Delivery or Not: The Effect of Grocery Delivery Services on Last Mile Emissions
Kunkel, Chadwick E.
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CitationKunkel, Chadwick E. 2020. Delivery or Not: The Effect of Grocery Delivery Services on Last Mile Emissions. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractMany millions of Americans shop for groceries every day and they make thousands of choices about which groceries to buy and how to bring them home. Each one of these choices shapes the total greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions directly attributed to food consumption, and the total GHG emissions for millions of shoppers adds up quickly.
To understand how each decision impacts their GHG emissions, shoppers must search and glean information from a multitude of resources. Ideally, they would focus on a small set of decisions impacting GHG emissions. This research focuses on the last mile delivery methods used for groceries and how it impacts GHG emissions.
The research quantifies last mile GHG emissions totals by evaluating the difference in carbon emissions if a grocery shopper switched from regularly using self-deliver methods to include grocery delivery services. This research uses grocery shopper customer personas based on consumer marketing data to compare GHG emissions. Each persona represents different US adult grocery shoppers’ habits and demographics.
The research quantified GHG emission totals for each customer persona and answered the question if making changes to their last mile behaviors significantly impacted monthly pounds of CO2e. The research predicted using delivery services each week decreases the CO2e GHG last mile emissions by 50% when compared to self-delivery and total pounds of CO2e GHG emissions is reduced by 20% if grocery delivery service replaces 33% of monthly self-delivery trips.
Data was collected into a spreadsheet tracker that represented each persona based on their vehicle, fuel type, and delivery density variables. This established monthly last mile emissions for each delivery type. The personas last mile footprints were used to do “what-if” analysis that determined the impact of GHG reductions in carbon equivalents.
There are 30 million daily US shoppers and on average, they each can save 0.40 pound of CO2e a day if they incorporated delivery service into their routines. On any given day, this reduction could sum to over 11 million lb of CO2e. This is equivalent to 122 US households yearly carbon footprint.
This research design identified which variables determine monthly carbon emissions and created personas based on demographics and grocery shopping marketing research. The behaviors of the personas determine how last mile choices impact carbon footprints. Together, the personas and the research inform consumers what last mile footprint they typically embody.
Using this information, marketing can be generated to target specific customer types and drive change in their last mile behaviors. The reduction of GHG emissions for large customer groups can impact last mile delivery options in a clear way. This clarity can be used to inform grocery consumers how their collective actions make a difference.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365068