User login

A Community of Green Bloggers & Activists

Is McDonald's Going Green?

Many of you probably read Newsweek's story about the greenest big companies in America.   Some of the listings on there really surprised me.  The biggest one that surprised me was McDonald's and its ranking of #22.  In the magazine's green rankings, they don't go into great detail about what the companies are doing to go green, but I was in such shock to see McDonald's have such a high ranking that I had to look into this for myself.

As it turns out, McDonald's is making some solid efforts to go green. 

Earlier this month, CNBC did a piece on how McDonald's is going green.   McDonald's is opening 10 prototype restaurants whose goals will be to reduce energy and waste and eventually these practices will be in McDonald's restaurants across America.  For instance, the Chicago restaurant uses 25% less energy than your average McDonald's location and their tabletops are made of recycled milk jugs.

In 2005, McDonald's was listed as an approved business at Ceres,  which is a network that works to promote corporate sustainability.  This was based off their energy efficiency, food resource sustainability, and "'greening' its supply chain."

For almost 20 years, McDonald's has worked with the Environmental Defense Fund.   They got rid of the Styrofoam sandwich containers, switched to unbleached bags, began using recycled materials for items like booster seats in their restaurants, and more.

In spite of all of this, McDonald's doesn't always have a great past track record when it came to the environment.  In 2006, Greenpeace had accused McDonald's (and other fast food restaurants) of destroying the rainforest by feeding their chickens soy-based animal feed derived by soybeans grown in the Amazon Basin of Brazil.   Since then, McDonald's has worked together with Greenpeace and agreed to stop selling chicken fed on that soy.

Another instance of McDonalds' not-so-green practice:  Last year, when they began serving sweet tea, it came in a Styrofoam cup.  What's up with that, Mickey D's?  You stopped serving the Big Macs in Styrofoam a long time ago!  However, a few months ago, I stopped at rest stop on the MassPike to grab something to drink and wound up getting some (unsweetened) iced tea at McDonald's.  It did not come in Styrofoam, so I'm hoping that they stopped serving their iced teas in those Styrofoam cups by this time.

For more (obviously biased) info, McDonald's has a page on their website devoted to talking about their green practices.  

There's no doubt that McDonald's has begun to make efforts to go green, but are their intentions truly altruistic or is this just greenwashing?  There's been a lot of debate over this on the green blogs over the past few years.  I'm sure most it is to help their negative image, but at the same time, if their locations are really using 25% less energy and they're making tables out of recycled materials, isn't that still a very good thing?

McDonald's still does have a VERY long way to go before I'd think of them as a truly green company in spite of their high ranking on the Newsweek list.   Sadly, big chains aren't going anywhere and people are always going to go to McDonald's.  If more companies made small strides towards eco-friendliness, even if it's just to receive good publicity, I'm glad it's something that will actually help the environment.  Now the (lack of) nutritional value in their food?  That's another story...