5 Best (Eco-Conscious) Meal Kit Delivery Services for 2021
Meal kit services offer pre-portioned recipes and a fun cooking experience. But what options are best for the earth-conscious family?
For those looking for a quick and convenient way to eat delicious, hearty meals with little to no hassle, there are plenty of meal kit delivery services to choose from. But out of all of the brands available, which is the best meal delivery service for the environment?
We've all seen the overwhelming number of meal kits promoted via Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms, but many consumers are left wondering if these delivery services are really worth the purchase. Despite all the hype, these programs can be beneficial for a number of reasons, including their environmental impact, which you can read more about below our reviews.
Each kit comes with pre-portioned packets of produce, meat, or fish if requested, and all of the spices and seasonings you need to complete a chef-inspired dish at home. We've reviewed several leading meal kit delivery brands like Sunbasket, Freshly, and Purple Carrot, plus the best vegetarian meal delivery services, that promote their eco-friendly approach. Here is our list of the top five best meal delivery services.
Our Picks for the Top Eco-Conscious Meal Kits
- Sunbasket - Best Organic Option
- Purple Carrot - Best Plant-Based Option
- Green Chef - Best Keto and Paleo Option
- Freshly - Best "No-Cooking" Option
- Every Plate - Best Value for Beginners
How We Reviewed Each Meal Delivery Service
To create our list, we looked at each meal kit delivery service based on their food options, ingredient sourcing, packaging, and customer reviews to find the services we think are best for the conscious consumer.
- Dietary options - For the actual meals we considered both the quality and variety of the recipes and whether they offered vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options.
- Ingredients - We then examined how they sourced their ingredients, whether they were organic, non-GMO, and locally grown. We looked for important eco-friendly labels from authorities like the USDA, Non-GMO Project, and the Marine Stewardship Council.
- Packaging - An important component of our review was also the packaging for each meal, how much was recyclable or biodegradable, and whether the brand used recycled materials in their packaging.
- Customer reviews - Finally, we looked at customer reviews to see what users liked or didn't like about each service.
Each product featured here has been independently selected. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Sun BasketSun Basket J030-Shrimp-Paella
Sunbasket is our favorite organic meal kit brand. Sun Basket delivers a box of 100% organic produce, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat, and farm-fresh eggs. Their approach to sourcing wild seafood was named Best Choice or Good Alternative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® Program.
Sun Basket aims to support farmers who push for sustainable water management and crop rotations, as well as ranchers and fisherman who treat the planet with respect.
Read our full Sunbasket review to learn more about the brand's sustainability efforts.Cost: Three meals each week for two people costs $71.94 plus $7.99 shipping. That's $11.99 per serving
According to researchers, you could cut the carbon footprint of your diet by 60% by eating plant-based meals for two-thirds of your diet.
Now, if sustainability is about achieving a balance between human consumption and the environments we impact, plant-based is the way to go. Purple Carrot offers all plant-based meal kits in a variety of tasty menu items. There's even a black bean burger if you want to prepare the vegan-skeptic member of your family a familiar plate.
Purple Carrot meal kits, in many ways, support the idea that many small, smart choices can add up to a big impact. They do, however, use a lot of plastic in their packaging and you will need to check if it can all be recycled in your area.
Cost: Purple Carrot costs $11.99 per serving for two people and $9.99 per serving for the four-plate plan. With introductory discounts, the first week costs $50 to $60.
Green Chef is a certified organic company with meal kit plans that include keto, paleo, and plant-based options. You can schedule a weekly delivery or stagger deliveries during the month, depending on your personal needs or how often you choose to cook. Green Chef has a wide variety of recipe options, and according to its website, it "offsets 100% of its direct carbon emissions and plastic packaging" through its sustainability efforts.
Cost: Price is based on the plan chosen, but costs are generally $11.49 per meal for the Keto + Paleo option, $10.49 per meal for the Balanced Living option, and $10.49 per meal for the Plant-Powered option. Shipping and handling costs are additional.
Freshly is the only service we came across that offered corporate options. We liked the idea of a cost-efficient way to serve a large group a healthy meal. Freshly boxes in the office fridge would be a nice reprieve from the typical mid-day exodus to the nearest quick food option. All Freshly meals come in recyclable packaging and the single portions mean less food going to waste during preparation.
Our review of Freshly also notes they are ideal for those who don't have the time or space to prepare a full meal. They come in recyclable microwavable containers and only take three minutes to heat up.
Cost: Individual meals are $8.99 to $12.50 per serving with free shipping.
