Connect with us

Business

McDonald’s gets called out for plastic pollution. Will it actually change?

Emily Dao

Published

on

McDonald's sustainability projects new include two new renewables initiatives.

While McDonald’s celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Happy Meal, two girls from Southampton England were busy drafting a petition. Caitlin and Ella, 7 and 9 years old respectively, urged the fast-food chain to stop giving out plastic toys. They vocalized their thoughts through a Change.org petition, saying: 

“We like to go eat at Burger King and McDonald’s, but children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea. We want anything they give us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations … It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all.” 

As of the time of this writing, the petition has garnered over 391,000 signatures, with a goal of reaching 500,000. The virality of the petition and a feature on “War on Plastics” practically forced a response from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s Pledges to Act

In response, McDonald’s has pledged to be more sustainable in the coming year. The company announced it would reduce the number of plastic toys given out by 60% in the next six months (in the UK).

Though McDonald’s has issued a public apology to Caitlin and Ella, it has made no promises about a plastic reduction in the United States or any other country for that matter—but it’s also not like McDonald’s hasn’t made promises before.

McDonald’s Sustainability Record

McDonald’s has set sustainability targets in the past. Just last November it announced it would strive to achieve 100% sustainable consumer packaging and recycling by 2025. As a part of this plan, McDonald’s phased out all harmful foam packaging by the end of 2018.

McDonald’s executive Francesca DeBiase said this environmental shift was largely due to consumers’ desire for businesses to take environmental responsibility.

“Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address,” DeBiase said. “Our ambition is to make change our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use.” 

Clearly, businesses do care about what customers have to say, particularly if their financial bottom line depends on it.

However, the company’s track record is far from clean either. The sheer amount of food McDonald’s sells produce a staggering amount of waste. To be precise, McDonald’s produces 1.5 millions tons of waste annually. Given this, many believe the company still has a long way to go.

McDonald’s Tackles Climate, Energy Efficiency, and Health Concerns

Last year, McDonald’s committed to climate initiatives that will significantly reduce greenhouse gases in the next 11 years. Along with packaging, the company will also be aiming for more sustainable beef production. It would accomplish this by changing how cattle are fed and which soil farmers use.

The fast-food giant also has a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions drastically. McDonald’s plans to switch to more energy efficient kitchen appliances, such as LED light bulbs. In fact, just those three targeted areas collectively account for roughly 64% of McDonald’s emissions

By implementing these changes, the establishment expects to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by some 36%, equivalent to 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Coupled with these new proposals for change, McDonald’s also hopes to achieve more sustainability in health. It wants to do so by:

  • Eliminating artificial preservatives from their American burger menu.
  • Source more than 730 million cage-free eggs in 2019.
  • Increase the majority of sustainably sourced McCafe coffee in the United States.

Is this a case of greenwashing?

Despite this rollout of green initiatives, many critics are skeptical. Many accuse McDonald’s of greenwashing or manipulating customers by painting itself as more sustainable and ethical than it actually is.

Since 1997, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has dubbed the company “McCruelty” for their treatment of animals. Disturbing videos depicting cows and chickens being brutally slaughtered for the restaurant continue to surface on the internet. While McDonald’s committed to employing less cruel slaughtering methods for chickens, the method will not go into effect until 2024.

Chrissie Hynde of the rock band The Pretenders has actively sided with PETA in its fight for improved animal welfare. While she recognized McDonald’s new pledge as a step in the right direction, she didn’t praise its efforts.

Millions of birds are scalded alive for the production of McDonald's signature McNuggets.
Millions of birds are scalded alive for the production of McDonald’s signature McNuggets.

“McDonald’s pledge will help reduce some horrific suffering, but millions of birds will still be scalded alive for McNuggets until the policy takes effect in 2024, and the company still raises chickens with crippled legs and deformities,” Hynde said. “Other chains have enacted much stronger protections already and have broadened their base by offering vegan options.”

