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Earth Transportation

Grocery Delivery Lowers Carbon Dioxide Emissions Over Individual Trips 417

vinces99 writes "Those trips to the store can take a chunk out of your day and put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But now University of Washington engineers have found that using a grocery 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, but there are even benefits with delivery to rural areas."
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Grocery Delivery Lowers Carbon Dioxide Emissions Over Individual Trips

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  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @03:08AM (#43588001)

    When I go to the grocery, I walk there. I doubt that any delivery service can be more efficient. However, to be able to shop in that way, the supermarket must be not more than 10-20 min away from home (by foot or by bike).


    • If you go there by foot or by bike, it means you cannot buy much.
      Therefore you need to go much more often and that you'll rarely buy any heavy goods.

      • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

        If you go there by foot or by bike, it means you cannot buy much. Therefore you need to go much more often and that you'll rarely buy any heavy goods.

        I used to live a quarter of a mile from a supermarket, and going every other day worked well. Now my closest supermarket is 3.5 miles away and the closest expensive convenience store 1 mile I use the car a lot more.

        Delivery is OK but I think you get a worse selection of fresh produce than if you go and pick in person. You also miss the special offers that you see round the store

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by KiloByte ( 825081 )

          What's that "supermarket" thing you're talking about? Outside the US we have regular shops every second corner: I live in the suburbs yet there's six grocery shops I can get to crossing a street at most once, two of them fairly large (for Polish rather than US standards). Supermarkets around here are also notorious for cheating with expired food, something corner shops don't dare to.

          Bread is what makes using supermarkets a bad idea: it is good for two days. I've seen bread in the US, you solve this probl

          • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

            What's that "supermarket" thing you're talking about? Outside the US we have regular shops every second corner: I live in the suburbs yet there's six grocery shops I can get to crossing a street at most once, two of them fairly large (for Polish rather than US standards)

            I live in the UK, semi-rural. There is a store in a village high-street a mile away, but it is very expensive and except in good weather a mile each way is too far to stop me getting in my car anyway - at which point I would go on the 3.5 miles to the supermarket.

          • I suspect the European corner shop system is less energy-efficient than a supermarket. Large buildings cost less to heat, light, and refrigerate per customer, and because a large market is able to average out irregular customer behavior over a larger number of customers, I bet they need fewer employees per customer and throw out less expired food per customer, both of which mean huge indirect energy savings. Corner shops probably come out ahead in terms of vehicle fuel (for the same reasons mentioned in t

        • I used supermarket delivery for a while when I was without wheels. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the veg. I wouldn't have got better if I'd picked them from the store myself. I'm not sure if it's that the store pickers actually cared, or if they picked from the warehouse, where other customers had not yet had a chance to rummage through them.

      • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

        Correct. I go there after work or more often on Saturday. Mostly for food of course. In most cases there is no heavy stuff. For now we are only a two person household, but even with three or four that scheme would be possible. If you only buy the stuff you really need, you can buy your stuff in a matter of minutes. In the end I wast less time than some of my colleagues who do that big weekend shopping thing every second weekend. And I need less storage space. However, this is only possible because I live in

      • by lxs ( 131946 )

        If you go there by foot or by bike, it means you cannot buy much.

        That's right. Your groceries will be fresh, you get daily excercise and you have an added incentive to switch from drinking soda to tea or coffee (Why lug half your body weight in water across town when you can get it at home by turning a tap?).
        You can pick up your groceries on your way from work on a daily basis. For heavy goods you can always take a car or have it delivered.

      • For 2 people, I'd guess we have about 15kg of groceries for a week. It's easy to carry 7.5kg in a backpack, or whatever.
      • by Nyder ( 754090 )

        If you go there by foot or by bike, it means you cannot buy much.
        Therefore you need to go much more often and that you'll rarely buy any heavy goods.

        What exactly is this "heavy goods" i can buy at the supermarket, that I need to drive it home?

        We are talking a supermarket here, not Costco or a wholesale place.

        I live about 7 blocks from a supermarket, all up hill, steep. I get exercise walking to the store, and if I have to do it every day, or every other day, then it's only that much better for me. And I'm not polluting while I do it, either.

        Sure, sometimes I don't get all I want to grab, because it's more then I want to carry home, but that is very,

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      A car accident 'sic' got me used to having groceries delivered. Shop in the evening over a few nights list still there or on a lazy Sunday afternoon, scope out all the specials and try something new, spend more than I normally would and have it delivered when it's convenient (even on the odd occasion go through the order with multiple stores to see which will be cheaper for the final order, including specials). Overall having groceries delivered is far more relaxing and with specials, which I never used to

    • There's no way I'd be lugging our weekly shop home, and it'll get worse as our family grows.

      I used to do the same as you when I lived by myself (shopping for one), and the supermarket was on the way home from the train station - just pick up what I need for dinner after work each day. These days, when it's shopping for three, and it's closer to 30 minutes each way to the nearest supermarket - home delivery is the winner.

      • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

        It depends highly on you life situation, if you can do this. My point is, that the delivery home service might only be in an advantage in areas where people go by car to shop for food. While in many urban areas in Europe, this is not the case. Furthermore, other world areas, people have not that many cars or can not transport stuff in an time efficient way with cars. This includes India and large parts of China.

        Under the assumption that you have to transport large amounts of grocery products and the time in

    • I'm gonna guess that the people who would use grocery delivery are not people who are going to walk, bike, or even take transit.

      They're probably elderly or physically challenged, or they prioritize convenience and wouldn't take the time for the more efficient forms of transportation.

      • There's a good chance that mass transit of any sort isn't available, either, especially on a moderately convenient route.
    • 20 mins? On the contrary, my partner and I have lived as much as 40 mins walk from the supermarket and still done weekly shopping trips on foot. Since we are nothing special athletically, I'm sure there are others that walk further.
  • So it uses less gas and generates less emmisions if one truck comes from a single point into a area along a planned path and delivers to everyone instead of having all those individuals drive from the area to the single point?
    WOW I would of thought it was the other way.
    It is good that these people spent all this time and money to prove that common thinking was all wrong.
    • Do they offer this new green way of consuming stuff? Because, really, who else would commission a study of something so painfully obvious.

      But in the big picture it would use more because you need new supply warehouses, vehicles on the road, all the old stores would stay open. Now with widespread shift, and massive adoption of delivery I am sure it would use less.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      It's more than just common thinking, when you order online groceries in the UK just about every supermarket I can think of (and some other stores even, like John Lewis) will, when selecting delivery time slots, show you slots where a delivery van is going to be in your area delivering to someone else so that you can select it as an eco option.

      We didn't need a university study for this, in the UK companies have been aware of it and offering it as an option for customers for many many years already.

  • Well, the truck can deliver the goods to a local market. Then, you can go to that market using your feet or even a bike. I guess it is even more green. It is the way our grandparents did. Why do we different? Because we have plenty of cheap energy and it is more comfortable the other way.

    It might change when the energy will not be that cheap, though. I am pretty pessimistic at the idea some environmental enlightenment will win against laziness...

    • Their own great grandfathers worked in a farm and traded their goods against other food at a local market. Maybe we should do the same instead of being lazy.
      The grandfathers of those people even went to hunt animals to eat them! We should just do that instead!
      All this industrialization of food is just for lazy people.

    • You mean..... walk? How?

      Joking aside, the near ubiquitous adoption of cars has made walking untenable in many situations of daily shopping errands due to the distance between them. Biking would work in most situations, but you try carrying 60 pounds of groceries on a bike, maybe if you had a bike trailer, but I'm guessing you don't.

    • You're extraordinarily naive about the shopping requirements of others. It is not merely "more comfortable" - in many areas it is not possible. There isn't always a grocery store within walking distance, and people don't always go to said stores multiple times per week.

  • Who shops at major groceries anymore? I get most of my food at the farmers market. I like to pick my own produce, not phone it in.
  • Grocery stores would fight it. There's no "oh i want it" to the same degree if you can keep a list in your phone every time you run out of something and it comes to the door twice a week. It would eliminate overhead, but who really needs grocery stores if a warehouse just loads the stuff on a truck and brings it to you. Now with fruits and veggies you'll probably want to pick them out so they dont give you the rejects.

    For boxed stuff and canned goods, why not? I mean, my dad told me stories of the milk man/

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )
      Smaller grocery stores made home delivery in the '70s and still make it. With this servce they beat the big malls because one hasn't to move from home, and for the daily foods, like milk or bread it's an advantage for the grocery owner having a fixed quantity of perishable food to sell. On the other hand, in the '90 for a party we bought a pallet of beer from a wholesale beer warehouse. Nothing says big party like moving the beer with a forklift
  • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @03:28AM (#43588101) Journal

    I want the milk that is newest, the meat without marbling, the pear without bruises, and the beets without rotting leaves.

    I'm sure it benefits the store to provide me whatever is oldest and/or least desired. If I don't buy more food to compensate, throwing out half of it, there may even be an environmental benefit. (less food waste if people eat the moldy food) No thanks. I want the good stuff.

    • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:58AM (#43588947)

      In my experience, the grocery delivery services know that you're going to be super-suspicious about low-quality food, and make a point of giving you the best stuff. They advertise this heavily, and from what I've seen it's true. (Their financial incentive to give you crap food is smaller than their financial incentive to operate fewer expensive retail stores.)

      Also, keep in mind that if they're delivering from a central warehouse rather than a retail location, the food won't have been sitting out shriveling on a display shelf for three days before you buy it.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Expecting perfection is part of the problem. Obviously I'm not suggesting you should eat mouldy or rotten food, but a single bruise on a pear or 13 days vs. 15 days left on fresh milk isn't going to do you any harm. I think it comes down to a combination of advertising making us demand flawless food and people keeping too much in their homes (my mum used to have at least 12 pints of milk in the fridge at all times, in a household of two).