If you're looking for organic ingredients, simple recipe cards, and a highly affordable option, Every Plate is for you. Every Plate uses less packaging than most other delivery services due to their simpler packages that contain fewer spice and sauce packets. Most Every Plate meals can be made in under 30 minutes, which makes this as close as you can come to fast and "cheap" meals with clean ingredients.
Cost: Weekly boxes of two or four servings for as little as $4.99 per serving.
Are Meal Kits Really Sustainable?
Whether meal kits are really sustainable depends on how you define sustainability. While they produce more waste, they have lower greenhouse gas emissions and result in less food waste compared to grocery store meals.
Food waste is the largest category of waste going into landfills in the U.S. The average American generates more than 200 pounds of waste each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Both a 2017 study out of the University of Texas at Austin and a 2019 study published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling found that meal kits are more sustainable than purchasing ingredients from a grocery store for the following reasons:
- On average, meal kits produce 33% lower greenhouse gas emissions than grocery store meals.
- The pre-portioned ingredients in meal kits lead to less food loss and waste.
- Meal kits have lower last-mile transportation emissions than grocery store meals.
- The ice packs used in meal kit packages present an average emissions decrease versus retail refrigeration.
Now, if you plan your meals out each week, use all of the ingredients you intend to, compost what you don't use, and buy locally from a farmers market or other community shop, meal kits will likely be a step backward in terms of your food-related sustainability.
The studies also mentioned that meal kits produce more packaging waste than grocery store meals — UT Austin estimated an average of 3.7 more pounds of packaging material per meal. Because meal kits come in cardboard boxes and ship ingredients in small packages (for example, if you need a tablespoon of pine nuts for your recipe, they'll likely come pre-portioned a small plastic sleeve), there's much more plastic waste produced. One study found that "disposable packaging can represent over 50% of per-meal energy use for meal-kits."
Some of these items can be repurposed, such as the tiny glass jars that spices and condiments come in, which can be used for travel, crafting, or storing small objects. Others can be washed and recycled, depending on your local recycling guidelines. But most of the waste will end up in a landfill.
So, it's up to you whether you think the pros of lower carbon emissions outweigh the cons of more plastic waste.
Getting Started with a Meal Delivery Service
With so much variety, selecting a meal delivery service can turn into a stressful endeavor. Additionally, brands like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Daily Harvest are options that might try to win you over, but they may not have as sustainable methods as some of the options listed above.
Although, the sheer number of meal kit options can also work to your advantage. These companies are competing for customers and often offer sign-up specials and discounts to get you started. When shopping for a subscription service, try multiple options, and take advantage of these deals. With many programs, you have the freedom to change or cancel your subscription, so you can try a few different options to find one that fits your taste and your budget. We also recommend that you compare your per-meal cost to what you might spend on dinners at the grocery store to maximize your savings.
If you give one of these meal kits a try, let us know what you think. We'll update this list regularly as we get feedback from readers and add additional sustainability notes as we dive deeper into new services.
Melena Gurganus is passionate health and wellness and her writing aims to help others find products they can trust. Her work has been featured in publications such as Health, Shape, Huffington Post, Cannabis Business Times, and Bustle.
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Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, more than 1,300 Superfund sites pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. Based on a new study, residents living close to these sites could also have a shorter life expectancy.
Published in Nature Communications, the study, led by Hanadi S. Rifai, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers, found that living in nearby zip codes to Superfund sites resulted in a decreased life expectancy of more than two months, the University of Houston reported.
"We have ample evidence that contaminant releases from anthropogenic sources (e.g., petrochemicals or hazardous waste sites) could increase the mortality rate in fence-line communities," Rifai told the University of Houston. "Results showed a significant difference in life expectancy among census tracts with at least one Superfund site and their neighboring tracts with no sites."
The study pulled data from 65,000 census tracts – defined geographical regions – within the contiguous U.S., The Guardian reported. With this data, researchers found that for communities that are socioeconomically challenged, this life expectancy could decrease by up to a year.
"It was a bit surprising and concerning," Rifai told The Guardian. "We weren't sure [when we started] if the fact that you are socioeconomically challenged would make [the Superfund's effects] worse."
The research team, for example, found that the presence of a Superfund site in a census tract with a median income of less than $52,580 could reduce life expectancy by seven months, the University of Houston reported.
Many of these toxic sites were once used as manufacturing sites during the Second World War. Common toxic substances that are released from the sites into the air and surface water include lead, trichlorethylene, chromium, benzene and arsenic – all of which can lead to health impacts, such as neurological damage among children, The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog.
