[This is a continuation of last week’s post about the environmental impact of ride-share apps and related services]
I would firstly like to acknowledge that it’s very possible that before these food delivery apps existed, people might have just driven their own cars to these places and bought take-away, hence causing an approximately equal amount of transport-related environmental impact. However, I would also like to point out that this is all very hypothetical because this is my speculation and pondering based on the experience of people I know, not a rigorous scientific news article.
Still, to be fair, I recently heard on the radio that some banks might start looking at people’s usage of food delivery apps when deciding whether or not to approve home loans. Guess I’m not the only one under the impression that these things aren’t always used conscientiously.
Anyway, from what I know of people who use food delivery apps, the main incentive is convenience. If you’ve had a long day, and you’re really exhausted, having a freshly prepared meal delivered to your door sounds great. That’s fine. You’ve got to look after yourself.
But if this is happening every week, maybe several times a week, you’d surely think there’s something wrong. Surely if you’ve worked long hours every day for the last six months, you’d think it might be good to prepare some meals on the week-end, or find recipes that are quick and easy. Unfortunately it seems easier to just download an app and make someone else deal with it.
The advent of food delivery apps has also allowed many restaurants that previously did not offer home-delivery to now provide this service. So, instead of going somewhere to eat on their plates, using their cutlery, you now have packaged foods, probably in single-use containers. (I feel like part of my soul dies every time I see someone throw away a plastic take-away container that they could have easily washed and re-used, or at least put in the recycling bin.)
This concern about packaging also extends to services delivering non-prepared food such as home-delivery of groceries or services that provide precisely proportioned frozen meals. And then there are those services that give you various recipes each week, along with the exact quantities of ingredients you need to make them all. Yes, all of these things require a van or a truck to drive around various neighbourhoods, stopping and starting, to deliver these carefully packaged items.
And even if these containers are recyclable or reusable, the vendor probably isn’t going to reuse a container you give back to them (maybe with the exception of eskies and outer boxes?) They need to buy more containers, which need to get produced, packaged and transported to them. It’s great if something can be recycled, but isn’t it better if it wasn’t used (and hence produced) unnecessarily in the first place?
And these things seem to be ever-increasing in popularity and usage. Colleagues might discuss it over lunch, with one person telling everyone else how easy and convenient it is, and then you’ve suddenly got another person on board. These services are all provided by profit-driven businesses, after all, so of course they want to increase patronage.
But let’s not forget the people who are driving these cars or scooters. These are usually normal people who just want to make a bit of extra money. Fair enough. But they probably don’t know all the back streets of your suburb; they probably don’t know whether your house is halfway down the street or right on the corner — so they probably use the GPS on their phone, which probably drains the battery if it’s being used all night, and their phone probably doesn’t run on renewable energy…
Am I being melodramatic? I have a tendency to dramatise things sometimes…
But then I think about the many people I know who are (mostly) organised in this respect: They have weekly grocery shops, they set aside time to prepare meals, they bring their lunch to work in reusable containers (which they wash and actually reuse). I think about these people, and I wonder why other people can’t be organised like this. These people are not immune to life’s usual problems, but they work around it somehow.
I’ll be the first to admit that the worst offenders are probably people of my generation – people in their 20s who struggle to prioritise these things. I don’t know a lot of older people who frequently use food delivery apps or who often bring frozen meals to work (of the kind you get from supermarkets, packaged in non-reusable containers).
Perhaps one would argue that older people are more likely to have home loans and other expenses, and so they appreciate the value of the money they have, and know how to save. But then we might have a circular problem in which younger people will never get a home loan because their applications are rejected because of their frequent use of food delivery apps…
Anyway… back to the environment…
I think it can also be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your own actions are nothing more than a drop in the ocean. I also fall into this trap now and then. But if you just go to your local council landfill and look at what’s there – big corporations didn’t make that, consumers made that, and we are the consumers.