- Michael Oshman
RESTAURANT DELIVERY COMPANIES CAN DELIVER A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
The world of restaurant delivery services, such as Grub Hub, Uber Eats, and Postmates, needs to take responsibility for its increasing environmental impact. During the pandemic, the increase in food delivery has been dramatic. With that, comes more meals that are packaged in single-use disposables. Yes, when the pandemic ends, people will return to eating at restaurants, much of which is on reusable dishes. But, even before the pandemic, the increase in food delivery was clear; and that trend will continue post-pandemic.
There are four main components of the environmental impact that these companies need to address during this pandemic and have clear public commitments for shifting their operations towards environmental sustainability as we come out of the pandemic.
2. Waste Reduction
3. Greener Disposables
4. Shift towards Reusables
In this article, we will focus on these four categories.
Right now, the vast majority of restaurant delivery is done in vehicles that consume petroleum and emit pollution, causing dirtier air and climate change. There is no reason our food delivery needs to create more demand for petroleum and more pollution. There are now many cars that are reasonably priced that can deliver your food in electric vehicles that are much cleaner… and have a built-in self-improvement mechanism as the electric grid shifts more towards solar and wind each year. All restaurant delivery companies should make a public commitment to:
2. Having easy to use software that is modifiable by each restaurant to reflect their items. A burger place can allow people to opt-out ketchup and mustard. A sushi place can allow people to opt-out of chopsticks and soy sauce. The options should be easy to change for each restaurant.the opt-out section for their restaurant.
2. Have 25% of food delivery be in electric vehicles by Summer of 2022
3. Have 100% of food delivery be in electric vehicles by 2024
Every restaurant delivery company should publicly sign onto the Green Restaurant Association’s “Delivering a Sustainable Future” platform. Once the commitments are made, they should make public annual updates as to their success in meeting the stated goals.
How many napkins, ketchup packets, and forks do you need in your order? For some consumers, they need it all. For others, who are eating at home, they might not need all those condiments. They might opt-out of disposable forks, knives, and spoons, and instead use their reusable utensils at home. See the GRA's new Waste Opt-Out™ video. A restaurant can save about $5,000 per year by participating in the GRA's Waste Opt-Out™ program, which makes it easier for consumers to opt-out of utensils, condiments, napkins, or any other waste they don’t need. Some food delivery companies already have some options to make opting out easier. But, there should be a uniform and clear commitment by all delivery companies to prioritizing the minimization of this waste by:
1. Having clear educational materials, including a short video that they can present to their restaurant clients, educating them on the financial and environmental benefits of allowing customers to easily opt out of this waste. This material should also easily show them how to customize the opt-out section for their restaurant.
2. Having easy to use software that is modifiable by each restaurant to reflect their items. A burger place can allow people to opt out ketchup and mustard. A sushi place can allow people to opt out of chopsticks and soy sauce. The options should be easy to change for each restaurant.
3. Signing on to the GRA's Waste Opt-Out™ program and make public once in compliance
4. Demarcate Certified Green Restaurants® that are participating in the Waste Opt-Out™ program
5. Publicize to consumers that they can now easily choose Certified Green Restaurants® participating in the Waste Opt-Out™ program
Over the past 3 decades, restaurants have worked hard to ditch polystyrene foam (commonly referred to as Styrofoam™)… and move towards more sustainable packaging. Great strides have been made, but there is a lot more to do. The majority of single-use items comes from virgin plastic and trees instead of post-consumer waste recycled plastic and paper. When a restaurant puts its food in packaging for the consumer to eat, it is hard to know what will happen with that packaging. The likelihood is that it ends up in the garbage/landfill or even worse, it makes its way to the ocean and ends up in the Pacific Garbage Patch. But, it is easy to know where the packaging comes from. That is why it is so important for restaurants to prioritize take-out packaging that is made from high post-consumer waste recycled paper or plastic. With the increased amount of restaurant delivery, packaging and its waste are increasing dramatically. For 30 years, the Green Restaurant Association has been working with restaurants to improve their take-out packaging. How can restaurant delivery companies be part of the solution?
1. Demarcate Certified Green Restaurants® that are part of the Greener Disposables program
2. Educate restaurants on the restaurant delivery company’s commitment to waste reduction and greener disposables
3. Publicize to consumers that they can now easily choose Certified Green Restaurants® with greener disposables
SHIFT TOWARDS REUSABLES
The first three items in this article are achievable right away. This last item needs cross-industry collaboration to make it happen. The restaurant delivery sector can play a crucial role in helping the restaurant industry deliver food in a way that does not consume or create massive amounts of garbage. Instead, we will have a sophisticated system of reusables, collection, sanitation, and redelivery. The first step towards this is getting buy-in from the different sectors to work towards this goal. We encourage the restaurant delivery companies to work with the Green Restaurant Association for the longer-term goal of Near-Zero Waste™ restaurant delivery.
Restaurant delivery services, such as Grub Hub, Uber Eats, and Postmates, can make these commitments and implement them right away. If they take this opportunity in full, we can dramatically reduce the negative environmental impact that food delivery currently has.