Big Mac turns local, ecosustainable

Ecosustainability hits one of the world’s most known brand, one of the symbols of wild capitalism: McDonald. One of the “2008-2010″ goals that the fast food chain points to in its 2009 Corporate Responsibility Report is to design its restaurant energy survey and optimization tools “to deliver an average 3% energy reduction per restaurant.” The drive for ecosustainability is now attacking the very heart of the chain, its menu.

The chain is mobilizing an internal Global Energy Council to prioritize energy saving opportunities throughout its supply chain and operations, and says it is making strides toward a more sustainable food chain by working with suppliers.

The firm is going to take a number of actions in order to bring energy consumptions under control, while ensuring efficiency of services. They are currently working on a toaster that consumes 28 percent less energy, and on a food holding cabinet that can deliver 30 percent energy savings per cell.

At the country level, McDonald’s Germany opened its EE-Tec restaurant in Achim, with the goal of reducing energy use 30 percent compared to similar restaurants. Last year, McDonald’s previewed 10 energy efficient locations it has in prototype mode. In France, it has opened a green restaurant that uses solar hot water heaters and employs water-saving techniques. Locations in Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands are sourcing renewable energy. A location in Brazil is testing a wind turbine that generates up to 1.8 kilowatts. Solar is used in 15 Brazilian locations.

A lot of attention is given to packaging, a very important voice in a business where most products are small and need careful packaging. Continouos care is paid to reducing the amount of packaging (by weight) per each product sold.

Recycling is another voice where new initiaves are under study to relaunch a sector where, after making steady progress, recycled content use has stagnated at 29.8 percent in 2007 and 2008.

The chain is encouraging recycling by customers via a variety of methods, from having customers sort it themselves to having it occur by staff in the backroom.

About 75 percent of U.S. locations are enrolled in a program to recycle used cooking oil. The average location recycles about 1,700 gallons a year. Some of the recycled cooking oil is turned into fuel for delivery trucks, such as in European operations.

As for the menus, after years of harsh criticisms – McDonalds has often being accused of fueling the cruelest globalization and of fueling the industrialization of food production – the firm has somehow turned more local. In Italy, for instance, agreements have been signed with the Ministero dell’Agricoltura (Department of Agriculture) to offer hamburgers and other dishes made with local products. A sort of Italian style fast food. A move that, in the Ministero dell’Agricoltura’s view, should help correct the trend of eating junk food, with all health dangers it involves, while at the same time offering Italian farmers a new market for their products.


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