      Of course the supermarkets could help by not screwing delivery custome

  • Fundamentally, environmental problems are economic problems: how to minimize environmental damage at minimal cost. Economic theory points to pollution taxes as the best solution. So while I disagree with the articles conclusion that governments should give incentives for ordering groceries by delivery, this kind of study does point people and companies in the direction of how to efficiently reduce pollution once the right incentives (pollution taxes) are provided.

    And of course, in the meantime it's good fo

  • My groceries consist mostly of perishable goods (haven't bought cans or frozen foods in recent memory, rather low on boxes, packets or jugs). One has to wonder: how much do damaged fruit that rot before they can be eaten, contribute to carbon emissions (ok, ok, methane)? I often stop by the shop on my way from work to home, so not much extra fuel used there. But I select my produce for maximum freshness (so they last as long as possible). The more they are handled (unloading, packing, bagging, ...) the more
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      If you select your produce for maximum freshness then you should be buying a lot more frozen stuff. The classic example being peas. Decent quality frozen peas are flash frozen with in a couple of hours of being picked in the field. Even cheap frozen peas will be frozen in a handful of hours from being picked. The *only* way to get fresher peas is to hand pick them yourself and eat them immediately. If you buy fresh peas in a supermarket they are no where near as fresh as frozen peas and have considerably lo

  • Here's my grocery getter, loaded down with groceries [pinterest.com]. I doubt that truck beats me in the carbon department.

  • If you're single and living by yourself, and there's a store within walking distance near your home or workplace, and you're physically fit, and the weather is half-decent, fine. How much can you lug in a couple of shopping bags? A week's worth of groceries for 2 or more people is not going to fit in a shopping bag, or in the itty-bitty basket on your bicycle.

    My initial reaction to the article is... like... dohhh. This is what's known as "The travelling salesman problem". No, it's not a joke or a movie...

    • Before solving the "traveling salesman problem", these delivery services would first need to solve the "chicken and egg problem": Namely, it only works out (both economically and ecologically) if they have enough customers that they can serve more then one per trip... (and while they haven't enough yet, they'd be too expensive to get more...)
    • I do both: I get a delivery every two weeks of bulky and heavy dry goods, and I walk/cycle to the supermarket every other day to get fresh fruit and veg. It works well for our family anyway.

  • I get my groceries on a bicycle. Beat that.

  • This study assumes of course that you are at home, go to the store by car and get back. But people will also streamline their transportation routes. I, for example, always go to the store when coming back from work. It's on the same way, so the added emissions here are just me stopping and starting my car.
    I'm sure many other people are in the same case.
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:56AM (#43588937)

    Congratulations, now go make^H^H^H^Hlose a billion $$$!

    Safeway is starting to offer this as a service; however, like WebVan, they reserve the right to substitute "equivalent" goods when they feel it's necessary.

    When WebVan did that, we ended up with something with peanut oil in it instead of canola oil, which it's lucky we caught, or someone could have died.

    When Safeway does it, it's going to be replacing name brands with Safeway brands, and it is more or less *always* be necessary, since they are sending the vans from the distribution center, which only stocks a few name brands. Toilet tissue? You get Safeway. Kleenex? You get Safeway tissue.

    The asinine thing is that Safeway *already* does not use the frequency marketing card data to datamine it and say to themselves "Hmmmm... this card never buys anything containing peanuts, and hasn't for 10 years; let's flag them so that if they accidentally get something that has peanuts in it, they get an 'are you sure?' at the checkout". This despite the databases they already have on product ingredients and everything the card has *ever* been used to buy make this type of mining *trivial*.

    Instead, the assholes print out $0.50 off coupons for exactly the products that we've been avoiding for 10 years, every time we buy an "equivalent" non-store brand version of the item. Of course it's cleverly based on the fact that on our next trip we are likely to be picking up one of the "equivalent" products that don't contain what amounts to rat poison, or might as well, for the allergic person.

    Seriously, this is a stupid idea.

    • When Safeway does it, it's going to be replacing name brands with Safeway brands, and it is more or less *always* be necessary, since they are sending the vans from the distribution center

      The "distribution center" is the supermarket. Employees walk the aisles and put your goods in a cart. The actual safeway distribution center isn't set up for pull and pick. And, you can specify no substitutions, in which case you just don't get things.

      • Safeway does not suck as much as WebVan did, but they still suck.

        To address your first point: According to their EDGAR filings, there are both distribution center and non-distribution center (store-based delivery).

        For store-based delivery, according to the FAQ on their web site, they will offer control of substitutions at checkout. This assumes that their electronic inventory exactly matches their store inventory, and the items get instantly and magically pulled. If an in-store shopper grabs it before th

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!