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Published on August 19th, 2009 | by Zachary Shahan

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McDonald's Going Green?

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August 19th, 2009 by Zachary Shahan
 
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In recent posts on Planetsave and EcoWorldy about moratoria on soya and cattle products related to Amazon destruction, it was mentioned that McDonald’s is helping to save the Amazon. With the company also delving into green building, progressive energy saving software, and charging stations for electric vehicles, is McDonald’s a green company?

In McDonald’s 2009 Best of Green highlights, they mention that their use of an interactive software program, EcoProgress, for managing and reducing energy usage in restaurants in France achieved an 11% savings in electricity. In Australia, McDonald’s is involved in water management and say that over a 20 year period their advanced stormwater retention tanks can save nearly 4 million liters of water. “In Brazil, Chile and Argentina, McDonald’s has partnered with local organizations that transform used cooking oil into biodiesel. Currently, 270 restaurants in these markets deliver their used oil to be converted into biodiesel, representing over 1,000,000 liters of oil to date.” Is this superficial greenwashing or is McDonald’s stepping up to the plate on environmental issues?

McDonald’s is also jumping into the green building environment in the US. Last year, they opened their first “green restaurant” (in Chicago) for a new pilot program on green building. It received the Gold LEED rating! In one location in North Carolina (opened last month), it has actually installed a charging station for electric vehicles.

McDonald’s is also making a big difference in Japan. By joining the Team Minus 6% program hosted by the Japanese government, “to reduce CO2 emissions by 1kg per person, per day, by offering a discount to consumers who registered to participate in the program,” McDonald’s helped to increase the participants from 40,000 to 380,000.

Is McDonald’s a world leader in environmental issues now, or is this minor activity compared to their non-environmentally friendly activity?

I have only eaten at McDonald’s a few times in my life — in my opinion, that was a few times too many. However, to get such a big, influential company behind green matters can be a huge benefit to the environment. For sure, they have influence on the success of the soya and cattle moratoria in the Amazon. And, clearly, they are helping to boost climate change action in Japan. They are doing a lot with some of their buildings to reduce energy usage. Is it enough? Is it living up to it’s environmental responsibilities? Is it a multi-national company others can follow?

For more on McDonald’s green initiatives, read this recent article or go to their own “environmental responsibility” webpage.

Image credit: The Consumerist via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



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  • Linda

    i agree with the above commentators. First of all, the oil Mc Donalds is using is palm oil. whether or not it is recycled, the enormous volumes required for their restaurants is adding to the pressure on south east asian tropical forests and people and animals depending on them. Cutting and burning forests in Indonesia and Malaysia for oil palm plantations is the major cause of deforestation and a major contributor to emissions of green house gases as well. Second, giving discounts if you join a network for reducing GHG by 1kg/year – doesn’t in any way compensate for the major ecological foot print the beef and fodder production, water demand etc, McD is responsible for all over the world.

  • Linda

    i agree with the above commentators. First of all, the oil Mc Donalds is using is palm oil. whether or not it is recycled, the enormous volumes required for their restaurants is adding to the pressure on south east asian tropical forests and people and animals depending on them. Cutting and burning forests in Indonesia and Malaysia for oil palm plantations is the major cause of deforestation and a major contributor to emissions of green house gases as well. Second, giving discounts if you join a network for reducing GHG by 1kg/year – doesn’t in any way compensate for the major ecological foot print the beef and fodder production, water demand etc, McD is responsible for all over the world.

  • elw

    I used to work for the company — these “green” steps are about the minimum they can do. #1 thing they could do tomorrow is set up recycling in every single restaurant in the world….but they won’t. Instead they will keep touting green accomplishments in one or two restaurants rather than the tens of thousands. Whatever bandwagon is next, they will pretend to jump on it.

  • elw

    I used to work for the company — these “green” steps are about the minimum they can do. #1 thing they could do tomorrow is set up recycling in every single restaurant in the world….but they won’t. Instead they will keep touting green accomplishments in one or two restaurants rather than the tens of thousands. Whatever bandwagon is next, they will pretend to jump on it.

  • Ben

    All of these things are nice, but factory farming and the destruction of the amazon are massive problems. Until McDonalds tackles those, it’s all just greenwashing.

    I’d love to see McDonalds introduce the “Organic burger”, using grass fed, chemical/hormone free beef, farmed in large pastures in a sustainable way. Yes, this burger is probably going to cost $5 USD, but that is the REAL price of meat. Right now, you buy a “big mac” that costs you $2.50 and 50 Sq. feet of rainforest. Please take the rainforest out of the equation and just make the price in dollars.

  • Ben

    All of these things are nice, but factory farming and the destruction of the amazon are massive problems. Until McDonalds tackles those, it’s all just greenwashing.

