There are many ways to shop for groceries. Research in the United Kingdom shows the most sustainable way to do this is by ordering online and have your food products delivered at home. However, this only accounts for supermarket deliveries. Package deliveries of groceries are the least sustainable way.
Environmental researchers from the Radboud University Nijmegen conducted a study in the United Kingdom in which they analysed to routes of fast-moving consumers goods (FMCGs). ‘Think of products you use on a daily basis such as food, shampoo and laundry detergent,’ says Sadegh Shahmohammadi, author of the publication.
Three kinds of grocery shopping
According to the study, there are three ways to grocery shopping. They compared the CO2-emission of these ways.
- Traditional: going to the grocery store and buy your products in-store.
- Online shopping at a supermarket: supermarket takes care of home delivery.
- Online shopping at a seller: a package delivery service takes care of the delivery.
The researchers determined the CO2-emission by looking at a number of variables that impacted the delivery. Amongst them, transport, storage, delivery method and packaging method. According to Shahmohammadi, it is important to keep in mind that people shop in different ways. ‘Buying more at once lowers the emission.’
The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, a large part of the population traditionally goes grocery shopping by car (>80%). The conducted study shows that physically buying your groceries at a supermarket leads to 1.5 times the amount of emission per product bought compared to delivery by supermarkets. Especially the fact that in the UK grocery shopping by car is popular influences this. This way of shopping still leads to two times less the emission compared to delivery by a third-party delivery service. This is largely due to the inefficient way packages usually get delivered to consumers. Mostly because packages are returned when undeliverable (e.g. customer not at home) and vans are not fully stocked.
Alternative delivery methods can heavily lower the emission for online grocery shopping via a third party delivery service. Electric delivery bikes, for example, can lower the emission for this in the United Kingdom up to 25%.