McDonald’s Continues Environmental Impact Reduction With Solar Power Buys

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McDonald’s is renowned for its wide variety of delicious fast food offerings. From the classic Big Mac and Quarter Pounder burgers to the ever-popular Chicken McNuggets, there is something for everyone! The breakfast menu features favorites such as the Egg McMuffin and Hotcakes with Sausage, while the McCafe line offers specialty coffees and smoothies. Of course, the famous French fries and shakes are always a hit! With its convenient drive-thru locations, it’s easy to grab a meal on the go. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a full meal, McDonald’s has something for almost everyone.

But, the company has taken some bad press over the years. Probably the worst for it was the 2004 documentary Supersize Me, which generated significant controversy when it was released. The movie follows director Morgan Spurlock as he eats only McDonald’s food for a month. During this experiment, Spurlock gains weight, experiences high cholesterol and liver damage, and suffers from depression. This documentary exposed the dangers of fast food consumption and how much of an impact it can have on our health.

More recently, McDonald’s has been criticized for its unhealthy menu and lack of transparency when it comes to nutrition facts. Many of its menu items contain high amounts of fat, sugar, sodium, and calories, making them an unhealthy choice. The company has begun making changes such as offering lower-calorie options and providing nutrition information on its website and in-store, but there is still room for improvement.

Despite the criticism and bad press, McDonald’s continues to be a popular choice for many people around the world, so it’s a good thing the company has been putting in some effort at improvement, especially for nutrition. The chain has also taken steps to become more environmentally conscious, reducing waste and investing in renewable energy sources.

This month’s news shows us that it is quite serious about being a more responsible corporate citizen. McDonald’s Corporation and all five members of the restaurant chain’s North American Logistics Council (NALC) have signed agreements with Enel North America to purchase renewable energy from Enel Green Power’s Blue Jay solar project in Grimes County, Texas. This includes buying the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs).

While many companies have been moving to renewable energy in recent years, McDonald’s took the unusual step of doing this in concert with companies in their supply chains. The end result is that not only will McDonald’s be cleaner, but everything they sell will have come from cleaner sources.

The Blue Jay solar project is predicted to be up and running in 2023. Once finished, McDonald’s and its suppliers are anticipated to buy an average of 470,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually. This roughly translates to avoiding 170,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year or the greenhouse gas emissions from 80 million trucking miles driven yearly.

“Adding Blue Jay solar to our U.S. renewable energy portfolio is one of the many important steps in our journey to achieving our net zero aspirations,” said Bob Stewart, SVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer, North America, at McDonald’s. “This deal is a unique example of how McDonald’s and its logistics partners are combining efforts to leverage their reach and scale to tackle supply chain emissions together. We are excited about our collective potential to help address climate change and drive continuous improvement.”

According to the GHG Protocol, supply chain emissions that come from activities indirect to the company, like product transportation and distribution, are classified as Scope 3 emissions. These ongoing emission sources account for an average of 75% of companies’ total GHG output according to a report by CDP.

“While major corporations are increasingly encouraging and advising their partners on how to reduce their carbon emissions, McDonald’s took it one step further by becoming the anchor buyer alongside its suppliers. McDonald’s and the NALC recognized early on that collaboration across the supply chain is the only way to effectively address electricity emissions for all logistics suppliers,” said Danny Fahey, NALC Sustainability Lead and Vice President of U.S. Strategy at Martin Brower. “This aggregation represents how a joint effort will be essential to making continued progress towards climate goals.”

By purchasing 189 megawatts (MW) of renewable power annually, equivalent to more than 900 U.S. McDonald’s restaurants’ worth of renewable energy, McDonald’s and the NALC members hope to achieve their ambitious climate commitments. Enel, McDonald’s, and its suppliers have signed a mutual letter of intent to participate in Enel’s Premium Offer program so that they can co-develop community investment projects together that are aligned with each company’s stated core values.

“This innovative deal demonstrates how Enel is helping major companies take a hands-on approach in helping their partners decarbonize their operations,” said Paolo Romanacci, head of Enel North America’s renewable energy business, Enel Green Power. “We’re honored to be part of such a monumental deal and look forward to helping McDonald’s and its suppliers achieve their supply chain emission reduction goals through this tailored solution.”

The construction phase for the Blue Jay project has created around 275 jobs and is expected to generate $41 million in new tax revenue throughout its operational life. Since the beginning of construction in May 2021, Enel has committed over $216,500 to fund STEM and upskilling programs at local schools and colleges. Additionally, the 88.2 MWh battery storage system included with this project will help maintain a reliable energy grid locally.

This renewable energy deal comes after McDonald’s has been working to make more fundamental environmental changes. The fact that many greenhouse gas emissions come from meat also hasn’t been lost on them. Starting last year, the company has been slowly expanding offerings of its McPlant plant-based hamburger. It started at only eight restaurants, but now serve the burger at dozens of locations in Texas and California.

While many customers won’t opt for the plant-based meat substitute, burgers and other food from all sources are now going to come from plants and facilities that use renewable energy, so everyone’s dietary choices will be better for the environment when they stop in at McDonald’s.

Featured image: McDonald’s McPlant plant-based hamburger. Image provided by McDonald’s.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1956 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba