Impact Campaign: SEAL Awards Wants Yelp’s Listings to #SuckLess

Impact Campaign: SEAL Awards Wants Yelp’s Listings to #SuckLess

April 8, 2019 – Today the SEAL Awards announced its request that Yelp enhances its listings to highlight restaurants with “straws upon request” programs.

Individuals can support this initiative by signing a petition on

“Consumers need a way to find sustainable restaurants,” commented Matt Harney, Founder of the SEAL Awards. “Given their leading position in restaurant discovery, Yelp has a unique opportunity and responsibility to positively impact our environment by making this straight-forward listings enhancement.”



  • Americans use more than 170 million plastic straws every day (Source: Technomic / New York Times). That adds up to 63 billion straws a year.
  • Algae thrive on plastic, causing it to emit an odor animals associate with food.  (Source: National Geographic) As a result, each year, 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die from ingesting plastic. (Source: Ocean Crusaders)
  • Plastic trash spreads pathogens into the ocean, which in turn can infect sea life. (Source: Simon Reddy for Pew Trust) Straws, which have been in a human’s mouth, are that much more likely to spread human pathogens to ocean animals.
  • Following the lead of cities such as Berkeley, Davis and San Luis Obispo, the state of California recently passed a law banning full-service restaurants from automatically handing out straws to guests, although restaurants can choose to make them available to customers upon request. The bill, which was signed into law in October 2018, came into effect on January 1st, 2019. Advocates of this legislation (such as the Surfrider Foundation and UCLA’s Environmental Law Clinic) hope it will be as effective as other California laws that have banned single-use plastics, such as San Francisco’s 2007 law banning retail stores from giving away plastic bags, which reduced plastic bag pollution in the city by 70%. (Sources: CNN, TruthOut & The San Diego Union Tribune.)



  • New York City’s Union Square Hospitality Group announced that they would be banning all plastic straws from their restaurants, sharing that, “We decided to phase out plastic straws after learning that 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year.” (Source: Danny Meyer on Twitter)
  • Bon Appétit Management Company announced they will ban plastic straws company wide – a tremendous departure from the 16.8 million straws the company purchased in 2017 for the restaurants and cafes they operate in 33 US states. (Source: Bon Appétit)
  • IKEA (a 2018 SEAL Business Sustainability Award winner) has promised to ban all single-use plastics from their restaurants worldwide by the year 2020. (Source: CNN)
  • Alaska Airlines announced they will be replacing all plastic straws with marine-friendly alternatives, which they will make available only upon request. The airline used 22 million plastic stir straws on domestic and international flights in 2017. (Source: Alaska Airlines)


Yelp has the opportunity to build on this groundswell by highlighting the restaurants taking voluntary actions for the environment, and helping the public to reward companies for their initiative.



“We commend Yelp for their recent responsibility initiatives – like adding ‘Open To All’ to their business listings,” commented Matt Harney. “We ask that Yelp shows similar leadership in highlighting environmentally responsible restaurants. Not only is it the right thing to do, but the business case is also very compelling.”     

  • Easy public relations win for Yelp.
  • Restaurants are an important segment for Yelp, representing 14% of advertising revenue. In the same way “Claim Your Business” acts as a high converting ad sales channel, the “straws upon request” listing update presents an opportunity to engage with restaurant owners and highlight Yelp’s environmental leadership.
  • Very low cost and low-risk implementation.
  • Consistent with Yelp’s leadership on Open To All and Restaurant Hygiene social issues
  • Yelp has a further opportunity to highlight restaurants with comprehensive sustainability programs (like those in Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants list)



The SEAL (Sustainability, Environmental Achievement & Leadership) Awards launched in 2017 and is an awards-driven environmental advocacy organization.

Our core beliefs maintain that environmental progress requires true leadership, leadership deserves recognition, and recognition is a form of accountability.

The SEAL Awards organizational pillars are our:


UPDATE 22 April 2019:
Today Yelp announced a ‘green practices’ initiative to highlight restaurant sustainability efforts and reduce plastic waste. SEAL Awards is thrilled to see this initiative exceeds the scope originally envisioned in our #SuckLess campaign, and we congratulate Yelp for demonstrating impactful corporate leadership.

We look forward to seeing how this initiative will empower consumers to take sustainability into account when making a restaurant selection, driving a shift toward greater ecological practices throughout the industry.

For more information about Yelp’s initiative, please visit their corporate blog.