Supermarket delivery services are greener than driving to shop
A new academic research study has revealed it is better for the environment to order the weekly supermarket shop to be delivered to your doorstep with carbon emission savings of up to 75%.
University of Washington engineers have found that using a supermarket delivery service can cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least half when compared with individual household trips to the store. Trucks filled to capacity that deliver to customers clustered in neighborhoods produced the most savings in carbon dioxide emissions.
"A lot of times people think they have to inconvenience themselves to be greener, and that actually isn't the case here," said Anne Goodchild, UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. "From an environmental perspective, grocery delivery services overwhelmingly can provide emissions reductions."
UK consumers are spoilt for choice with grocery delivery services being offered by all the leading chains.
In the US, AmazonFresh operates in the Seattle area, while Safeway's service is offered in many US cities. FreshDirect delivers to residences and offices in the New York City area. Last month, Google unveiled a shopping delivery service experiment in the San Francisco Bay Area, and UW alumni recently launched the grocery service Geniusdelivery in Seattle.
As companies continue to weigh the costs and benefits of offering a delivery service, Goodchild and Erica Wygonik, a UW doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering, looked at whether using a grocery delivery service was better for the environment, with Seattle as a test case.
In their analysis, they found delivery service trucks produced 20 to 75 percent less carbon dioxide than the corresponding personal vehicles driven to and from the supermarket.
They also discovered significant savings for companies — 80 to 90 percent less carbon dioxide emitted — if they delivered based on routes that clustered customers together, instead of catering to individual household requests for specific delivery times.
"What's good for the bottom line of the delivery service provider is generally going to be good for the environment, because fuel is such a big contributor to operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions," Wygonik said. "Saving fuel saves money, which also saves on emissions."
The research was funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation and published in the Journal of the Transportation Research Forum.
The UW researchers compiled Seattle and King County data , assuming that every household was a possible delivery-service customer. Then, they randomly drew a portion of those households from that data to identify customers and assign them to their closest grocery store. This allowed them to reach across the entire city, without bias toward factors such as demographics and income level.
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Grocery shopping image via Shutterstock.