All about Food Delivery Sustainability

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Food delivery has become a staple in our fast-paced society. From ordering lunch at the office to getting takeout for dinner to avoid the cleanup at the end of the night, food delivery is making our lives simpler and more convenient. In fact, two-thirds of people in the United States are more likely to order food delivery or takeout than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

But ordering takeout often comes with the environmental price of the additional food packaging, and it can be hard to advocate for food delivery sustainability when someone else is bringing your meal to your door. Fortunately, things are shifting. As more consumers voice their concerns about excessive food packaging, restaurants and food delivery services are becoming more savvy about minimizing waste and giving their customers eco-friendly options.

Environmental Shifts in the Food Delivery Industry

A woman with a large insulated backpack walking next to her bike

Food delivery sustainability starts with the restaurants, but they're not the only players. From the food delivery services to the contractors working for those businesses, everyone has a part to play in eco-friendly food delivery.

In general, many businesses are beginning to understand their own impacts on the environment and that those impacts matter to their customers. While the process is slow, restaurants are starting to shift away from Styrofoam and plastic to more environmentally friendly packaging options. This shift often comes with a trade-off, though: paper packaging isn't always the best insulator, and it can often cost more (which eventually trickles down to the customer).

Food delivery services are also paying more attention to sustainability. When it's an option, many delivery workers in urban settings ride bikes or walk. In areas where driving is a necessity, businesses are grouping food pickups to cut down on carbon emissions. Customers also often can make specific packaging requests, such as opting out of extra napkins or asking for a paper bag instead of a plastic one.

While the shift to eco-friendly food delivery won't happen overnight, these small changes can help the industry move in the right direction.

Reducing Your Takeout Order's Environmental Impact

The next time you order takeout, you can make an impact on food delivery sustainability by asking for eco-friendly options. If you're ordering through a separate food delivery service, look for an option to opt out of extra packaging or make special requests. Unless you're traveling, you most likely have all the cutlery you need at home (and if you're in the office, you can bring reusable cutlery from home to keep at your desk). So, ask to skip the single-use straws, silverware, and sauce packets. Other eco-friendly food delivery choices you can make include:

  • Choosing paper bags instead of plastic
  • Asking if the restaurant can use cardboard instead of Styrofoam containers
  • Asking if you can bring your own container if you're picking up your order
  • Reusing or recycling what you can (and making sure you clean everything properly beforehand)
  • Leaving good reviews when your delivery worker honors your requests (this encourages them to do it more often!)

These changes might seem small, but enough requests like these may encourage businesses to make more eco-friendly options available.

Whether you're ordering takeout or cooking a meal yourself, reduce waste even further with this guide to a zero-waste kitchen.

Image Source: Pexels | Pexels

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Why It's Good

Finding ways to minimize food delivery waste can help you live sustainably while still enjoying the services you love.