Transportation Energy Use, GHG Emissions and Suburban Superstores

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 06, 2009

A new essay by Jean-Marie Beauvais, published by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI), makes a compelling case from evidence that shopping at large, suburban superstores consumes over four times as much transportation energy (PDF link) as shopping in a local grocery store.

The author finds that both the size and the location of the store have an independent effect on transportation energy use, with a concomitant rise in greenhouse gas emissions for larger and more distant stores.

Fuel / 100 Euro in Purchases
Size Effect

Supermarket Hypermarket
In Town

The author concludes, "Taking into account the very strong impact on CO2 emissions ... the question arises as to whether, in the light of sustainable development, the hypermarket situated on the outskirts is the right model to export across the world."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2009 at 02:35:41

It squares with common sense that the larger, more distant grocery stores have a terrible ecological (and sociological) impact, doesn't it? Most people who love cars and giant supermarkets, however, won't be convinced by numbers - not yet, anyways.

Had the pleasure of spending several hours downtown Vancouver yesterday. (Oddly enough, the weather cooperated). One thing that struck me, even moreso than during my last sojourn around the city, was the sheer number of grocery stores - both private and corporate - in areas directly adjacent to the central business district. Even the corporate brands that build big-box monstrosities in the burbs seem to adjust well to the urban, little-or-no-parking, format. Many are at the base of residential and mixed-use high-rises. Some stores (such as a new Safeway at the corner of Robson and Denman) are even architecturally interesting. Crazy.

Can't wait to see Hamilton's first large (or at least comprehensive), urban-format grocery store. I'd settle for just about anything that faced a sidewalk, architectural significance be damned. . . I would have been a regular customer when I lived near downtown Hamilton if there was one there, instead of supporting that hideous Fortinos on Dundurn. Thankfully, we were regulars at Denningers (which somehow manages to combine streetwall with a hideous, empty parking lot), occasionals at the organic place on Locke, and sometimes managed to make it to the Farmer's Market before it closed.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 11, 2009 at 21:46:59

geoff, you won't see a store like that in downtown Hamilton. City Hall won't demand it, like Vancouver's council does. Someday we'll end up with another grocery store downtown....and it'll have a huge parking lot and won't have any condos above it - like every other building that gets built in this city. Stucco companies must love Hamilton.

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