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The 5 Most Sustainable Meal Delivery Services Of 2022

July 28, 2022
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There's no doubt meal kit delivery services are convenient, but that convenience often comes with a cost: excessive and often nonbiodegradable 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, uncover what exactly sustainability means to us in the meal delivery space and why some brands excel.

Quick List:

What makes meal delivery sustainable?

Let's be honest: No meal 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 farmers market).

Every order is shipped in packaging, needs a cooling component to prevent food spoilage, and requires resources to arrive directly at 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 toward 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 swapping 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 preferred to focus on brands with a similar take. After all, as Lisa Mastela, MPH, R.D., 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 runoff). These same vendors also typically skip unwanted hormone injections in your meat or poultry.

How we picked:

Commitment to sustainability

Some companies use a recyclable carton here and there, while others work responsible farming and sustainability into everything they do. The low waste meal delivery services on this list fall into the latter category.

Price

Price is an important factor in any purchase, especially a potentially recurring subscription like a meal delivery service. We included a range of price points but always balance cost with quality to help you get the most bang for your buck.

Quality of ingredients

Sustainability and the quality of ingredients are often closely tied, as the most nutritious options are often those that are organic and seasonally sourced. We chose companies that prioritize both equally.

Variety

When factoring in variety, we considered two things: how often the menus change and how well the company can accommodate different dietary needs.

mbg's picks for the best sustainable meal delivery of 2022:

Best variety: Sunbasket

Pros:

  • Locally sourced, organic ingredients
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Can't mix & match meal types
  • Limited specifications for premade meals
Dietary considerations: PaleoLow-carbGluten-freeLow-calorieMediterraneanPescetarianVegetarianDiabetes-friendly
Max meals per week: 5
Shipping fee: $9.99
Type: Meal kitFresh entrée

If you're looking for variety, Sunbasket delivers. This certified organic meal delivery company offers two meal types: meal kits and fresh entrees. While you can't mix and match meal types, you can't go wrong by selecting either category. Each week a rotating menu of about 20 meal kits and 13 premade options drops with options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Need more protein? You'll also find four dozen bulk add-on options, like organic ground chicken, Wagyu burgers, and falafel. Full transparency: The meal kits are a little more customizable—you can choose specific dietary needs and preferences—but you'll have to do a little digging to find the right premade meals for your needs.

Example Meal:

-Lemongrass chicken meatballs with spinach-plum salad and cashews

-Pork chile verde over cilantro rice

Sustainability & Quality: Sustainability and food quality are top of mind at Sunbasket. Company chefs try to include at least 99% USDA-certified organic produce, eggs, milk, and yogurt in all meals. 

Ingredients are sourced from small, local farms whenever possible, and if there's ever a time that a non-organic ingredient must be substituted, Sunbasket will let you know. Seafood is sustainably sourced, and animal proteins come only from farmers and ranchers who follow strict animal welfare standards. All packaging is recyclable, reusable, and/or compostable, and much of that packaging is made from recycled materials too.

Cost: From $9.99 per serving

Sign-Up Promo for New Customers: Get $90 off your first order, plus a free gift

Best meal kit: Green Chef

Pros:

  • Offsets 100% of carbon emissions
  • Can mix & match meal plans

Cons:

  • Cooking time can be longer than advertised
  • Limited choices compared to others
Dietary considerations: PaleoGluten-freeLow-calorieVegetarianKetoVegan
Max meals per week: 4
Shipping fee: $9.99
Type: Meal kit

Green Chef has prioritized staying green from its very inception, offsetting carbon emissions and revolutionizing ways to reduce its environmental impact. A tried-and-true eco-friendly meal kit delivery service, it offers six different meal plans including keto and paleo, vegetarian, Mediterranean, vegan, gluten-free, and fast and fit (low-calorie). 

Mix and match recipes from as many categories as you'd like. The menu changes weekly with about 24 new options each week, which all take between 25 and 40 minutes to prepare. Another thing that sets Green Chef apart—aside from its sustainable focus—is the ability to choose six servings per box; many other meal kits cap out at four servings.

Example Meal:

-Greek beef and feta patties

-Korean-style tofu tacos

Sustainability & Quality: Green Chef is a certified organic company that's committed to supporting local, family farms and craft economies. All produce and eggs are 100% organic, and proteins are sourced from farmers and ranchers that follow high animal welfare standards.

Most of the packaging is made from recyclable, compostable, and/or reusable materials, but some ingredients arrive in plastic wrap that's not recyclable. As mentioned, Green Chef also offsets 100% of its carbon footprint from operations, including shipping.

Cost: From $11.99 per serving

Sign-Up Promo for New Customers: Get $358 off throughout your first five boxes

Best premade meals: The Good Kitchen

Pros:

  • À la carte options
  • Whole30-approved meals

Cons:

  • No specific meal plan
  • More expensive than others
Dietary considerations: PaleoGluten-freeVegetarianKetoLow-fatPrimalDairy-freeEgg-freeTree nut-freeShellfish-free
Max meals per week: 12
Shipping fee: $9.99
Type: Fresh entrée

The Good Kitchen makes eating healthy meals at home unbelievably easy. You sign up for the desired amount and frequency of meals and then browse one menu to fill your box. You can choose 6, 8, 10, or 12 fresh, premade meals per box and a single delivery of one-, two-, or four-week recurring subscriptions. 

There's only one menu, so the meal variety is a bit limited; there are around 16 meals per week, many of which are Whole30-approved. When choosing meals, you can filter by allergens, specific diets, and preferences like no garlic, mushrooms, or nightshades, making it easy to fill your box with meals that are catered to your needs. The lack of recipe rotation means you'll also quickly discover what works for your eating preferences and tastebuds (or what doesn't).

