When we try to develop our community with new businesses and buildings, sustainability is the key to success. The world is evolving so fast; it is not enough to just focus on having unique products and a great marketing strategy. Just like Green Schools Green Future that is trying to build progressive and green education systems in developing communities. We are not just building an eco-friendly school setup, but we will directly connect students to sustainable tools and applications for long term growth. A sustainable and resource-efficient business model to keep things running in the long term is today’s necessity. Even the largest fast food chain McDonald’s understands this and is trying to develop a more environment-friendly and innovative model.
McDonald’s intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its restaurants and offices by 36% by the year 2030. From the sourcing of raw materials to the packaging of their food, their impact on the environment is larger than we think.As a pioneer in the fast-food industry, McDonald’s has over 37,000 locations in 120 countries. Even a little adjustment can cause a huge change. Its initiative to become a more sustainable restaurant chain can also influence others such as Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway and Starbucks. Those restaurants will eventually follow greener footsteps in order to stay competitive.
On July 1, McDonald’s announced that they are having a solar-powered restaurant as part of their sustainable green journey. The 8,024 square foot building will be covered in solar panels and have a design that can keep the restaurant naturally cool, in an attempt to minimize energy use. The 1,066 rooftop solar panels can produce up to 600,000 kilowatts of electricity per year, and photovoltaic glass (PV glass) panels are also integrated throughout the building. Moreover, they have louver windows that automatically open and close to push out hot air while keeping cool air circulate inside the restaurant to regulate temperature. There are also interactive elements, such as stationary bikes that produce electricity for the Golden Arches and tablet games for kids to learn more about sustainability. The restaurant, located in Disney World, Orlando, attracts people of all ages, especially the younger generation. Even though the dine-in option isn’t available right now due to coronavirus guidelines, once it opens, people will get to experience how cool a green building can be.
Using more eco-friendly packing is also part of McDonald’s green concept plan. They have set goals to reduce the overall packaging of their food items and beverage cups. By 2025, 100% of McDonald’s guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled or certified sources (certified from places that are not from a high risk of deforestation and the wood fibre is 100% recyclable). McDonald’s in Canada has already implemented a system that reduces more than 1500 tons of paper, including:
- Napkins: A 20% smaller napkin produced with 100% recycled fibre in all restaurants, which eliminates more than 900 tons of paper.
- McWrap carton: Instead of the carton packaging, transitioning to paper wrap eliminates more than 400 tons of packaging.
- Small Coffee Cup: Removing paper from the outer layer of the cup, which eliminates more than 123 tons of paper.
However, there is much more McDonald’s can do. One of its competitors, Starbucks, has up its game on reducing waste. Since 2019, Starbucks has begun to use a recyclable Sippy cup lid to eliminate all use of plastic straws. Plastic straws take about 200 years to break down in the environment, increasing the presence of microplastics in landfills and oceans. This new design will help to eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws globally per year. McDonald’s can definitely learn from Starbucks for that.
Another way for restaurants to reduce waste is to completely change their packaging. Instead of using packaging materials made from synthetic polymers (plastic), restaurants can use new material such as polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is made from fermented sugars, usually from corn starch. The materials are biodegradable, which is important for the environment. It takes significantly less time than plastic to decompose.
McDonald’s also makes sure its food materials are from sustainable sources. 100% of the espresso beans used in their beverages are sustainably sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. In addition, they also source their beef, chicken and fish from certified sustainable supply chains.
McDonald’s might not be the most healthy or green food, but it has taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint. As a large global chain, its impact on the environment and the community is significant. Other chain restaurants should learn from McDonald’s as only innovative and sustainable businesses can survive in the long term. The pandemic has shut down some businesses and if it continues, many more businesses including restaurants will soon shut down. It is imperative for businesses with money to spend on innovations and green practices to change their strategies if they want to stay in the game.
— Angie Ng