The growing size and importance of service sector industries in the U.S. economy raises questions about the suitability of the current environmental management system to deal with perhaps a changing set of environmental concerns. This paper analyzes the environmental impacts associated with the activities undertaken and influenced by two service sector industries—foodservice (e.g., restaurants) and food retail (e.g., grocery stores). This paper is not a definitive analysis of the magnitude of the environmental effects of these industries, but is intended to be a comprehensive survey of the types of environmental implications—positive and negative—of these two service sectors.
The foodservice and food retail industries are components of a larger industrial system, the food marketing system, that extends from the production of food to the marketing of food products to consumers. The U.S. foodservice industry comprises an estimated 831,000 individual establishments, employs an estimated 11 million people (about 8.6% of the U.S. workforce), and is expected to have total sales of $376 billion in 2000. The U.S. food retail industry encompasses approximately 126,000 grocery stores, employs approximately 3.5 million people (about 2.7% of the U.S. workforce), and had sales totaling $449 billion in 1998.
For this analysis, we use a simple conceptual framework that segregates the environmental impacts of these industries into three categories: direct, upstream, and downstream. We conclude that, while the direct environmental impacts (e.g., energy use, solid waste generation; air and water emissions; food safety concerns; refrigerants) of these industries are important to recognize and address, opportunities also exist for these industries to address their upstream and downstream environmental impacts.