Amazon Fresh truck
Amazon Fresh truck

Online grocery shopping just isn’t for couch potatoes or those folks who are too busy to get to the grocery store. New research from the University of Washington finds that relying on an online grocery delivery service like Amazon Fresh or Safeway is actually far more environmentally-friendly than jumping in the car and heading to the store.

The research, conducted by UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Anne Goodchild and doctoral candidate Erica Wygonik, found that grocery delivery cuts carbon dioxide emissions by at least half when compared to individual car trips to the store.

“A lot of times people think they have to inconvenience themselves to be greener, and that actually isn’t the case here,” said Goodchild in a release. “From an environmental perspective, grocery delivery services overwhelmingly can provide emissions reductions.”


The study, funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation, analyzed data from Seattle and King County. The researchers found that delivery trucks, like those from Amazon Fresh, created 20 percent to 75 percent less carbon dioxide than those who drove themselves.

grocery22Amazon has been operating its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service in Seattle since 2007, but it has been slow to expand the service to other markets. The possible expansion of the service actually emerged during Amazon’s earnings call last week, though CFO Tom Szkutak said they have “nothing to announce” at this point. He also added that they are  “pleased” with the test, but they are continuing to tinker with the economics of grocery delivery. 

Of course, there’s one way to make sure you are truly “green” when shopping for groceries. Just walk to the store.

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  • n8

    First, where is a link to the study? I probably intuitively agree with the findings if customers are forced to switch all of the grocery store shopping to an online service. However, the first sentence in the news release talks about late night runs to the grocery store. If it’s 10pm and I need something from the store, I’m not going to order it online and then sit around for a truck to show up the next day between noon and 5 so that I can be clustered into an environmentally friendly delivery route. Also, a lot of people make multiple trips to multiple grocers during the week and often this are in route to another destination as opposed to a single-purpose trip. That said, their is probably lots advantages beyond just transportation if all or nearly all grocery shopping was done online, such as reduced electricity usage to maintain open refrigeration for display purposes, less packaging because point-of-purchase marketing would not be needed and less impervious spaces for parking and building. But there is less low-wage employment in the delivery model.

  • Krishi Patel

    Really a nice and useful information you share with us.

    Thank you,

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