when sharing is not caring (part 2)

[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.

7 thoughts on “when sharing is not caring (part 2)

  1. An important topic, certainly. And I do agree in a broad sense.
    How come the use of food delivery apps makes banks refuse loans? I didn’t get the connection.
    I don’t know if you’d consider myself old, I’m 40 (and I don’t think I’m old). I’ve been using a grocery delivery app weekly for a bit over a year now, over here in Helsinki, Finland. The reason is that we had twins a bit over a year ago and suddenly we need massive amounts of diapers, food, kitchen towels, everything. Life is too hectic to think of reusable nappies – with twins, forget it! Any kind of assistance you can get in your daily routine is well worth the cost. It would be impossible to walk home with the amount of things we buy , we buy a week’s purchases at once. I haven’t had the time, energy or health to cook for myself or the twins so ready-made food really has saved us, though ideally I would like to make everything myself and only buy local and organic.
    Now after reading your post I’m trying to figure out if my using this service is a disservice for the environment… hmm. I feel like it’s comparable to taking public transport: instead of everyone driving to the store and back, there is just one van driving, and instead of going there and back they only go one way. We would still need to buy the same items in an equal amount of plastic bags. The store offers to deliver in cardboard boxes, too.

    • Regarding bank loans, I think they consider frequent use of food delivery apps to be a negative reflection of one’s money management, as they see it as “irresponsible spending”.

      It’s a very good point you make about your use of the grocery delivery service. When I stayed with my sister and her newborn earlier this year, someone had to do groceries pretty much every second day because of what was needed and because there was limited space to store everything. The supermarket isn’t very close, but still a walk-able distance. But put a baby (or two in your case) into the mix, and it must be quite difficult. In the end, I reckon it depends on what the app is replacing e.g. if you would have to drive to the supermarket anyway, then it’s good that someone else can deliver it for you; but for someone who could easily walk, it’s kind of a step in the wrong direction.

      I’m not really trying to get people to make big changes to their lives, but I’m glad it got you thinking about it.

      And, no, I don’t think 40 is old at all!

  2. I’ve never used a food delivery app, primarily because we fall into that category of ‘being organized enough’ to usually have food on hand to make dinner. Or my husband picks up something on the way home from work.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about a bank nosing around in your finances, looking at how you spend your money on food. On the one hand if it helps the organized/frugal people get a loan faster, yay. But on the other hand it seems intrusive to me; if I were a loan officer I’d be more interested on how much money you waste on fancy techie electronics, than on your food budget.

    • I would’ve been quite surprised if you were not in the “organised enough” category 😉

      And, yes, I suppose it does seem like quite a petty thing to scrutinise when deciding something as significant as a bank loan. People do splurge money on much bigger things!

  3. I 100% agree about all the single-use plastic and things not getting recycled with takeaway. I also think reducing emissions from traffic is a good thing. Ride-sharing and food-delivery is probably contributing negatively to those things. It would be nice if it could be addressed.

    But I think it would be ideal if these things could be addressed while retaining useful services. Not everyone has the same life. How they deal with things like dinner depend on a lot of different factors.

    (If banks really do want to look at food delivery services when considering loans that’s messed up. I mean, generally looking at how much you spend compared to earn makes sense, looking for long-term savings or sudden excessive splurges makes sense, but judging people based on how they prepare dinner? Messed up.)

    • I’d like to think that people understand the environmental impact of what they do, but maybe just aren’t always conscious of it (a friend of mine actually did confirm this is the case for her). I wish there was a way to make it more of a priority for people. But, yes, I do agree that we shouldn’t get rid of these services altogether.

      To be fair, I heard the thing about bank loans on a radio talk show kinda thing. I’m not sure how serious it is, or if it’s just a singular incident that they latched onto for a segment. But, yes, it does seem quite petty of them!

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