"The EPA has claimed substantial recent progress in Superfund site cleanups, but, contrary to EPA leadership's grandiose declarations, the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups is the largest it has been in the last 15 years," the Union wrote.
Delayed cleanup could become increasingly dangerous as climate change welcomes more natural hazards, like wildfires and flooding. According to a Government Accountability Office report, for example, climate change could threaten at least 60 percent of Superfund sites in the U.S., AP News reported.
During the summer of 2018, a major wildfire took over the Iron Mountain Superfund site near Redding, CA, ruining wastewater treatment infrastructure that is responsible for capturing 168 million gallons of acid mine drainage every month, NBC News reported.
"There was this feeling of 'My God. We ought to have better tracking of wildfires at Superfund locations,'" Stephen Hoffman, a former senior environmental scientist at the EPA, told NBC News. "Before that, there wasn't a lot of thought about climate change and fire. That has changed."
In the study, researchers also looked at the impacts of floodings on Superfund sites, which could send toxins flowing into communities and waterways.
"When you add in flooding, there will be ancillary or secondary impacts that can potentially be exacerbated by a changing future climate," Rifai told the University of Houston. "The long-term effect of the flooding and repetitive exposure has an effect that can transcend generations."
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A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.
By Douglas Broom
- If online deliveries continue with fossil-fuel trucks, emissions will increase by a third.
- So cities in the Netherlands will allow only emission-free delivery vehicles after 2025.
- The government is giving delivery firms cash help to buy or lease electric vehicles.
- The bans will save 1 megaton of CO2 every year by 2030.
Cities in the Netherlands want to make their air cleaner by banning fossil fuel delivery vehicles from urban areas from 2025.
"Now that we are spending more time at home, we are noticing the large number of delivery vans and lorries driving through cities," said Netherlands environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven, announcing plans to ban all but zero-emission deliveries in 14 cities.
"The agreements we are setting down will ensure that it will be a matter of course that within a few years, supermarket shelves will be stocked, waste will be collected, and packages will arrive on time, yet without any exhaust fumes and CO2 emissions," she added.
She expects 30 cities to announce zero emission urban logistics by this summer. City councils must give four years' notice before imposing bans as part of government plans for emission-free road traffic by 2050. The city bans aim to save 1 megaton of CO2 each year by 2030.
Help to Change
To encourage transport organizations to go carbon-free, the government is offering grants of more than US$5,900 to help businesses buy or lease electric vehicles. There will be additional measures to help small businesses make the change.
The Netherlands claims it is the first country in the world to give its cities the freedom to implement zero-emission zones. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht already have "milieuzones" where some types of vehicles are banned.
Tilburg, one of the first wave of cities imposing the Dutch ban, will not allow fossil-fuelled vehicles on streets within its outer ring road and plans to roll out a network of city-wide electric vehicle charging stations before the ban comes into effect in 2025.
"Such initiatives are imperative to improve air quality. The transport of the future must be emission-free, sustainable, and clean," said Tilburg city alderman Oscar Dusschooten.
Europe Takes Action
Research by Renault shows that many other European cities are heading in the same direction as the Netherlands, starting with Low Emission Zones of which Germany's "Umweltzone" were pioneers. More than 100 communes in Italy have introduced "Zonas a traffico limitato."
Madrid's "zona de baja emisión" bans diesel vehicles built before 2006 and petrol vehicles from before 2000 from central areas of the city. Barcelona has similar restrictions and the law will require all towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants to follow suit.
Perhaps the most stringent restrictions apply in London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which charges trucks and large vehicles up to US$137 a day to enter the central area if they do not comply with Euro 6 emissions standards. From October, the ULEZ is being expanded.
Cities are responsible for around 75% of CO2 emissions from global final energy use, according to the green thinktank REN21 - and much of these come from transport. Globally, transport accounts for 24% of world CO2 emissions.
The Rise of Online Shopping
Part of the reason for traffic in urban areas is the increase in delivery vehicles, as online shopping continues to grow. Retailer ecommerce sales are expected to pass $5billion in 2022, according to eMarketer.
The World Economic Forum's report The Future of the Last-Mile Ecosystem, published in January 2020, estimates that e-commerce will increase the number of delivery vehicles on the roads of the world's 100 largest cities by 36% by 2030.
If all those vehicles burn fossil fuels, the report says emissions will increase by 32%. But switching to all-electric delivery vehicles would cut emissions by 30% from current levels as well as reducing costs by 25%, the report says.
