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What you eat not only affects your health but also the environment.
In fact, research suggests that changing to a more sustainable way of eating can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and the use of water by 70% and 50%, respectively (
However, it’s not always possible to plan, shop for, and cook sustainable meals at home.
Meal delivery services provide a convenient solution to busy weeknights by shipping boxes of ingredients or fully prepared meals right to your door.
But they also raise questions about sustainability, so we investigated some common meal delivery services to see which had the sustainable practices. Here’s who won out.
- Best overall sustainable meal delivery service: Sunbasket
- Best vegan sustainable meal delivery service: Purple Carrot
- Best gluten-free sustainable meal delivery service: Sprinly
- Best sustainable meal delivery service for prepared meals: The Good Kitchen
- Best organic sustainable meal delivery service: Green Chef
- Best sustainable meal delivery service for frozen meals: Daily Harvest
- Sustainable meal delivery service with best variety: Splendid Spoon
With so many meal delivery services available, you may be wondering which is the best for the environment.
We researched the best eco-friendly meal delivery services based on the following criteria:
- Packaging: We included services that prioritize recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging.
- Ingredients: We looked for meal delivery services that use all or mostly organic, plant-based, seasonal, or sustainably sourced ingredients.
- Variety and flavor: All of the services listed below offer flavorful meals to suit a variety of dietary needs and preferences.
Here are the 7 best sustainable meal delivery services of 2022.
In terms of sustainability, Sunbasket is one of the best.
Ingredient sourcing is a top priority, and according to the company’s website, 99% of Sunbasket’s produce, eggs, milk, and yogurt are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Additionally, Sunbasket uses only antibiotic and hormone-free meats that come from ranchers and farmers who raise their animals responsibly.
All of their fish is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, ensuring sustainable fishing practices.
Similarly, all their seafood is wild-caught and recommended Best Choice or Good Alternative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program — a leading organization in sustainable fish and seafood.
According to the company’s website, Sunbasket donates 1,000 pounds of food every week to food banks and sends meals to frontline workers, people with cancer, and individuals facing food insecurity.
Finally, Sunbasket encourages consumers to recycle or reuse all of the packaging materials, though depending on your location, some plastics may not be recyclable.
How it works
Sunbasket offers nutrient-dense and sustainably sourced breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options.
Depending on your preferences, the service allows you to either pick your meals yourself or go with one of the nine meal plans available:
- Lean & Clean
- Chef’s Choice
- Fresh & Ready
All meals are listed according to their required cooking time. This is helpful if you’re looking for quick-prep meals.
When browsing recipes, you’ll also see whether they’re low calorie (fewer than 600 calories per serving), diabetes-friendly, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, or vegan, making it simple to choose options that fit your dietary preferences.
According to the website, most meals take 30 minutes or fewer to prepare. Fresh & Ready meals are a great option if time is limited, as they come already prepared.
Examples of meals you can choose include:
- Gingered Steak Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Bell Pepper
- Roasted Chicken Breasts and Fall Vegetables with Red Pepper Vinaigrette
- Tofu Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper Mayo and Sweet Potato Wedges
Just keep in mind that their ingredients are handled in facilities that process common allergens, so Sunbasket isn’t ideal if you have serious food allergies.
Prices range from $9.99–$11.49 per serving, with an additional $9.99 shipping fee on all orders after your first delivery.
Meals are delivered weekly, though you can skip a week or cancel anytime on the company’s website.
Sunbasket at a glance
- sustainably sourced, almost completely organic ingredients
- suitable options for several dietary restrictions
- option to choose between preprepared meals (Fresh & Ready) or those that require prep and cooking
- expensive and charges an additional fee for shipping
- parts of the shipment may not be recyclable depending on your location
- not ideal for serious food allergies
Purple Carrot is a vegan meal delivery service that focuses on using mostly seasonal, non-genetically modified organism (non-GMO), organic produce.
Some items, such as nuts, beans, and tofu, are not organic. Organic produce may also sometimes be limited due to sourcing constraints.
Purple Carrot uses eco-friendly packaging and includes recycling instructions on the company’s website.
While most of the contents are recyclable, some plastics may not be depending on your location.