    I’d love to see McDonalds introduce the “Organic burger”, using grass fed, chemical/hormone free beef, farmed in large pastures in a sustainable way. Yes, this burger is probably going to cost $5 USD, but that is the REAL price of meat. Right now, you buy a “big mac” that costs you $2.50 and 50 Sq. feet of rainforest. Please take the rainforest out of the equation and just make the price in dollars.

  • CPD

    The general populous of mindless minions are sure to be swayed by seeing Green next McDonalds.

    Yet, is McDonalds actually going sustainably green, or are they just putting up a green façade?

    What people forget is that “Reduce” is the most important aspect of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Corporations are about growth, not reduction. They will do whatever un-green activity is necessary for growth. Then to cover their asses, they will sponsor some green activities and turn up the marketing. In reality the only green they care about is the green back.

    Furthermore, by doing a few superficial green outreach programs they gain leverage which makes it harder to argue against all their non-sustainable practices. Q: Is mass consumption of beef at U.S. levels really sustainable for the McWorld? A: Yeah, but they are saving power in France and recycling cooking oil in South America. They are making a big difference… As it is, local awareness to the good often overshadows the global worsities.

  • CPD

    The general populous of mindless minions are sure to be swayed by seeing Green next McDonalds.

    Yet, is McDonalds actually going sustainably green, or are they just putting up a green façade?

    What people forget is that “Reduce” is the most important aspect of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Corporations are about growth, not reduction. They will do whatever un-green activity is necessary for growth. Then to cover their asses, they will sponsor some green activities and turn up the marketing. In reality the only green they care about is the green back.

    Furthermore, by doing a few superficial green outreach programs they gain leverage which makes it harder to argue against all their non-sustainable practices. Q: Is mass consumption of beef at U.S. levels really sustainable for the McWorld? A: Yeah, but they are saving power in France and recycling cooking oil in South America. They are making a big difference… As it is, local awareness to the good often overshadows the global worsities.

  • http://www.Bcelebrated.com Debra joy

    While the steps McD’s is taking are nice, it in no way counteracts their unsustainable business practices. Feels a bit like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • http://www.Bcelebrated.com Debra joy

    While the steps McD’s is taking are nice, it in no way counteracts their unsustainable business practices. Feels a bit like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • chrisp

    McD’s is not going green. Such BS… the say whatever they want to get more people to purchase their big mac’s. More caffeine, sugar and fat is what they are all about. The will get these from the cheapest way possible including raping the Amazon.

    Not a mention of recycling, even though all their food products come neatly wrapped in paper bags.

    McD’s is about making money… not saving the world. More green washing.

  • chrisp

    McD’s is not going green. Such BS… the say whatever they want to get more people to purchase their big mac’s. More caffeine, sugar and fat is what they are all about. The will get these from the cheapest way possible including raping the Amazon.

    Not a mention of recycling, even though all their food products come neatly wrapped in paper bags.

    McD’s is about making money… not saving the world. More green washing.

  • Ken

    If you read this month’s Bloomberg Markets, pg90, you’ll notice a story they did about brazil and amazon deforestation and who’s benefiting. “Plundering the Amazon”

    Wouldn’t you like to know who’s “Profiting from Rain Forests”?

    Ford

    GM

    Mercedes Benz

    Carrefour

    Kraft Foods

    McDonald’s

    WalMart

    Cargill

    Alcoa

    leather and beef. plus bauxite mines for alcoa and soy beans to feed more beef and chickens for cargill/ mcdonalds. maybe even biodiesel for hippy benzes.

  • Ken

    If you read this month’s Bloomberg Markets, pg90, you’ll notice a story they did about brazil and amazon deforestation and who’s benefiting. “Plundering the Amazon”

    Wouldn’t you like to know who’s “Profiting from Rain Forests”?

    Ford

    GM

    Mercedes Benz

    Carrefour

    Kraft Foods

    McDonald’s

    WalMart

    Cargill

    Alcoa

    leather and beef. plus bauxite mines for alcoa and soy beans to feed more beef and chickens for cargill/ mcdonalds. maybe even biodiesel for hippy benzes.

  • Adam

    Those all sound like great things, but they’re still selling a huge amount of meat that is farmed in very irresponsible ways. I suspect that won’t change any time soon.

  • Adam

    Those all sound like great things, but they’re still selling a huge amount of meat that is farmed in very irresponsible ways. I suspect that won’t change any time soon.

  • msimon

    Well.. I”m glad to see that McDonald’s trying to go green. It’s a start. I”m curious to see what they do next? I’d like to share a funny graphic with everyone. Its funny, clean, “going green” graphic.

    http://www.typobounty.com/Funny/Going_Green.htm

  • msimon

    Well.. I”m glad to see that McDonald’s trying to go green. It’s a start. I”m curious to see what they do next? I’d like to share a funny graphic with everyone. Its funny, clean, “going green” graphic.

    http://www.typobounty.com/Funny/Going_Green.htm

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