By now, you know I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s or most fast-food restaurants, but this story caught my attention. The restaurant company is doing a replacement test in which they’re swapping out polystyrene cups for paper cups in 2,000 restaurants across America.


They’re doing it because 29.3 percent of their investors indicated they wanted stronger environmental policies for the restaurant chain’s beverage containers. Armed with that statistic, As You Sow drafted a shareholder proposal and asked the company to make some changes. McDonald’s listened.


In the stores where the paper cups are being used, customers who order a hot beverage will now get it in a double-walled fiber hot cup. McDonald’s will be looking at “consumer acceptance, operation impact, and overall importance.”


Of course, reusable cups are the ideal for hot beverages, but when it comes to disposable cups, paper is better than polystyrene. Paper is much more easily recycled, and when thrown in a landfill, decomposes much more quickly than polystyrene.


This story interested me because lately I’ve been seeing more stories about companies listening to consumer demand. Granted, this particular change at McDonald’s is based on investor interest and not consumer demand, but it’s an example of how people can bring about changes by telling companies what they want.


Earlier this month, the USDA announced that it would give schools the ability to order beef that does not contain “pink slime” in part because of a petition on that gathered enough signature to get their attention.


McDonald’s has also removed “pink slime” in its beef products, but says it wasn’t because of consumer pressure. (I’m not so sure that consumer pressure didn’t factor into the decision somehow.)


In Europe, Nestle is removing all artificial food dyes and additives from 79 of its candy products in response to consumer demand. (U.S. consumers need to start demanding the same.)


As more companies start to listen to what people want when it comes to what’s in their food and how their customers want them to be environmentally responsible, hopefully people will be encouraged to speak up and demand even more changes.


So, while I’m still not heading to McDonald’s for dinner tonight, I’m encouraged by this news. You?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

McDonald's to replace foam cups with paper
About 30 percent of the restaurant's shareholders indicated they wanted stronger environmental policies for McDonald's beverage containers. It's encouraging to