How it works
Purple Carrot offers plant-based breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and prepackaged snacks.
You can choose from the following plans:
- High Protein
- Chef’s Choice
- Quick and Easy
While Purple Carrot does include a gluten-free option, meals are processed in a facility that also processes gluten, so they may not be appropriate for someone with a serious gluten-related disorder due to the potential of cross-contamination.
Prep time is listed with each recipe, so you can choose meals that fit your schedule, but most take around 30–40 minutes, according to the service’s website.
Example recipes include:
- Spicy Buffalo Tofu Bowls with Celery Carrot Slaw and Herbed Ranch
- Black Sesame Gnocchi with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Ginger Pumpkin Butter
- Palestinian Spiced Peppers with Crispy Seitan and Tomato-Caper Relish
Prices range from $11.00-$13.25 per serving for dinner recipes, or $12.99 per serving you choose a prepared meal.
Breakfasts and lunches range from $4.49–$8.99 per serving.
Purple Carrot also has snacks available, which can vary greatly in price from $4.49–$8.25 per package.
The first box ships free, followed by a flat fee of $8.00 per shipment.
Deliveries are made weekly, but you can skip a week, cancel, or put your subscription on hold for up to 10 weeks — just make sure to make any changes to your shipment before the Tuesday of the week before your next delivery to avoid being charged.
Purple Carrot at a glance
- features mostly seasonal and organic produce
- option to choose prepared dinners
- not suitable for severe food allergies
- some meals contain conventional produce
- fewer recipes to choose from each week compared with other services
According to Sprinly’s website, the mission of the service is to promote the health of individuals and the sustainability of the planet.
In addition to plant-based meals, Sprinly uses mostly USDA-certified organic ingredients, though conventional ingredients are occasionally substituted in when organic options aren’t available.
As for packaging, all of the delivery boxes are made from 100% cardboard and can be broken down and recycled.
Additionally, the insulation layer includes a cotton fiber filling that’s compostable, while the outer plastic insulation bag is both recyclable and biodegradable.
The meal containers themselves are made from up to 40% recycled polyethylene and can also be recycled.
Lastly, Sprinly recommends reusing or donating ice packs rather than throwing them away. Otherwise, the liquid inside is 100% nontoxic and can be discarded in the trash, while the outer liner is recyclable.
Instructions on how to properly recycle Sprinly’s packaging can also be found on the service’s website.
How it works
Sprinly is a plant-based meal delivery service that offers mostly organic, fully prepared meals.
Additionally, all meals are produced in gluten-free facilities, making it an appropriate option for those with a gluten-related disorder.
While the facility is gluten-free, it’s unclear whether it’s also free of other allergens.
Each week, you can choose from six meals, all of which are labeled as soy-free, oil-free, nut-free, or spicy when appropriate, so you can choose meals that fit your dietary restrictions and preferences.
Because these meals are shipped fully prepared, it takes 3 minutes or fewer to heat and enjoy them.
Example meals include:
- Spaghetti Squash Arrabiata with Sunflower Seed Parm
- Almond Ginger Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Sliced Apples
- Mushroom and Lentil Burger with Ranch Salad
Meals range in price from $16–$18 per meal, and shipping is a flat rate of $9.99, making Sprinly one of the more expensive options available.
As with other services on this list, Sprinly deliveries weekly, with the option to skip weeks when necessary.
Sprinly at a glance
- produced in gluten-free facilities
- free shipping
- mostly organic
- meals don’t require any prep
- expensive and shipping costs extra
- only six options to choose from each week
- may not be suitable for people with severe food allergies or sensitivities, other than those with gluten-related disorders
Best prepared meals
The Good Kitchen
Ingredient sourcing is a top priority for The Good Kitchen.
In particular, the company prioritizes sourcing organic food for any produce listed on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, as these foods tend to be higher in pesticides.
Accordingly, the majority of produce is organic, and all of the fruits and vegetables are GMO-free.
The company also sources hormone and antibiotic-free meat from sustainably operated farms.
The Good Kitchen uses 100% recyclable packaging. Just keep in mind that in order to dispose of the gel ice packs, you have to empty the contents before recycling the bag.
