Earth Day is a great reminder to cherish and care for the world we live in. As reports draw attention to failing recycling systems across the U.S., researchers uncover that there is three times the amount of plastic in the North Atlantic now than in the 1960’s, and experts warn that the plastic in the ocean will weigh more than the fish by 2050, the need to eliminate and reduce the use of single-use plastics is greater than ever. While plastic bag bans of New York, California, and brands like Trader Joe’s are important landmark policies, recent scrutiny of these bans makes it clear that re-evaluating our relationship to single use plastic is more important than ever.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, single-use food and beverage packaging is one of the largest sources of plastic pollution in the oceans which calls to attention the environmental impact of restaurants and our dining habits. As one of the most recognized platforms for providing information about local businesses, we realize that we’re in the unique position to help surface information about sustainable restaurant practices and encourage environmentally conscious habits among consumers and restaurant owners.
Today, we’re launching Yelp’s Green Practices Initiative to begin surveying consumers and understanding how to better assess the sustainability of a restaurant’s practices. Given the complexity of sustainable food systems and restaurant operations, we’re focusing first on the reduction of single-use plastics in restaurants and leveraging what makes Yelp most useful: consumer feedback.
We will begin surveying consumers and collecting data on the use of single-use plastics in restaurants across the U.S. When you visit a restaurant’s Yelp page, you will now have the opportunity to answer whether or not the business uses compostable takeout containers, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic utensils or offers a discount for bringing your own cup or mug for beverages.
We will use this data to better understand restaurant behaviors across the country and inform how we surface information about restaurant sustainability for consumers, which we hope to do within the next year.
We understand that restaurant sustainability goes far beyond plastic use and is a multifaceted issue that varies city-to-city and state-to-state. We are at the very beginning of a long and important process. To ensure that Yelp’s Green Practices Initiative is informed and scalable in the future, we’re working and consulting with informed partners like Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, the State of California Air Resource Board, the The City of Los Angeles Green Business Program, and NextBites in Chicago, among others to better understand what data is already available and how we can help present this information to consumers interested in a businesses’ sustainability practices.
To do our part in reducing single-use plastics, Yelp is eliminating all single-use plastic utensils, cups, plates and bowls from all U.S. offices by the end of 2019. We also encourage Yelpers to bring their own mugs to the Yelp cafe through a program that plants trees on behalf of these eco-conscious employees. Through the BYO-Mug program, Yelp plants about 150 trees each month!
Join our mission to help significantly reduce plastic waste in our oceans! Next time you eat out or order takeout or delivery, head to the restaurant’s Yelp page to answer a question or two about their sustainability practices and stay tuned for updates on Yelp’s Green Practices Initiative.