to go to the grocery store to get supplies for all their other meals, and that some of the effects of meal kit streamlining is due to being a niche actor paying a premium for top shelf vegetables.

They also assumed zero food waste at home from meal kits, which is not my experience as a consumer, even though I’m big into keeping food waste down. Sometimes you forget to check the menu and you don’t like what they send you. Some time you do check the menu, and the meal is disappointing anyway. And sometimes you forget to cancel a delivery even though you’re going out of town. The delivery service also isn’t perfect. Sometimes the box goes the wrong address, and it’s very unlikely those boxes aren’t just a write off.

The meal kit services also spend a lot of resources on recruiting, and although I don’t think all their junk mail would affect the calculation much, I expect first time buyers have an even higher rate of wrong and missed deliveries and “zero food waste in the home” non-adherence.

That said, the study does show how significant our food delivery system is for our emissions, and that meal kits aren’t necessarily an environmentally unfriendly part of that system.

Here are the key numbers in the study’s abstract.

If the goal is a smaller carbon footprint, we should all become vegan, and eat from our own backyard or balcony gardens.

Irrelevant unless you can get the price far enough down to compete with grocery store prices.

You don’t need to go vegan to eat only from your backyard garden. My mom grows most of her own food herself, including eggs from her chickens.

Would get the carbon footprint down in a jiffy, since there is no way it would produce enough calories. And even if you only use it to supplement your diet, it’s only going to have a smaller carbon footprint until you go off and buy fertilizer.

It is your contention that vegetables grown in a home garden have a higher carbon footprint (if you use fertilizer) than vegetables grown elsewhere? Or meat raised elsewhere?

I think the point is that most people don’t have backyards big enough to grow enough food, and so you have to ship in food from some larger plot somewhere.

You would be shipping in less food than without growing any of your own.The statement is that even using a garden to reduce food bought from a grocer would increase your carbon footprint because of fertilizer.

I buy meal kits AT the grocery store. How does that stack up with regards to carbon footprint? :slight_smile:

It’s people like you what cause unrest.

There was a statistic I heard that said there was more produce grown in back yards in Toronto than there is in the entirety of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Worse than that, they’re contriving their scenario. Their example was hamburger buns- Blue Apron would send you two buns for two people, while you have to buy an 8 pack at the store, and they’re calling the other 6 “waste”.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if we get buns for say… hamburgers, we’ll use the rest of the package for other sandwiches. They don’t go to waste.

About the only place I’d say the meal-kits have a big advantage for us (we eat a lot of fresh vegetables anyway), is in the realm of condiments. If they have a recipe that calls for a tablespoon of verjus, nobody has to go get a half-pint bottle of the stuff at the store- they’ve given you a tiny one-tablespoon bottle of it.

So using a few lbs of fertilizer is MORE carbon per unit of food than the commercial stuff that’s also fertilized, AND is picked and shipped using fuel-burning vehicles?

That seems unlikely to me.

For backyard gardening you need a supply chain for fertilizer that is less efficient than the one for agriculture. I’m of course exaggerating and guesstimating, but based on the kind of differences this report got when comparing the farm-distributor-grocery store-home supply chain, I’d be surprised if the transport of small amounts of fertilizer to garden centers and then to individual homes didn’t wipe out the savings, pr. calorie, of back yard vegetables.

Of course if you add all the vegetables together and say you save between one and ten trips to the grocery store, and compare that with, and lets be kind to the back yard gardener here, one trip for fertilizer every couple of years, back yard gardening would come out ahead. But just like a meal kit only saves you grocery trips if dinner ingredients totally dominate your grocery list, most people will be driving to the grocery story pretty much with the same frequency, so their home grown zucchini only deserves credit for reducing the mass of the car by the weight of the zucchini.

If you don’t drive to the grocery store in general, or if you live entirely garden based for days at a time, sure, but that’s not a generalizable comparison.

That’s not what the article says, in the very next sentence after the hamburger bun example:

They also state, and mind you all of this is based on the npr article, not the actual study:

From the linked NPR story:

Oooh, five meals. This doesn’t sound like the foundation for a declaration that ordering meal kits is more environmentally sound.

I’d be more impressed if they followed, say, ten thousand subscribers to these services and compared them to a comparable group of ten thousand people who do their own grocery shopping (eliminating potential confounding factors) and only then decided who wound up eating what, and who had the bigger, muckier carbon footprint.

I’m sure Blue Apron et al will trumpet this study in their marketing efforts, but I’m not impressed.

It’s not my contention, but it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable to me either. Just like a large power plant generating megawatts of power is far more efficient than every household having their own back yard kilowatt generator.

I think the study is not perfect, but I also think it give valuable knowledge and is unlikely to be completely off the mark.

Your standard is either impossible to meet, or would require mainly self-reporting, with the issues for accuracy that entails.

The soil in my garden got improved by composted horse poop, which was free and which didn’t even require any car trips since we were taking our daughter to the barn anyhow. Since she quit riding I use my own compost and compost from our waste disposal company which they give out once a year.
The closest thing to fertilizer I’ve used in 15 years is Miracle-Gro.
All fruit and vegetable peels and waste go into my compost and thus back into the soil.
So people may buy fertilizer, but you don’t have to. Most barns would be thrilled at people redcing the size of their manure pile.