Yelp gave a nod to Earth Day this morning by launching a new initiative that rates restaurants’ eco-friendliness factor.
With Yelp’s Green Practices initiative, Yelp reviewers can answer questions around a restaurant’s takeout packaging — whether the business offers compostable containers, uses plastic bags, or has discounts for things like bringing your own reusable beverage mug. The interface to do so looks and functions much like any other Yelp rating tool:
According to a blog post by Yelp product manager Jason Purdy, Yelp will use the information from the surveys “to better understand restaurant behaviors across the country and inform how we surface information about restaurant sustainability for consumers.”
Single-use plastics are just the start. Purdy noted in the same blog post that Yelp is working with a number of different partners to gather and present information about multiple sustainability issues, including the State of California Air Resource Board, the City of Los Angeles Green Business Program, and Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable program.
Purdy’s post also said Yelp will eliminate single-use plastic cups, plates, and utensils from all U.S. offices by the end of 2019.
Reducing packaging waste is a huge topic in the restaurant industry right now, with an ever-growing number of businesses announcing various moves to tackle their reliance on single-use plastic. Starbucks announced last year it would eliminate single-use plastic straws from its 28,000 locations by 2020. McDonald’s is trying to find a more sustainable hot/cold cup. KFC has said it will convert to renewable plastic sources by 2025.
Beyond businesses, the EU vowed it will ban single-use plastics by 2021. Stateside, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastics, in 2018; California and Washington, D.C. NYC currently has legislation in place to enact a similar ban.
To be honest, there are probably enough initiatives in place at this point to fill a 1,500-word post. The question is whether they’ll have enough of an effect on consumer behavior to change our relationship with single-use plastics in restaurants. To be sure, programs like Yelp’s will get people thinking more about how much waste gets created just by getting a to-go order. Now it’s a matter of using these types of initiatives to get consumers beyond thinking and into action.