Dropping online deliveries was tough, but climate and energy crises are forcing us to try
Paying £ 7.50 to have a single croissant delivered on a July morning wasn’t the first time I thought maybe I should use delivery services less. After a year of closures, take-out, and sometimes twice-daily deliveries that included everything from increasingly desperate children’s crafts to the niche barbecue kit (did I really need this basket of fish to grill?), I already felt embarrassed by the garbage that filled our hallway. In 2017, I ordered 50 items from Amazon. Last year, they were close to 300.
The lonely crescent, however, was a moment of shameful revelation. I took the bag from the Deliveroo guy, put the dough on a plate and ate it guilt-ridden.
As the fuel crisis continues, it seems important to reflect on what we delivered and why. Do we need to be in our cars as much as we are, or have other people get in theirs so often?
Over the summer, climate change, the collapse of Main Street, and one man’s obscene wealth played through my mind. Fires raged in Athens as I read a report that said carbon emissions from Amazon, which also owns a minority stake in Deliveroo, increased 19% in 2020. The richest man in the world, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who made $ 86 billion (£ 63 billion) during the Covid-19 pandemic as shoppers flocked online, have taken to space amid accusations of child abuse workers and tax evasion.
I felt sick about it. I was coming back from vacation and my local bookstore had closed. I thought about who was packing these made in China (Uyghur?) ‘Creepy mud’ kits.
I looked with sadness at the giant box of baked beans that I accidentally bought on Amazon Prime one day I couldn’t get an Ocado slot, which didn’t fit in any of my cupboards. Maybe I should go to Sainsbury’s instead, I thought, where the size of the cans would be clear. Maybe I should start planning my shopping and stop shopping mindlessly at night with wine and Netflix.
Giving up internet shopping altogether seemed impossible to me, so I decided to cut down considerably and pay more attention to where I was getting my supplies first. I would wonder if I could buy something in person before my thumb made it to the iPhone case after barely connecting with my brain.
I was shocked at how difficult I found it. The world of fast deliveries made me lazy and impatient. The truth was, Amazon is making everything so easy and available in a way that just isn’t replicable elsewhere. I looked through Superdrug, Boots, and John Lewis but haven’t found the shampoo I bought online for three years. I went to hardware stores but they didn’t have the bolts we urgently needed to open a window in our house. My children had also become more demanding. As my son’s birthday approached, my suggestion that we might not be able to find the exact Lego he had requested aroused disbelief. How could something you wanted not be found?
But the unavailability of things had positive repercussions. We had a lovely time wandering around a South London toy store and realized how rarely we go shopping as a family. My son discovered the same kid stuff – the false nail through the finger, the chewing gum that chattering – that I loved as a kid. I used a new, better shampoo after asking my hairstylist instead of going through reviews online. I borrowed the correct bolt from a neighbor. I went to the supermarket with the kids and they chose their own veg instead of looking suspiciously at the things I had already selected from their Ocado bags.
A few months later, and I haven’t quite managed to give up on deliveries. Some items seem impossible to find elsewhere in a reasonable amount of time, including the right ink for my printer. And of course, we always have take out – just for dinner, not breakfast.
I tried in vain to determine how much I had done good for the environment with my little quest. What difference does it really make if we go to the supermarket on the weekends rather than having a trickle of items appearing all week long on our porch? I’m not entirely sure, although having already resigned myself to longer wait times and making specific trips for certain items, I feel better prepared to face the next few months if deliveries the next day. are not available due to fuel shortages.
What was very clear, however, was the benefit to my brain. He let go of his internal toddler refrain of “I want it now” and became much happier to cope with what was in front of him. Turns out, when you think you can’t have a croissant delivered right to your door, toast tastes really good.