New Study Finds That Meal Kits Aren’t as Bad for the Environment as Grocery Shopping

Sorry in advance, Trader Joe’s. (But, don’t worry, we’ll never actually give you up…)

A new study from the University of Michigan found that meal-prep kit companies like Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Plated are actually less harmful on the environment than a trip to the neighborhood grocery store. WE KNOW, we're shocked, too.

Researchers at U. Mich’s School of Environment and Sustainability found that, on average, these types of kits generate 33 percent less carbon dioxide per meal than the greenhouse gas emissions from grocery store purchases.

Wait, what about the cardboard and plastic involved in the packaging of meal kits? The study notes that the pre-portioned packaging has a greater environmental impact than grocery store packaging. But according to the study, the lack of food waste, along with the shorter supply chain used by the meal-kit companies offsets the carbon footprint from the packaging, and means less environmental impact.

“When you zoom out and look at the whole life cycle, packaging is a relatively small contributor to the overall environmental impacts of a meal. What really ends up mattering is the quantity of food wasted throughout the supply chain,” said Brent Heard, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan and first author of the study, according to NPR.

“There are lots of people who really liked meal kits but were saying ‘Ah, there’s so much plastic and I feel so bad because [it’s] so terrible environmentally,” Dr Shelie Miller, one of the primary researchers, told The Guardian. “I said ‘You know, I bet if we take a bigger picture look, they may not turn out to be that bad.’ Just largely because of the pre-portioned ingredients and potentially, the lack of food waste.”

Researchers used five different meal kits from Blue Apron—though it’s worth noting that the company didn’t sponsor the study—and they tracked the impact of the meals using a variety of approaches. The team found that the biggest difference in emissions was mostly the supply chain and the food that never gets bought.

According to a U.N. report from 2013, if food waste were a country, its production, processing and distribution would make it one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world, taking third place after U.S. and China. 


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As Director of Branded Content at Gallery Media Group, Roberta helps oversee the ideation and execution of sponsored content and experiential campaigns across PureWow and ONE37pm...