Which is greener? Grocery shopping online or in-person

Day 215 – The pandemic has really increased the use of online grocery shopping. My family used the option a couple times when we had a positive case in the family and quarantined for a couple weeks. I was thankful for having this option and so grateful for those working through the pandemic to ensure we had access to food and all the essentials. After our quarantine was over, we were back to shopping in-person. However, I know many people have really liked the idea of having their groceries delivered and may never consider going back to a grocery store. So, I thought I would write about which shopping method is greener, online or in-person.

While reading a few articles on the subject a few points stuck out.

  1. Large grocery stores use a great deal of energy to operate. Making sure customers and products are at a comfortable temperature takes a lot of energy.
  2. Overstocking in large grocery stores is standard and it’s estimated that 10.5 million tons of food waste are generated from grocery stores each year.
  3. Direct delivery from a fulfillment center has the potential to eliminate some retail inefficiencies. Fulfillment centers eliminate at least one step from the distribution system, can store food in a way that keeps it fresh longest instead of in appealing displays for consumers, and can order only what they know they will sell.
  4. Secondary packaging for delivery – such as disposable bags, ice packs, and foam cushioning – is an additional source of waste.
  5. The number of delivery vehicles in cities is projected to rise 36% by 2030, which could lead to an increase in emissions and a 21% increase in congestion.
  6. Journey consolidation and smart routing powered by artificial intelligence are promising approaches to more efficient, less polluting delivery.

In the end, both options have their negative and positive effects on the environment.

Earth911 came up with a list of questions to ask yourself before deciding which option is best for you and the planet.

  • Are you replacing a drive to the supermarket, or would you have walked or biked instead?
  • Do your deliveries come from a local hub or a large, distant distribution center?
  • Who makes the deliveries? Gig workers in their own vehicles or employees in company-owned electric vehicles?
  • Do they deliver in reusable containers made from recycled materials or disposable ones made from virgin materials?
  • Do they deliver your groceries according to an algorithm that reduces delivery miles or at the time you specify?

For me, the biggest turn off to online shopping is the extra packaging. At times it is absurd as to how much is used. If I can find what I’m looking for at the local store, I will opt to purchase in-person, using my reusable bags.

Tomorrow, an app that is saving consumers money and addresses the problem of food waste.

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