How it works
The Good Kitchen offers fully cooked, frozen meals that are produced in a 100% gluten-free, peanut-free, and soy-free facility.
Plus, as the ingredients for each meal are clearly labeled online, the service makes it easy to choose options that are suitable for your needs and preferences.
What’s more, the service allows you to filter by several specialty diets, including:
- Low Fat
The Good Kitchen meals arrive fully prepared and frozen, so the only prep time required is reheating, which takes just 3–5 minutes in the microwave.
Example meals include:
- Vegan Paella with Catalan Roasted Vegetables
- Ranch Chicken with Buffalo Cauliflower
- Shrimp Creole Over Rice
One potential downside of the service is some customers find the servings a bit too small to be filling.
Prices range from $11.50-$15.00 per serving, plus $9.99 for shipping.
Meals arrive frozen and can be delivered on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly cadence.
The Good Kitchen also allows you to pause or cancel your subscription any time before your next order is processed.
The Good Kitchen at a glance
- frozen and fully prepared meals
- suitable for people with gluten, soy, or peanut allergies
- features mostly organic and sustainably sourced produce and meats
- shipping is extra
- small portions
Green Chef advertises itself as the “#1 Sustainable Meal Kit” because of its strong commitment to reducing food waste and the use of eco-friendly packaging.
According to Green Chef’s website, the company is the only meal kit service to offset 100% of its direct carbon emissions and plastic packaging.
All of the packaging is recyclable, including the insulation, which is made from ClimaCell and can be recycled curbside.
The plastic bags are also considered recyclable, though this varies by your location. If you live in an area in which they’re not recyclable, Green Chef encourages you to reuse the bags instead.
Green Chef is a certified organic meal kit company providing all organic ingredients.
The company also mentions that its meats are sourced from animals raised with high welfare standards, though there’s limited information on exactly where or how the animals are raised.
How it works
Green Chef is a certified organic meal kit company that delivers preportioned ingredients along with detailed recipe cards.
The company offers three plans to choose from, including:
- Keto & Paleo
- Fast & Fit
- Gluten Free
According to Green Chef’s website, most meals take about 30 minutes to prepare, making it a great choice if you enjoy cooking but are short on time.
Example meals include:
- Southwest Turkey Stuffed Peppers
- Blackened Salmon with Dijonnaise
- Spicy Sriracha Tofu with Peanut Sauce
Finally, as ingredients are processed in a facility that handles common allergens, Green Chef isn’t ideal if you have severe food allergies.
Prices range from $11.99–$13.49 per serving, with an additional $9.99 shipping fee.
Meals are delivered weekly, biweekly, or monthly. You can also cancel your plan at any time or skip weeks as needed.
Green Chef at a glance
- certified organic produce and eggs
- plant-based options
- strong commitment to eco-friendly packaging
- unable to try recipes from other meal plans
- additional fees for shipping
According to its website, 95% of Daily Harvest‘s ingredients are organic.
Additionally, the company works closely with farmers and suppliers to source good quality ingredients.
Currently, most of the packaging is recyclable or compostable. However, the company is working toward 100% recyclable packaging.
How it works
While it’s best known for smoothies, Daily Harvest also offers flatbreads, bowls, energy bites, soup, and even lattes.
Everything on the menu is vegan, gluten-free, and free of preservatives, additives, and fillers.
It’s important to note that while the meals don’t contain gluten, they are processed in a facility that processes other gluten-containing foods, so it may not be a suitable option if you have a serious gluten-related disorder.
Plan options include 9, 12, or 24 items per delivery, or you can choose a monthly delivery of 24 items. Everything ships frozen and can be stored in the freezer.
Note that you’ll need to use your own milk or broth to prepare the smoothies and soups. This may be a pro for some people because it allows you to customize your meals and snacks according to your dietary restrictions.
Prep time varies depending on the item, but generally, meals can be prepared in just a few minutes.
Example meals include:
- Sweet Potato and Wild Rice Hash Bowl
- Mint and Cacao Smoothie
- Kabocha and Sage Flatbread
- Green Chickpea and Turmeric Soup
Meals range in price from $5.99–$11.99 per serving. Shipping is always free.
Keep in mind that while Daily Harvest’s items are cheaper, they’re generally not as filling as others on this list.
