Opening more grocery stores would actually cut food waste
Food waste causes as much carbon emissions as road transport
In the US, a staggering *third* of all food produced is wasted. In fact, wasted food causes as much carbon emissions as road transport.
So the mouldy veg and expired produce we throw in the trash makes a really big contribution to global warming.
A new study has made a surprising finding about how we might reduce the environmental impact of food waste: open more grocery stores.
That’s the counter-intuitive suggestion of Elena Belavina, who is associate professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.
She said: “The more stores you have, the lower food waste is going to be. Very small increases in store density can have a very high impact.”
Belavina’s new report, “Grocery Store Density and Food Waste” was published in the journal Manufacturing and Service Operations Management.
The idea is that having *more* grocery stores actually means people buy smaller quantities of food more frequently. Therefore they waste less food.
“There’s less food sitting at home,” Belavina said. “As a result, there is a much lower likelihood that something will be spoiled, and we’ll actually be able to eat all of the stuff that we’ve purchased before its expiration date.”
Belavina discovered that in Chicago, for example, adding just three or four markets within a 10-square-kilometer area (about four square miles) would reduce food waste by 6% to 9%. That would achieve an emissions reduction comparable to converting more than 20,000 cars from fossil fuels to electric power.
The researcher also came across an additional benefit of adding more stores in Chicago: lower grocery bills. By trimming food waste and travel costs, consumers would spend up to 4% less.
“So it’s a big win for the environment and a big win for consumers,” she said.
The report found that most big US cities are well below the ideal density of grocery stores which would minimize food waste.
In Chicago, that would be about 200 markets within a 10-square-kilometer area – compared to 15 currently – but most of the benefit from reduced emissions would be achieved by about 50 stores. New York City, with its abundance of produce stands and neighborhood markets, comes closest to its ideal density.
“We actually see some moves across the globe toward going a little bit back in time and reviving those small corner stores, mom and pop stores, smaller-format stores,” Belavina said.
If you don’t have the optimum grocery store density in your area, Belavina suggests online shopping: “any service that makes it more convenient and allows you to shop more frequently. To reduce food waste, essentially what households need to do is bring less groceries home.”