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Green Grocers: Deliveries by Bike, Tricycle, and Barge, Taking Off

A few new produce and food delivery companies are providing local produce and groceries through innovative and sustainable transportation methods.

With the exception of pedestrian or bike-friendly cities, driving to the grocery store or farmer’s market and loading up the trunk with goods is the norm for most of us. And while grocery delivery—once over the phone and now, online—can be more convenient, it is not necessarily a more ecologically sustainable option. However, a few new produce and food delivery companies are starting to chip away at these dynamics by providing local produce and groceries through innovative and sustainable transportation methods.
Bicycle-delivery—once the mainstay of quick pizza or chop suey dispatches—is an increasingly appealing option for small grocery businesses. One such outfit, Brooklyn-based Quinciple, aims to “bring the farmers’ market to you” via cargo tricycles. Subscribers in New York receive a weekly box with items such as hand-cured bacon (from pasture-raised pigs, natch), local buttermilk, and seasonal produce from the area. In Los Angeles, Red Bread peddles a similar service of local goods and produce via electric bicycles, with the added bonus of house-baked breads and specialty jams made by co-owner and lawyer-turned-master-preserver, Rose Lawrence.
Perhaps the most unique alternative grocery delivery service in the country is offered by the Vermont Sail Freight Project, where a flat-bottom, solar-power barge will transport food from Lake Champlain, VT, and upstate New York down the canal network and the Hudson River to New York City this fall. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the zero-emissions barge, which the team is currently building and testing, will launch in September with up to twelve tons of goods. Project Director Erik Andrus intends to call attention to this historic shipping route and method by procuring a fall bounty of apples, cabbages, potatoes, squash, dry beans and grains, as well as pickled vegetables, jams, and sauces. Consumers can pre-order online and then follow their order via “barge tracker” to determine the exact date and closest port of call for delivery along the Hudson and at various ports in New York City.
These alternative examples represent only a tiny fraction of food delivery in the U.S., but increasing interest in sustainable food sourcing and reducing our collective carbon footprint suggests that more companies, especially big grocery chains, will follow suit with electric or hybrid trucks and other alternative transportation methods. In the meantime, Whole Foods in Philadelphia recently launched the South Street Bike Delivery for customers in the area. These are small changes, but the wheels are moving in the right direction.
Photo via (cc) Flickr user Muffet\n

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