Furthermore, as the number of meal options is more limited and doesn’t change as often, you’ll likely still need to purchase additional groceries for the week.
Deliveries can be made either weekly or monthly.
You can easily pause your subscription using the online portal.
Daily Harvest at a glance
- free of preservatives, additives, and fillers
- requires little to no prep
- meals are on the lighter side and may not be filling
- some items require additional liquid
Splendid Spoon prioritizes sourcing organic produce, particularly for items that are part of the Dirty Dozen list.
Furthermore, each meal includes a list of which ingredients are organic or conventional.
Everything on the menu is plant-based and free from GMOs, gluten, soy, and added sugars. However, meals are processed in a facility that also processes allergens, so there’s a risk of cross contamination.
According to the website, Splendid Spoon has reduced carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by over 1 million pounds since 2015. This was achieved by replacing gel packs with dry ice and changing the insulation in the packaging to further reduce waste.
All of the packaging is now 100% recyclable.
How it works
Splendid Spoon offers a large variety of plant-based, gluten-free, and non-GMO smoothies, grain bowls, soups, and noodle bowls.
While all of the items are made without gluten, they’re produced in a facility that also processes gluten, so this won’t be an appropriate meal service if you have a serious gluten-related disorder.
Plan options include the following:
- Breakfast and Lunch
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Reset
- Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Reset
The Reset meal plan is designed to be followed for one day each week and includes light soups for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Note that following the reset plan every week is completely optional, and you could also use the light soups to complement your other meals if you prefer.
Everything arrives fully prepared, so it takes only a few minutes to enjoy your meal.
Example meals include:
- Moroccan Spiced Buckwheat Bowl with Butternut Squash and Broccoli
- Vegan Meatballs and Marinara Noodles
- Orange Hibiscus Smoothie with Maqui Berries and Chia Seeds
Meals vary from $9.33–$14.00 each, and shipping is always free.
Deliveries can be made weekly, bimonthly, or monthly.
Canceling is straightforward and can be done on the company’s website. You can also skip a week if you need, just be sure to do so before the cutoff, which varies according to your delivery day.
Splendid Spoon at a glance
- fully prepared
- free shipping
- over 50 options to choose from
- non-GMO, gluten, and soy-free
- not fully organic
- not suitable for those with severe allergies
|Brand||Price per meal||Sustainable practices||Delivery area||Best for|
|Sunbasket||$9.99–$11.49||• responsible ingredient-sourcing|
• regular food donation
• encourages recycling and reusing all packagin
|U.S., excluding AK, HI, MT, ND, and parts of NM||someone who prefers responsibly sourced ingredients and follows specific dietary patterns such as paleo or Mediterranean|
|Purple Carrot||$4.49-$13.25||• 100% vegan|
• focuses on seasonal ingredients
• eco-friendly packagging
|contiguous U.S.||someone following a vegan diet|
|Sprinly||$16–$18||• 100% cardboard delivery boxes|
• recyclable meal containers
• biodegradable lining
|contiguous U.S.||someone with a severe gluten allergy or who prefers to follow a gluten-free diet|
|The Good Kitchen||$11.50-$15.00||• responsible ingredient sourcing|
• 100% recyclable packaging
|U.S.||someone following a special diet, like paleo or Whole30|
|Green Chef||$11.99-$13.49||• offset 100% of its direct carbon emissions and plastic packaging|
• responsible ingredient sourcing
|U.S, excluding AK, HI, and parts of LA||someone who prefers to only eat organic|
|Daily Harvest||$5.99–$11.99||• almost all packaging is recyclable or compostable|
• 100% vegan
|95% of the continental U.S.||someone who is looking for quick, vegan meals and snacks that require very little prep|
|Splendid Spoon||$9.33–$14.00||• 100% vegan|
• has reduced carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by over 1 million pounds since 2015
• 100% recyclable packaging
|contiguous U.S.||someone who wants to eat a plant-based diet, but doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare and cook|
While it may be surprising, many meal delivery services offer a more sustainable way to eat.
For example, because they deliver either fully prepared meals or the exact amounts of ingredients needed, meal delivery services can help cut back on food waste.
