How Uber Plans to Slash the Carbon Footprint of Your Food Deliveries and Rides – CNET

Your Friday post-work Uber Eats order is going to get a whole lot greener – and we don’t necessarily mean in the healthy food sense. Uber on Thursday announced a slew of product updates, all designed to help the company meet its climate commitments while helping Uber users make more planet-friendly choices.

The convenience and fun of ordering food through a delivery app make Uber Eats and its competitors an attractive proposition for those nights you fancy something different for dinner, or just don’t have the energy to cook. But those deliveries have an environmental cost. The carbon footprint of households that spend £50 (roughly $63) per week on food delivery services is 450% higher on average than those that don’t, according to research from CNET’s sister site USwitch in 2021.

Now Uber is committing to slashing the carbon emissions of those deliveries, so you can keep enjoying your takeout without putting pressure on the climate. The company promises that, by 2040, 100% of couriers will use zero-emissions vehicles and that, by 2030, 100% of restaurants on its app will use sustainable packaging. Bringing in this change will be a major challenge, said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at Uber’s sustainability event in London, but one the company hopes other services and restaurants will join in with.

Uber Green Packaging filter on an phone screen

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall"></p> <p>Uber Eats&#8217; new filter.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Uber</span>

“Tackling plastics and waste is a whole new ballgame for us,” he said. “We’re the first global delivery platform to set this kind of goal to go green, but we certainly should not be the last.”

Recognizing that the cost of sustainable packaging can still be prohibitively expensive for restaurants, the company is also partnering with the World Wildlife Fund, among others, to research how it can work with restaurants to make green packaging options more affordable.

To make it easier for you to do your part, Uber will provide a new option in the Uber Eats app that will allow you to filter restaurants by those that offer green packaging options – whether that be recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Greener rides

As a company that relies heavily on car use, Uber acknowledges it’s only right that it set ambitious sustainability goals for itself. With the impacts of human-caused climate change being felt all over the world in the form of wildfires, droughts and extreme weather events, the company is committed to switching its fleet to electric vehicles in order to reduce the amount of carbon its service pumps out.

More than 60,000 Uber drivers were in electric vehicles as of last month, said Khosrowshahi – three times as many as a year ago. The company wants all of its drivers to make the transition to EVs, but this is another huge challenge for Uber, given that many drivers find the cost of electric cars prohibitively expensive.

Protestor holding "stop Uber greed" sign

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>Some drivers want Uber to pay for EVs.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Katie Collins/CNET</span>

Outside of the London event on Thursday, a small group of Uber drivers, numbering fewer than 10, were protesting the company’s “greed” and its policies, which they claimed center profits over driver income. If Uber wants drivers to buy electric vehicles, it should shoulder the costs itself, said Abdurzak Hadi, who has been driving for Uber since 2014.

“If I have to pay for it, the fares should rise up,” he said. “There’s inflation in the country and everything has gone up, but our fares have gone down.”

On stage, Khosrowshahi addressed the difficulties around switching to electric vehicles. “EVs are still too expensive, charging is still too confusing,” he said. “What we need to accomplish is to make it absolutely effortless.” 

Uber says it’s expanding partnerships designed to bring down those costs for drivers, as well as educating them on the total cost efficiency through a hub on the driver app. It’s also providing drivers with a suite of new tools to help ensure charging is as efficient and convenient as possible for them.

On the rider side, Uber is making it easier for you to understand and reduce your environmental impact. Starting this week you’ll be notified when you’re on an eco-friendly route, and from later this year you’ll be able to see in your Uber app any carbon emissions savings you’ve made by using the Uber Green service to travel in an electric vehicle. 

The company has just expanded Uber X Share to 18 new cities and has rebranded Car Next Door, an Australian car-sharing platform it owns, as Uber Car Share, with an imminent North America launch planned for Boston and Toronto.

Uber Green Curb Access screenshot

<span class="c-shortcodeImage_caption g-inner-spacing-right-small g-text-xxsmall" readability="27"></p> <p>Coming to an airport near you soon.</p> <p></span> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Uber</span>

In recognition of the fact that around 15% of all Uber rides are trips to and from an airport (making them longer than the average Uber ride, with higher emissions), the company also plans to incentivize you to pick Uber Green over Uber X with a number of perks. These include lower fares and exclusive access to curbside pickup zones and other preferred areas. In some locations, drivers on these routes will also have access to discounted or free fast chargers to juice up their electric vehicles. 

Initially, Uber’s airport partners will include Portland (PDX), Phoenix (PHX), London Heathrow (LHR) and Madrid (MAD), although it eventually hopes that green perks will be available at all airports it provides rides to and from.

Uber is also hoping its policies will feed into the electric vehicle revolution more broadly, said Khosrowshahi. The company is responsible for providing many people with their first experience of riding in an EV, he said. “And the first time that you try electric, you become much more likely to try an electric vehicle in your personal life, whether it’s buying an electric vehicle, or electing to use Uber Green whenever you use the service.”