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The Most Environmentally Friendly Meal Kit Is Also the Best
If you dig the convenience of meal kits but also fancy keeping the planet clean, there's one clear choice.
David WatskySenior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's logged more than a decade writing about all things edible, including meal kits and meal delivery subscriptions, cooking, kitchen gear and commerce. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the eats business from slicing and dicing as a sous-chef in Rhode Island to leading complex marketing campaigns for major food brands in Manhattan. These days, he's likely somewhere trying the latest this or tasting the latest that - and reporting back, of course. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
ExpertiseKitchen tech, cookware, small appliances, food innovation, meal delivery and meal kits.
but have concerns about the waste part, we commend you. To make sure you're keeping it as green as can be, you might be wondering which meal kits use the least packaging. For starters, you'll be pleased to know that this 2019 study found meal kits to have a lower carbon footprint than grocery shopping. To take things a step further, this 2022 study by US Packaging, a shipping materials company (which CNET confirmed has no business interests with individual meal kit services) examined four of the most popular meal kits -- Blue Apron, EveryPlate, HelloFresh and Home Chef -- to find which service is the least (and most) wasteful.
Blue Apron, one of the original meal kit services, proved to be the most eco-friendly meal kit, with an impressive 50% of its packaging being fully recyclable, just 1.19 packets per ingredient and the least amount of empty box space. After Blue Apron, there was a steep drop, with HelloFresh (second on the list) using only 9% recyclable materials and super budget-friendly meal kit service EveryPlate finishing in third with similar stats. Home Chef was the least green meal kit, finishing last out of the four services examined, with 2.38 packets per ingredient and just 19% recyclable materials.
As luck would have it, Blue Apron is also the best overall meal kit we've tested in 2023. Although there are other picks that might suit you better if you eat plant-based, cook for a large group or prefer prepared meals over meal kits. You can read about them all in our list of best meal delivery services.
To analyze the four services, US Packaging and Wrapping ordered three meals from each vendor and employed standardized metrics to evaluate total plastic use, recyclability of materials, number of packets per ingredient and empty box space. The four categories were accounted for in devising a final score for each one.
Blue Apron trounced the competition, with half of its materials fit for recycling, while no other service broke even 20% in the category. The study found Home Chef's packaging is up to 90% plastic, amounting to 56 packets across the three meals. HelloFresh used the least amount of plastic (just 66%), as meals are mostly separated in large bags and ingredients are not individually packaged.
So how does that compare with our experience? We've tested every major meal kit service and also found Blue Apron to be one of the least wasteful -- in addition to one of the best, with excellent meals at an affordable price per meal. EveryPlate is our favorite cheap meal kit. While EveryPlate's ice packs aren't recyclable, we didn't notice as much plastic as this study suggests, since EveryPlate sends most of the ingredients loose in a cardboard box and not packaged individually.
In general, meal kits are more environmentally friendly than you'd think
There's no question that meal kits are convenient. Pick the right meal kit service, and it might save you some money over grocery store prices, too. One knock on handy meal kit delivery has always been that it's wasteful since items and ingredients for your dinner are often individually packaged and shipped in cardboard boxes with disposable ice packs. But as this 2019 study shows, meal kits aren't so bad for the environment, after all, and most actually cut down on food waste and total carbon footprint versus grocery shopping since ingredients are perfectly portioned with no excess food that could spoil if you don't use it in time.
Want to try a meal kit on for size? Use this sneaky hack and get months of cheap meal delivery and decide which one you like best.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.