Deliver Me From Food Waste: Model Framework for Comparing the Energy Use of Meal-Kit Delivery and Groceries
Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)
Center for Innovation and Engineering
Journal of Cleaner Production
This work shares a model that was developed to compare the energy requirements of meal-kit delivery systems to conventional grocery shopping. Meal-kit services can reduce food waste because the kits pre-portion ingredients for each recipe, thereby saving energy. However, the supply chain and packaging requirements of meal-kit delivery are different than those for grocery stores, potentially offsetting any energetic benefits of reduced food waste. If meal-kit delivery replaces some trips to the grocery store, then transportation-related savings might be significant. The tradeoffs of these competing effects are non-obvious, so mass and energy balances were used to assess embedded energy in both pathways. The model was illustrated under representative operating conditions for a consumer in Austin, Texas using Monte Carlo simulation. Both per-meal and per-week, a meal-kit delivery service meal is more energy intensive than procuring the same meal from conventional grocery stores primarily due to single-use packaging. Consumer transportation to the grocery store was also found to be particularly energy intensive. These results suggest that the energetic requirements of meal-kit delivery services could be reduced such that they are less than conventional grocery shopping if reusable or low-impact packaging is used, and if the delivery services are able to reduce the number of weekly trips to the grocery store.
Isabella M. Gee, F. Todd Davidson, Brittany L. Speetles, Michael E. Webber, Deliver Me from food waste: Model framework for comparing the energy use of meal-kit delivery and groceries, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 236, 2019, 117587, ISSN 0959-6526, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.07.062. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652619324011)
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