Example Meal:

-Chicken cacciatore with cauliflower risotto

-Bacon and asparagus frittata with pimento cheese "grits"

Sustainability & Quality: The Good Kitchen is constantly working to reduce its carbon footprint. The company uses 100% recyclable packaging and recently introduced liners made with recycled materials. The only thing that you can't recycle is the gel inside the ice packs, but it's nontoxic and biodegradable, so the formula can go right down the drain.

All meals include organic produce whenever possible (the company prioritizes the Dirty Dozen list), and ingredients are always GMO-free and sourced as locally as possible. Beef is grass-fed and grass-finished, pork, lamb, and turkey are pastured, and poultry and eggs are antibiotic- and hormone-free.

Cost: From $13.65 per serving

Sign-Up Promo for New Customers: Get $20 off your first order with a referral

Best for breakfast: Splendid Spoon

Pros:

  • Various meal plan options
  • On-demand boxes available

Cons:

  • Expensive with lower quantities
  • New meals are limited
Dietary considerations: Gluten-freeLow-calorieLow-fatPlant-basedNon-GMOLow-sugarLow-sodiumHigh-fiberHigh-protein
Max meals per week: 20
Shipping fee: Free
Type: Fresh entrée

Splendid Spoon is a plant-based company that works sustainability into everything it does. There are five main plans, from breakfast-only to breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a one-day "reset." You can also skip the subscription and get an on-demand box that includes a variety of items from the menu (so you won't ever accidentally order a meal that you don't really need). Most of the offerings are lighter fare; think smoothies, soups, and noodle and grain bowls. Bonus: Everything arrives ready to heat...or ready to drink in the case of smoothies.

Example Meal:

-Black bean and plantain grain bowl

-Kale pesto noodles

Sustainability & Quality: Splendid Spoon is mindful of everything within its operation, from the supply chain to packaging. There's a centralized distribution center, and all packaging is 100% recyclable.

Unlike other companies that rely on gel packs, Splendid Spoon ships its boxes with dry ice to further reduce waste and keep shipping more efficient. Since 2015, the company has reduced its carbon footprint by 80% and is currently working toward 100% sustainability. All ingredients in smoothies and wellness shots are 100% non-GMO and 95% organic. For other meals, Splendid Spoon prioritizes the Dirty Dozen. 

Price: From $8.75 per serving

Sign-Up Promo for New Customers: Save $20 on each of your first three orders

Best vegetarian: Purple Carrot

Pros:

  • Meal kits & prepared meals
  • Many gluten-free options

Cons:

  • Can't mix & match meal types
  • Prepared meals are limited
Dietary considerations: Gluten-freeLow-calorieNut-freeSoy-freeHigh-protein
Max meals per week: 4
Shipping fee: $8
Type: Meal kitFresh entrée

Another plant-based meal delivery service, Purple Carrot offers vegan meal kits and prepared meals. Similar to most companies, it doesn't allow you to mix and match meal types in one box, but you can switch it up between meal types from week to week, if you so choose. There's a lot of variety in the meal kits; you can choose from breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and what Purple Carrot calls "plantry" items (chocolate bars, crackers, condiments, etc.). However, the recently launched prepared meals are a bit more limited with about 8 dinners available each week.

Example Meal:

-Sweet potato buddha bowl

-Harissa roasted eggplant

Sustainability & Quality: Purple Carrot is working to limit its environmental impact by sourcing from farmers in different areas and swapping out plastic packaging for more sustainable options. The company currently uses mostly recyclable plastics, as well as cardboard boxes and lines, but there are some things—like bubble liners and plastic wrap—that your community may not currently recycle though.

If your area doesn't recycle the gel packs included in each box, they are reusable. Most non-produce ingredients you'll find in your box—like beans, nut milks, tofu, and vegan cheeses and yogurts—are also organic.

Price: From $11 per serving

Sign-Up Promo for New Customers: Get $20 off your first four boxes and free shipping on your first order.

FAQ

Are meal delivery services really sustainable?

Most meal delivery services aren’t 100% sustainable, but many are making huge strides in reducing their environmental impact. They source from local farmers, streamline the supply chain, and use recyclable materials and packaging. If you choose the right meal delivery service, you can even reduce your carbon footprint more than purchasing from the grocery store.

How do you dispose of eco-friendly packaging?

It depends on the type of packaging. Some packaging is curbside recyclable, meaning you can put it in the recycling bin that gets picked up at your house. Other plastics are recyclable, but must be taken to local plants or centers that accept that specific type of material. Other biodegradable or eco-friendly items, like the filling inside a gel ice pack for example, may have to be disposed of in the trash. In this case, it’s not harmful for the environment, but it doesn’t belong in your recycling bin.

Is Daily Harvest packaging recyclable?

Daily Harvest's packaging isn't 100% recyclable, but it's pretty close. All boxes, liners, bowls, latte pods, sleeves, and dry ice barriers are curbside recyclable. Some of the packaging, like the latte pods and custom bowls, are also made of 100% compostable molded pulp, if you want to go that route.

The takeaway.

While no meal delivery service is 100% sustainable yet, many are working toward it. Not only do these more eco-friendly meal delivery companies prioritize using local, seasonal, and/or organic ingredients whenever they can, but they also use as much recyclable and compostable packaging as possible. And you don't have to sacrifice meal variety for sustainability either; there are plenty of delicious meals in the mix.

Meet The Experts

Lindsay Boyers is a nutrition consultant specializing in elimination diets, gut health, and food sensitivities. Lindsay earned a degree in food & nutrition from Framingham State University, and she holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.