Home Delivery: Much More than Just a Convenience
Our food system in the United States creates a hefty carbon footprint. That’s why we at Mother Earth Food are so focused on creating an alternative food system that works well for our environment and for our community. Our goal has always been to support locally raised and produced food, organically raised food, and home delivery from the Mother Earth Food’s warehouse. And we certainly understand if you did a double-take when you read “home delivery”. After all, doesn’t that involve having more vehicles on the road and therefore creating more carbon emissions? The answer to that is an unequivocal NO! Home delivery of groceries is one of the most effective and efficient solutions for cutting back on our CO2 emissions.
Here are a Few of the Benefits from Home Delivery:
Reducing Food Miles
A recent USDA survey found that in 88-93% of U.S households, people travel in their car to buy groceries – driving an average of 4 miles (8 miles round trip) to their preferred store. If each of these households took at least one trip per week, that would add up to over 42 billion miles driven round-trip each year—about 10 times the distance to the planet Pluto! All these car trips result in carbon pollution – over 17 million metric tons of CO2 come from cars just from driving back and forth to the grocery store. However, that number is in reality considerably higher since studies also show that we shop at our grocery store(s) on average more than just once per week – it’s 1.6 times per week.
Grocery store shopping creates what is called “the last-mile problem” – referring to how our food makes that final leg in its journey from farm to table. This final step (driving to and from the grocery store) is where a lot of carbon emissions occur because it is one vehicle that is dedicated to a round trip to and from the store. While a delivery truck or van may be more likely to have higher carbon emissions per mile compared with your personal car, the miles associated with that grocery run are much smaller because you have lots of groceries in a single vehicle. Easier said . . . one van delivering 150 packages is much more efficient than 150 people driving to the store.
At Mother Earth Food, each of our delivery vans carry 70 orders and, during an average week, we deliver between 650-700 orders. This means we are removing the equivalent of 650-700 car trips (approximately 5,000-5,600 miles) from travel each week. That’s about 275,000 miles/year (or the equivalent of 35,000 fewer grocery trips) – a significant reduction in CO2 emissions!
Reducing Energy Usage
A traditional supermarket is energy intensive. The average grocery store is 38,000 square feet and must be maintained at a comfortable temperature for shoppers (typically 72 degrees) while simultaneously keeping food items refrigerated and frozen. The many smaller display coolers are far more energy intensive than the larger storage units and need to be kept at temperatures ranging from 36 degrees to 38 degrees. That does not include freezers which are obviously kept at much colder temperatures. If your groceries are delivered from the same store where you would shop in person, there really is no environmental advantage. But direct delivery from a fulfillment center (like Mother Earth Food) eliminates a lot of those retail inefficiencies. Warehouses tend to be much more energy efficient than retail spaces.
Reducing Food Waste
Food that you purchase in the grocery store has traveled from a warehouse – or several – through a very complex distribution network. Overstocking is standard (consumers are more likely to buy from abundant-looking displays) and it’s estimated that 10.5 million tons of food waste are generated from grocery stores each year. Warehouses or fulfillment centers can store food in a way that keeps it fresh longer instead of in appealing displays (often unrefrigerated) and can order only what they know they will sell. At Mother Earth Food, for example, we place our orders with our growers and producers after we know what your cumulative orders look like. This allows us to be precise with our orders and drastically reduce food waste. As a matter of fact, we virtually have zero food waste. We donate the food we do not use to a Wildlife non-profit organization as well as to FEAST – a non-profit organization dedicated to the transformation of public education by using organic school gardens, kitchens, and cafeterias to teach both academic subjects and the values of nourishment, stewardship, and community.
According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gases generated from food rotting in landfills (which is where most of our wasted food ends up) is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills, where it emits methane. And methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
So yes, we see home delivery as one of the three legs in our sustainability stool – support local; support organic and regenerative farming; and support home delivery from the Mother Earth Food warehouse. All these together are helping us build a more sustainable tomorrow for our community.