More grocery stores means less food waste -- and a big carbon cut

February 03, 2020

ITHACA, N.Y. - One strategy for reducing food waste's environmental impact is as counterintuitive as it is straightforward: Open more grocery stores.

That's according to new research from Elena Belavina, associate professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell University SC Johnson College of Business.

The spoiled milk, moldy vegetables and expired meat we discard when cleaning out the fridge make a surprisingly large contribution to global warming. One-third of all food produced is wasted, a problem responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to all road transportation, said Belavina.

"The more stores you have, the lower food waste is going to be," said Belavina, an expert in operations management and supply chains. "Very small increases in store density can have a very high impact."

When consumers can purchase perishable goods nearby, Belavina said, they shop more often but buy less each time, ultimately wasting less.

"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."

For example, Belavina found that in Chicago, which she said is typical of many American cities, 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, Belavina reports in "Grocery Store Density and Food Waste," published in the journal Manufacturing and Service Operations Management.

Most big cities are well below the ideal density of grocery stores that would minimize food waste, the research determined. 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.

Urban planners, city governments and activists should pursue policies encouraging an optimal density of grocery stores based on each city's population, she said. Retailers' sustainability plans should analyze how their store networks and supply chains contribute to food waste and emissions overall.

"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," she said.
Belavina's research was supported by funding from the Jane and Basil Vasiliou Faculty Research Fund and the Neubauer Faculty Fellows program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews supporting full HD, ISDN and web-based platforms.

Cornell University

Related Emissions Articles from Brightsurf:

Multinationals' supply chains account for a fifth of global emissions
A fifth of carbon dioxide emissions come from multinational companies' global supply chains, according to a new study led by UCL and Tianjin University that shows the scope of multinationals' influence on climate change.

A new way of modulating color emissions from transparent films
Transparent luminescent materials have several applications; but so far, few multicolor light-emitting solid transparent materials exist in which the color of emission is tunable.

Can sunlight convert emissions into useful materials?
A team of researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has designed a method to break CO2 apart and convert the greenhouse gas into useful materials like fuels or consumer products ranging from pharmaceuticals to polymers.

Methane: emissions increase and it's not a good news
It is the second greenhouse gas with even a global warming potential larger than CO2.

Tracking fossil fuel emissions with carbon-14
Researchers from NOAA and the University of Colorado have devised a breakthrough method for estimating national emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels using ambient air samples and a well-known isotope of carbon that scientists have relied on for decades to date archaeological sites.

COVID-19 puts brakes on global emissions
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources reached a maximum daily decline of 17 per cent in April as a result of drastic decline in energy demand that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Egregious emissions
Call them 'super polluters' -- the handful of industrial facilities that emit unusually high levels of toxic chemical pollution year after year.

Continued CO2 emissions will impair cognition
New CU Boulder research finds that an anticipated rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in our indoor living and working spaces by the year 2100 could lead to impaired human cognition.

Capturing CO2 from trucks and reducing their emissions by 90%
Researchers at EPFL have patented a new concept that could cut trucks' CO2 emissions by almost 90%.

Big trucks, little emissions
Researchers reveal a new integrated, cost-efficient way of converting ethanol for fuel blends that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More: Emissions News and Emissions Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to