In recent years I have watched with increasing skepticism the increasing popularity of meal sets by companies such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh. Filled with refrigerator packs and individually packaged ingredients, decorated with symbols for marketing from land to table and for recycling, these practically packaged dinners seemed to be the epitome of corporate greenwashing. That may not be good for the planet I thought every time a friend told me about his latest culinary adventure by kit.
As it turned out, I was probably a bit quick at assessing trend.
A first study on the environmental footprint of meal sets has shown that they can actually be more climate-friendly than buying the same ingredients for the same meal in your grocery store. There are some important reservations to keep in mind here, but essentially food waste is a problem: as the ingredients are pre-portioned and brought more directly to the consumers, on average, the meal sets seem to cause less food thrown out. And from the point of view of carbon dioxide emissions, this is more important than the monstrous packaging.
Meal kits are picking up speed, with around ten years of industry in the US alone worth around $ 1
To fill this gap, the authors selected five two-person meals of Blue Apron – salmon, cheeseburger, chicken, noodles and salad – and prepared it with both the kit and the same ingredients in one Grocery store were bought. For each preparation, the researchers tried to estimate the total carbon footprint of the meal, taking into account everything from agricultural production to packaging, transport and the amount of waste produced.
All in all, the food equipment was the environmental winner. The average CO2 emissions of a Blue Apron meal was 6.1 kg, about 33 percent lower than the 8.1 kg CO2 contained in the grocery store version. In every single case except the cheeseburger, the food accessory outperformed its counterpart. (In this case, PhD and lead study author Brent Heard told Earther that some of the ingredients in the kit were significantly heavier than the corresponding grocers, resulting in higher emissions.)
The biggest reason that food sets perform better, according to the authors The analysis showed that, on average, they waste less food when pre-portioning ingredients. Cutting out the grocery store can also help in the waste department, as it turns out that grocery stores also throw a lot of food in the bin.
"One thing really surprised me: I did not quite understand that. The amount of environmental impact contributed to the supermarket retailer," Heard told Earther. "These include foods that cause food to be lost through overstocking or the collection of unclean products, as well as the operation of supermarkets."
The study, published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, also found that meal sets resulted in less stress on "last mile" emissions, and the final transit route was required to bring food from the distribution center to the kitchen. As food equipment is delivered via trucks that deliver many deliveries, each individual box represents a small portion of the transit mile of the last mile. "An important highlight of the study is how much household waste is wasted on the budget and how effective that effect can be."
Together, reduced waste, reduced last-mile emissions, and meal pack cooling packs (which turned out to be more climate friendly than the giant refrigeration systems in grocery stores) offset the 0.17 kg of additional carbon dioxide associated with packing a meal , And while the authors focused their work on greenhouse gases, they conducted similar analyzes of land and water use and nutrient pollution, and the results were, according to Heard, "broadly similar."
Now, there are many assumptions here – about your behavior and where you get your food – that makes it difficult to reduce the results to the individual level. According to Heard, the authors included a "sensitivity analysis" in which key variables, such as how many trips consumers bring to the grocery store per week or how much food they throw, were varied between two extremes, and we found no shift in the overall results really significant way. "Nevertheless, lead author Shelie Miller told Earther, the results" tend to be on average. "
I asked if someone going to the grocery store composted my food I'm a candidate to switch to meal sets for the sake of the planet. "Send us your data," joked Miller. He added that the study is not so much about individuals as it is about "mindful consumption."
and how effective that can be, "she said.
In fact, the USDA estimates that America threw 133 billion pounds of $ 161 billion worth of food into the trash in 2010. Separate investigations have estimated this average American wasting about a pound of food a day, not only does it take energy and resources to grow these wasted foods, but when they land in landfills, methane is released, a powerful greenhouse gas, whether you get all your groceries at farmers markets or takeaway every night we all have some responsibility here.
And if we consumers are more attentive, so can the companies we buy in. Food stories can reduce their food losses and switch to more environmentally friendly forms of refrigeration.
Companies that offer meals can si Give a knock on the back for her portion control. However, you still have to figure out how to reduce the damn packaging.