5 eco-friendly moves companies made that customers loved — and 6 moves customers absolutely hated

Trader Joe's is eliminating plastic for its garlic, making it cheaper.

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Trader Joe’s is eliminating plastic for its garlic, making it cheaper.
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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

  • Across the board, companies are trying to lower their plastic footprints. The reception among consumers often varies.
  • Trader Joe’s is using less plastic packaging on certain items as part of a plan to cut more than 1 million pounds of plastic from its stores in 2019. The move caused a price decrease in certain items like garlic, the company announced on its podcast.
  • Starbucks announced a plan to eliminate its plastic straws by 2020 in favor of a lid that has garnered much criticism for its resemblance to a child’s sippy cup.
  • Here are five sustainability initiatives companies implemented that customers loved – and six that they hated.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Trader Joe’s recently announced it would cut plastic packaging from certain food items, having the dual effect of minimizing plastic waste and saving customers some money.

The move is a part of the grocery chain’s larger goal to reduce plastic in its stores this year by 1 million pounds, and is a win for both the environment and shoppers.

Read more: We went grocery shopping at Walmart and Whole Foods and saw how Amazon’s $13.7 billion bet is failing to beat the superstore in price and selection

But not all changes receive such warm receptions.

Other companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s are also working to eliminate items like plastic straws to reduce plastic use to mixed responses.

Business Insider conducted a survey of 1,800 young people earlier this year and saw that over half of the respondents marked that plastic bans were at least somewhat important.

But in practice, the solutions and replacements for the straws and other plastics can sometimes have a negative effect. In some cases, the consequences of reducing plastic can fall on the consumer. H&M charges customers for plastic shopping bags in some locations, something people are not always thrilled about.

From nixing the plastic straw to rewarding customers for bringing their own bags, companies are implementing different strategies to be more eco-friendly that are bound to produce mixed results. Here are five that customers loved and six that they hated.


LOVED: Kroger

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Reuters

Kroger announced in 2018 that it would begin the process to phase out plastic bag use in its stores, which include other brands such as Ralphs, Harris Teeter, and QFC. The goal is to eliminate plastic bags completely by 2025. In 2018, Kroger reportedly ordered 6 billion plastic bags a year.

The internet reaction to the change was initially positive, Today reported. Kroger chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen wrote in The Cincinnati Enquirer that the company’s shift was influenced by customers telling the store that plastic bags were wasteful.


HATED: Starbucks

The move to end plastic straws is a particularly controversial one. Starbucks announced in 2018 that it would be eliminating its green straws in favor of a strawless lid and people had a lot of opinions about the change.

Some people questioned the actual effect the change would have on the environment. A main contention with the new lid was its childish design, reminiscent of a child’s sippy cup. Some pointed out that the new cups were difficult to drink from and particularly spill-prone.

Starbucks plans to cut all straws by 2020.


LOVED: Trader Joe’s

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Trader Joe’s made a move this year to eliminate plastic in its packaging and the reactions were overall positive. The grocery chain explained via a podcast that it would remove plastic packaging from certain items, having the dual effect of cutting down on plastic and prices.

An immediate effect of the policy could be observed in the garlic, where the elimination of individual plastic packaging reduced the price to $0.49 a head. Though for now, it is still unclear which other products will eventually be affected.


HATED: Holiday Inn and other ICH Hotels

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Shutterstock/Jonathan Weiss

InterContinental Hotels Group, which includes Holiday Inn, is reportedly cutting personal shampoo bottles from its more than 800,000 rooms. The shift, which includes the move to bulk-sized dispensers for amenities, is meant to reduce waste and is expected to be completed by 2021, The Washington Post reported.

Overall, CEO Keith Barr told the Washington Post that guest reactions to the change have been positive, though there have been some complaints from customers who expect to take home travel-sized amenities from their hotel visit.

“I’m happy to get those complaints, because I know we’re doing the right thing for the environment,” Barr told the Post.


LOVED: Ralph Lauren

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Mary Hanbury

Many top global fashion brands like Kering and LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Fendi) have been slowly edging toward sustainability.

Ralph Lauren announced its Design the Change plan in June, which includes a plan to get 100% sustainably-sourced key materials and to utilize 170 million recycled plastic bottle in its products and packaging by 2025.

The company introduced an Earth Polo made from 100 % recycled plastic bottles with about 12 bottles used in each shirt, Esquire reported. On Facebook, different users applauded the company’s move toward sustainability.


HATED: Dunkin’ Donuts

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Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Dunkin’ announced it would move to end the use of its polystyrene foam cups globally, starting in the spring of 2018 with a goal to be completed by 2020.

The chain’s use of the non-recyclable foam cups had been criticized by consumers in the past, CNBC reported. The new paper cup was initially received positively by consumer feedback groups, but was not welcomed by the customers that liked to use the foam cups as an extra level of protection for their drinks, a common New England practice, Entrepreneur reported.

The use of an extra foam cup for Dunkin’ drinks has ignited conflict between Dunkin’ customers in the past, with some applauding the change.


LOVED: Target

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Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Target pleased many people when it announced a program that would reward customers for bringing their own reusable bags. The store announced its reusable bag program in 2009, which would offer customers a $0.05 discount for every bag they bring to use.


HATED: McDonald’s

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Reuters

McDonald’s also announced in 2018 it would cut plastic straws from its locations in the UK and Ireland.

Recently, CNN reported that the restaurant’s new paper straws are not able to be recycled, whereas the old plastic ones actually could.

Even before this revelation, people weren’t into the ban. A petition calling for a reversal of the ban garnered 35,000 signatures in 2019 and revealed dissatisfaction among customers.

A Florida McDonald’s was also limiting plastic straw use as per a city ordinance. This allegedly led to a particularly violent reaction there. In January, a video surfaced that seemed to show a man attacking a Mcdonald’s employee over the lack of straws in the restaurant.


LOVED: Burberry

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Thomson Reuters

Burberry had been reportedly destroying unsold products until intense backlash prompted the company to announce in September of 2018 that it would make an effort to recycle and reuse merchandise that it didn’t sell.

The brand also announced it would be ditching real animal fur in its designs. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) foundation had campaigned against the company and were pleased to see a change, the BBC reported.


HATED: H&M

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Shutterstock/Joshua Rainey Photography

The clothing retailer has been implementing programs to eliminate plastic bags from its stores across the globe. The company announced in July that it would start charging customers in Singapore $0.10 for shopping bags in an effort to reduce waste.

Similar eco-friendly changes have already been implemented in stores in Japan and the UK.

While the idea of eliminating plastic is good in theory, not all customers were thrilled about being charged for bags. Comments on a Retail Gazette article announcing the changes in the UK in 2018 called the practice “absolutely disgusting” and “pure bull.”