Post by Nancy Shute, The Salt at NPR Food (05/02/13)
Home grocery delivery sounds like a frill for people too lazy to schlep to the store. But having food delivered can be more environmentally friendly than driving to the store, researchers say.
Having groceries delivered can cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least half, compared to driving to the store, according to a new study. That's because the delivery truck offers the equivalent of a "shared ride" for the food.
"It's like a bus for groceries," says Anne Goodchild, an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Washington and a co-author of the study. "Overwhelmingly, it's more efficient to be sharing a vehicle, even if it's a little larger."
Goodchild studies logistics and freight transportation. She also gets her groceries delivered. "As a working mother, it's another trip I don't have to make while my kids are awake," she says. But, she admits, "I felt sort of lazy and indulgent to be ordering my groceries this way."
By combining her knowledge of freight transport and data on commuter habits, Goodchild and her colleagues were able to calculate just how efficient it is to put the groceries on the "bus," using neighborhoods in Seattle and randomly choosing households as potential customers. Pretty darned efficient, it turns out.