Other solutions explored in the report include introducing goods trams to handle deliveries alongside their passenger-carrying counterparts and increased use of parcel lockers to reduce the number of doorstep deliveries.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
The bill, SB467, would have prohibited fracking and other controversial forms of oil extraction. It would also have banned oil and gas production within 2,500 feet of a home, school, hospital or other residential facility. The bill originally set the fracking ban for 2027, but amended it to 2035, The AP reported.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed," State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), one of the bill's two introducers, told the Los Angeles Times. "California really has not done what it needs to do in terms of addressing the oil problem. We have communities that are suffering right now, and the Legislature has repeatedly failed to act."
The bill was introduced after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign a fracking ban if it passed the legislature, though his administration has continued to issue permits in the meantime, Forbes reported. Newsom has also spoken in favor of a buffer zone between oil and gas extraction and places where people live and learn, according to the Los Angeles Times. The latter is a major environmental justice issue, as fossil fuel production is more likely to be located near Black and Latinx communities.
Urban lawmakers who want California to lead on the climate crisis supported the bill, while inland lawmakers in oil-rich areas concerned about jobs opposed it. The oil and gas industry and trade unions also opposed the bill.
This opposition meant the bill failed to get the five votes it needed to move beyond the Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee. Only four senators approved it, while Democrat Sen. Susan Eggman of Stockton joined two Republicans to oppose it, and two other Democrats abstained.
Eggman argued that the bill would have forced California to rely on oil extracted in other states.
"We're still going to use it, but we're going to use it from places that produce it less safely," Eggman told The AP. She also said that she supported the transition away from fossil fuels, but thought the bill jumped the gun. "I don't think we're quite there yet, and this bill assumes that we are," she added.
Historically, California has been a major U.S. oil producer. Its output peaked in 1986 at 1.1 million barrels a day, just below Texas and Alaska, according to Forbes. However, production has declined since then making it the seventh-most oil-producing state.
Still, California's fossil fuel industry is at odds with state attempts to position itself as a climate leader.
"There is a large stain on California's climate record, and that is oil," Wiener said Tuesday, according to The AP.
Wiener and Democrat co-introducer Sen. Monique Limón from Santa Barbara vowed to keep fighting.
"While we saw this effort defeated today, this issue isn't going away," they wrote in a joint statement. "We'll continue to fight for aggressive climate action, against harmful drilling, and for the health of our communities."
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By Brett Wilkins
As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.
The report, Changing Our Ways: Behavior Change and the Climate Crisis, found that nearly half the growth in absolute global emissions was caused by the world's richest 10%, with the most affluent 5% alone contributing 37%.
"In the year when the UK hosts COP26, and while the government continues to reward some of Britain's biggest polluters through tax credits, the commission report shows why this is precisely the wrong way to meet the UK's climate targets," the report's introduction states.
The authors of the report urge United Kingdom policymakers to focus on this so-called "polluter elite" in an effort to persuade wealthy people to adopt more sustainable behavior, while providing "affordable, available low-carbon alternatives to poorer households."
The report found that the "polluter elite" must make "dramatic" lifestyle changes in order to meet the UK's goal — based on the Paris climate agreement's preferential objective — of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels.
In addition to highlighting previous recommendations — including reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and switching to electric vehicles and solar power — the report recommends that policymakers take the following steps:
- Implement frequent flyer levies;
- Enact bans on selling and promoting SUVs and other high polluting vehicles;
- Reverse the UK's recent move to cut green grants for homes and electric cars; and
- Build just transitions by supporting electric public transport and community energy schemes.
"We have got to cut over-consumption and the best place to start is over-consumption among the polluting elites who contribute by far more than their share of carbon emissions," Peter Newell, a Sussex University professor and lead author of the report, told the BBC.
"These are people who fly most, drive the biggest cars most, and live in the biggest homes which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they're well insulated or not," said Newell. "They're also the sort of people who could really afford good insulation and solar panels if they wanted to."
Newell said that wealthy people "simply must fly less and drive less. Even if they own an electric SUV, that's still a drain on the energy system and all the emissions created making the vehicle in the first place."
"Rich people who fly a lot may think they can offset their emissions by tree-planting schemes or projects to capture carbon from the air," Newell added. "But these schemes are highly contentious and they're not proven over time."
The report concludes that "we are all on a journey and the final destination is as yet unclear. There are many contradictory road maps about where we might want to get to and how, based on different theories of value and premised on diverse values."
"Promisingly, we have brought about positive change before, and there are at least some positive signs that there is an appetite to do what is necessary to live differently but well on the planet we call home," it states.
The new report follows a September 2020 Oxfam International study that revealed the wealthiest 1% of the world's population is responsible for emitting more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50% of humanity combined.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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