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Blue Apron Meals cannot suck for the planet



The environmental impact of Blue Apron meal set was assessed in the new study.
Photo: Getty

In recent years, I've seen the rising popularity of meal sets from companies such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh with deeper skepticism. Filled with refrigerator packages and individually wrapped ingredients, festooned with farm-to-table marketing and recycling symbols, these conveniently packaged dinners seemed to epitomize your company's greenwashing. It may not be good for the planet I thought every time a friend told me about their latest culinary adventure via kit.

As it turns out, I was probably a bit quick to judge this trend.

A first-time environmental footprint survey of meal sets has found that they can actually be more climate-friendly than buying the same ingredients for the same meal in your local grocery store. There are some important reservations to keep in mind here, but it basically comes down to food waste: because the ingredients are pre-portioned and brought to the consumers more directly, the meal set seems to average on average less food. And from a carbon emissions perspective, it's more important than the actual packaging.

Meal kits take care of, with the roughly decade-old industry now worth around $ 1

.5 billion in the US alone and growing at a rate of 25 percent. This growing popularity means that the meal sets have the potential to be "transformative" to the food industry, as the universities of Michigan-based study authors note in their paper. To fill this gap, the authors chose five two-person meals from Blue Apron salmon, cheeseburger, chicken, pasta and salad – and prepped them with both the set and the same ingredients purchased in a grocery store. For each preparation, the researchers attempted to estimate the total carbon footprint of the meal, ranging from agricultural production to packaging to transport to the amount of waste generated.

When all was said and said, the meal sets were the environmental winners. The average carbon emission for a Blue Apron meal was 6.1 kg, about 33 percent lower than 8.1 kg CO2 for the grocery store version. In each case except the cheeseburger, the meal set ate its grocery store counterpart. (In that case, doctoral student and author student writer Brent Heard told Earther that some of the ingredients of the kit were significantly heavier than their malls, resulting in higher emissions.) 39, analysis, was that they resulted in less food waste on average of pre-portioning ingredients. Cutting the grocery store can also help you in the waste department, because it turns out that food stores are throwing a lot of food in the trash too.

"One thing that really surprised me: I had not fully understood the amount of environmental impact contributed by the supermarket process," Earther heard. "It includes foods that become food reduction from overstocking or stores that blemish out produce, but also supermarket operation."

The study, published in the Resources Resources, Conservation and Recycling magazine, also found that meal sets resulted in lower so-called "Last kilometer" emissions, the final transport leg needed to get the food from the distribution center to the kitchen. Because the meal sets are delivered via trucks delivering many deliveries, each box represents a small portion of the last mile transit emissions – a big difference from driving yourself to the store to picking up ingredients for your dinner and no one else.

"An important highlight of the study is how much household waste it is and how effective it can be."

Together, reduced waste, reduced mileage emissions and meal kits (which turned out to be more climate-friendly than the giant grocery store cooling systems), compensate more than 0.17kg of additional carbon dioxide associated with a meal set's packaging. And while the authors focused their paper on greenhouse gases, they performed similar analyzes of land and water use, and industrial pollution, and the results were heard saying "pretty much the same."

Now there are many assumptions about your behavior and where you get your food – which makes the discoveries difficult to scale down to the individual level. According to Heard, the authors included a "sensitivity analysis" in which key variables, such as how many trips consumers take to the grocery store per week or how much food they throw, were varied between two extremes, "and we did not find a shift in results collected on any real significant one. way. "Nevertheless, lead author Shelie Miller Earther told me that the results" tend to be on average. "

I asked, as someone who goes to the grocery store, composts my food scrapes and is hardly connected to trying to eat all mine leftovers, I would be a candidate to switch to meal sets for the good on the planet. "Send us your data," Miller said, adding that the study is not so much about dictating individual choices as it is about "attentive consumption."

"An important highlight of the study is how much household waste is and how effective it can be," she said.

USDA estimates that America threw about 133 billion pounds of food value of $ 161 billion in the garbage in 2010. Separate research has estimated the average American waste a pound of food per day. Not only does it take energy and resources to grow the spilled food, but when it comes to landfills, it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Whether you get all the food on the farmers' markets or order takeaway every night, we all have a responsibility to carry here.

And if we consumers can be more aware, then the companies we buy from. Grocery stories can work to reduce food loss and switch to more environmentally friendly forms of cooling.

Meal kit companies can give a pat on their backs for their portion control. But they still need to figure out how to reduce the poor packaging.


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