Food in unsustainable to-go packaging

Editor’s note: Reader Shawn Tandon has launched a petition to encourage Google to help consumers find environmentally responsible restaurants. We asked him to share a call to action with you. His petition is an example of the kind of actions that we’re designing for the Earth911 Circular Economy Community to help you influence companies to do better.

Sustainability is an urgent global issue, and the fast food industry is a major contributor to environmental degradation. The single-use plastics widely used by the fast food and quick-service restaurant industries pollute our world, from our oceans to our parks and neighborhoods. Plastics are made from fossil fuels, and the extraction and refining of oil does even more harm to nature.

Why, I asked myself, do we continue to harm nature with single-use plastics when we already have more sustainable, low-impact tableware and to-go packaging? And why couldn’t I search for restaurants that help me avoid using plastic and unrecyclable service items and takeout containers?

The Wrong Kind of Savings

It is no secret that most food establishments use cheap plastic forks, knives, spoons, and expanded polystyrene takeout packaging rather than greener containers. They cut costs, yes, but at the price of environmental damage. Governments have been very slow to ban plastics and help promote more sustainable industry practices.

If we can’t convince restaurants to make changes, what can we do to help speed up changes by exerting our influence as consumers? I think Google should tackle this challenge, so I launched a petition to ask the company to help consumers find environmentally responsible restaurants.

A “Sustainability Rating System” Within Google Reviews

Imagine being able to leave a review for the restaurant you just went to, but instead of rating the food, you rate their use of environmentally harmful utensils, straws, and packaging. What I propose is a feature on Google Reviews that would do just that.

The sustainability rating system could work just like the regular Google reviews, with customers self-reporting sustainability practices, or the lack thereof, at the restaurants where they dine. Reviews could include information such as types of takeout containers used, availability of recycling bins, food waste reduction efforts, and other things the next visitor can use to decide whether to dine there.

Implementing a sustainability rating system on Google reviews would not only benefit conscious consumers but also incentivize businesses within the restaurant industry to adopt more sustainable practices. By highlighting environmentally responsible establishments with positive ratings and recognition, all of us can make better dining decisions and drive competition among businesses to behave more sustainably. While there are several apps available that are beginning to catalog restaurant sustainability, it would be very convenient to have this information in a Google search.

Google recently developed a green feature that you can see in its Google Travel hotel search tool that allows hotel owners to highlight their sustainability practices. Google also badges hotels as Eco-certified in search results if they have earned third-party sustainability certifications. This is a great step in the right direction, and let me just speak for everyone by saying that we need more of the same kind of information about restaurants.

Would It Actually Make a Difference? 

Several studies have shown that consumers increasingly consider sustainability when making purchasing decisions. In fact, according to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report (2015), 66% of respondents were willing to pay more for products from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.

Another survey found that a whopping 86% of consumers expect businesses to play their part in solving big problems like climate change, and 70% of shoppers said they are prepared to make changes in their lifestyle if it helps tackle climate change.

So the studies do indeed suggest that a Google restaurant eco-reviews system could significantly influence the majority of consumers and their choices.

How You Can Help

I have tried multiple times to reach out to Google to share this idea. They have not responded. So, I created a petition to try and catch their attention. Please consider signing and sharing it with others. Please share a link to the petition with your friends and social network contacts:

If you have any connections or ways to contact Google or their teams directly, please send them this article and the petition.

And Google, if you are reading this, what are you waiting for? Let’s get this done!

About the Author

Originally from Minnesota, Shawn Tandon is an earth lover passionate about traveling and promoting environmentalism wherever he goes.

By Earth911

We’re serious about helping our readers, consumers and businesses alike, reduce their waste footprint every day, providing quality information and discovering new ways of being even more sustainable.