There’s no doubt meal kit delivery services are convenient, but that convenience often comes with a cost: excessive and often non-biodegradable packaging that’s not exactly easy on the environment.
The good news? Many companies are committed to making easy-to-cook (or already-cooked) meals with minimal negative impact on the environment. These more sustainable meal delivery services don’t just source high-quality ingredients, they’re also mindful about staying as eco-friendly as possible with packaging, shipping, and food waste.
While sustainability is a factor mindbodygreen considers in all our meal delivery guides—from plant-based to keto—some brands go above and beyond when it comes to staying green. Whether it’s offsetting carbon emissions or donating extra resources to local food banks, these more sustainable services have found ways to further reduce their footprint beyond offering a recyclable cardboard box.
Below, discover what exactly sustainability means to us in the meal delivery space and why some brands excel.
Let’s be honest: No mean delivery kit is completely waste-free (and we’d be lying if we claimed that it was a more sustainable choice than going to your local farmer’s market).
Every order is shipped in packaging, needs a cooling component to prevent food spoilage, and requires resources to arrive directly to your front door. But when it comes to vetting your most eco-friendly choice within the category, there are a few requirements to keep in mind.
Excess packaging is one of the biggest issues with meal delivery, and some brands use a ridiculous amount of it. (It’s one of the reasons we like to show the leftover packaging from a single order in our reviews.) We lean towards brands that try to minimize the amount of packaging in every order, which may be something as tiny as ditching a plastic baggie for produce or swap a plastic cup for a compostable option. Of course, not all packaging is the same; Recyclable, recycled, and/or biodegradable materials are the best option.
Another goal? Keeping shipping as efficient as possible. This can mean opting for climate-friendly insulation that allows your food to stay in transit for longer, or ditching heavy gel packs for far more lightweight dry ice.
Seasonality is also key. Long-distance shipping of your food not only decreases the nutritional value of your ingredients, but it also has an environmental impact. Luckily, incorporating seasonal produce is one of the easiest swaps a meal delivery service can make—and it gives way more variety in the recipes.
Of course, we’re also huge supporters of organic foods and prefer to focus on brands with a similar take. After all, as Lisa Mastela, MPH, RD, and founder of Bumpin Blends previously told mbg, “Organic farming reduces pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility, and uses less energy overall.”
Finally, if a company offers animal proteins, they should be sourced from local farmers, ranchers, and/or fishermen that treat animals according to high animal welfare standards. These higher food standards reduce the risk of needing antibiotics to treat disease (which can accumulate in animal run-off). These same vendors also typically skip unwanted hormone injections in your meat or poultry.
While no meal delivery service is 100% sustainable yet, many are working towards it. Not only do these more eco-friendly meal delivery companies prioritize using local, seasonal, and/or organic ingredients whenever they can, they also use as much recyclable and compostable packaging whenever possible. And you don’t have to sacrifice meal variety for sustainability either; there are plenty of delicious meals in the mix.