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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Grocery Delivery Services Can Reduce CO2 Emissions Up to 75%

Grocery delivery services such as those provided by Safeway, FreshDirect, Amazon and Google can slash carbon dioxide emissions by 20 to 75 percent compared to individual household trips to the market, according to researchers at the University of Washington.

The study also found companies can emit 80 to 90 percent less carbon dioxide if they deliver based on routes that cluster customers together rather than catering to individual household orders for particular delivery items.

“What’s good for the bottom line of the delivery service provider is generally going to be good for the environment, because fuel is such a big contributor to operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Erica Wygonik, a UW doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering. “Saving fuel saves money, which also saves on emissions.”

As companies continue to weigh the costs and benefits of offering a delivery service, the researchers looked at whether using a grocery delivery service was better for the environment, with Seattle as a test case.

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The researchers compiled Seattle and King County data, assuming that every household was a possible delivery-service customer. They then randomly drew a portion of those households from the data to identify customers and assign them to their closest grocery store, which allowed them to reach across the entire city without bias toward factors such as demographics and income level.

The study involved using an EPA modeling tool to calculate emissions at a more detailed level than previous studies have done, including factors such as vehicle type, speed and roadway type to calculate the carbon dioxide produced every mile for every vehicle.

The results showed emissions reductions across both the densest parts and more suburban areas of Seattle, which suggests that grocery delivery in rural areas could dramatically lower carbon dioxide production, the researchers say.

The research was funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation and published in the Journal of the Transportation Research Forum.

In related news, FedEx this year succeeded in trimming its fleet’s cumulative fuel economy by more than 22 percent, exceeding its goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020 seven years early. UPS also has announced an expansion to its alternative vehicle fleet with plans to purchase some 700 liquefied natural gas vehicles and to build four refueling stations by the end of 2014.


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