Many also prioritize organic ingredients, which are grown using more sustainable farming practices, as well as seasonal produce, sustainable meats and fish, and eco-friendly packaging.
On the other hand, these services also tend to contribute quite a bit of packaging, as each ingredient is often packaged individually and may not always be recyclable.
Still, one study found that compared with grocery store meals, meal kits create less food waste and have lower last-mile logistics emissions (those related to the transportation of goods from their hub to their final destination), contributing 33% less greenhouse gas emissions (2).
Of course, some meal delivery services are more sustainable than others.
Additionally, there are lots of ways that you can become a more sustainable eater, with or without a meal delivery service, including (
- choosing local whenever possible
- eating more plant-based meals
- reducing food waste by only buying what you will use
- growing your own food
- reducing the use of plastic and materials that are not recyclable
- composting food scraps and leftovers
A perk to most meal delivery services is that they usually deliver only what’s needed for each meal. This helps limit food waste, which can also support our environment (
Yet many of these services often contribute to waste through their use of packaging, particularly plastic, which is a leading concern for the health of the environment because of the energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with it (
Sticking with a more sustainable way of eating, such as by choosing meal delivery services that prioritize reusable and recyclable packaging, can help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and the excessive use of water, which can have positive impacts on the environment (
With so many meal delivery services available, it can be tricky finding the one that’s best for you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your choice:
- Sustainability: Look for meal delivery services that offer organic, plant-based meals with recyclable packaging.
- Dietary preferences, restrictions, or allergies: Consider whether the service has options to suit your dietary needs and preferences. If you have a food allergy, make sure the meals are prepared in an allergy-free facility with a low risk of cross-contamination.
- Budget: In addition to the price of the food itself, be sure to factor in other costs, such as shipping fees or additional groceries for the week.
- Prep and cooking time: Some services deliver fully prepared meals, while others offer meal kits that require assembly and cooking. Consider how much meal-prep time you have before making your decision.
Below are some frequently asked questions when it comes to the sustainability of meal delivery services.
What makes meals more sustainable?
Sustainability comes from limiting waste, in terms of both food ingredients and packaging. So, a more sustainable meal might use just the right amount of ingredients that are produced using sustainable practices and ideally sourced from as close to locally as possible. It would also be delivered in reusable or recyclable packaging.
How do you dispose of eco-friendly packaging?
Disposing of eco-friendly packaging will depend on the materials it’s composed of and where you reside.
Be sure to check with the website of the meal delivery services you order from, as they will include instructions for disposing of their packaging. This is especially important for things like cold packs sent with your food to keep it fresh or frozen. These often need to be thawed and drained first.
When it comes to recycling, some communities have curbside recycling programs, while others may require you to bring the packages to your local recycling center.
How wasteful are meal delivery services?
While this will vary between companies, research has considered the increase in takeout food overall, including ordering individual meals for delivery as well as meal delivery services, in recent years.
The increase in food delivery has led to increases in carbon emissions, mostly thanks to the use of packaging. Researchers expect to see an increase in food delivery to 65 million by 2024, which could lead to a 132% rise in carbon emissions (
Still, there isn’t data specific to meal delivery services and their total waste. It’s worth noting again that food waste from these services does tend to be lower.
What are some tips for adjusting to meal delivery?
If you’re new to using a meal delivery service, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Depending on how many meals you choose from the service, you may still need to plan other meals for the week, plus other items like beverages and snacks, and grab any necessary ingredients at the grocery store.
This also means you’ll want to budget for both your meal delivery and any other groceries you’ll need for the week.
If you’ve chosen a meal delivery that includes prepared meals, you’ll want to read instructions for how to store and heat the food. Alternatively, if you’ll be preparing the meals yourself, be sure to review the recipes ahead of time so you can plan your prep time accordingly and ensure you have the right cookware and tools.
Using a meal delivery service can be a great way to eliminate food waste and help reduce your carbon footprint.
There are many different services available, so if sustainability is important to you, look for one that prioritizes sustainably sourced ingredients and plant-based foods, as well as recyclable and compostable packaging.
Lastly, be sure to consider your budget, dietary restrictions and preferences, and how much time you’re willing to spend in the kitchen.