Also, because McDonald’s is one of the leading buyers of beef in the world, many believe the company’s new beef sustainability initiative won’t be enough to significantly reduce environmental damage.

Many experts say meat consumption heavily exacerbates effects of climate change due to livestock emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Conclusions

As one of the world’s largest fast food chains in the world with 37,000 restaurants in 120 markets, McDonald’s needs to be accountable for its environmental impact.

Consumers have caught onto where McDonald’s currently stands, as the fast-food conglomerate contributes to the emissions problem and feeds plastic pollution. Now, the company has pledged to act and appears to get the cue.

Still, promises are easy, and the fast-food giant has made a lot of them already. The important assessment will be evaluating whether the company will actually be able to achieve its targets. Companies like Starbucks, while having a similar dedication to reducing their environmental impact, have missed sustainability targets repeatedly. Will McDonald’s be the same?

Only time will tell.

Business

Plant-Based Meat: Just A Fad Or The Future Of Sustainability?

Emily Dao

Published

on

A few years ago, if someone brought up plant-based meat, they would get a weird stare and a chuckle. What sounded good about meat made out of … plants? But a lot has changed since then. Now, the market for plant-based meat is only continuing to grow in popularity, with projections for the market to be worth $85 billion by 2030. With many major industries adopting plant-based options to their menus, it is showing the world’s gradual recognition of the dangers of climate change.

To get a better idea of where the plant-based meat industry is going, we chatted with Lone Thomsen, the Chief Marketing Officer at The Meatless Farm Company, a UK-based startup that looks to reduce meat consumption and offer customers a tasty, more environmentally-friendly alternative to their diets.

What’s Driving The Surge Of Plant-Based Meat?

A Deloitte study found that consumers’ rising desire for plant-based meat actually isn’t from vegetarians or vegans alone. Rather, it is “flexitarians” who are largely driving the market.

Flexitarians still eat meat but want to reduce their daily consumption for health or sustainability reasons. As reported by Barclay’s, roughly one-third of Americans, or 100 million people, follow a flexitarian diet. And that number is only continuing to rise.

Plant-based meat isn’t just a fad, Thomsen says. And the growing number of flexitarians proves this is true.

Lone Thomsen, CMO at The Meatless Farm Company, tells us she believes plant-based meat is here to stay.
Lone Thomsen, CMO at The Meatless Farm Company, tells us she believes plant-based meat is here to stay.

“Consumers have become more conscious about what they eat and how that impacts their bodies and health as well as the environmental footprint,” Thomsen said in an e-mail. “It’s [plant-based meat alternatives] good for you and it’s good for the planet.”

The key to success for the emerging plant-based meat market? Options. A huge influx of popular franchises, such as Burger King, Red Robin, and White Castle, have adopted meatless options to their menus.

Now, The Meatless Farm Company, Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and others are hoping to make this dietary switch even more convenient for consumers.

How Did The Meatless Farm Company Come To Be?

Founder Morten Toft Bech started the company in 2016 when his family struggled to prepare meals that were both nutritious and tasty but also didn’t hurt the planet.

Two years later, The Meatless Farm Company engineered a recipe for meatless burger patties, mince, and sausages. A mix of herbs and spices, rice, beetroot, carrots, and pea and soy protein sources make up their products. All ingredients are sustainably sourced.

“By offering a product that cooks, tastes, and looks like meat, we are offering consumers an easy solution to change their behavior and reduce their red meat consumption whilst still being able to enjoy their favourite recipes and getting the right nutritional levels,” Thomsen said.

The Meatless Farm Company launched exclusively with Whole Foods last summer and has plans for further expansion in 2020. The company has also just recently kicked off its partnership with the Italian restaurant Pomodoro Rosso in New York.

Through these collaborations, the company hopes to show consumers how versatile their products are and how they can be easily integrated into traditional cuisines.

What Is The Impact Of Going Meatless?

Recently, there has been a huge push for more people to adhere to “Meatless Mondays.” This flexitarian concept encourages people to go meatless for just one day of the week.

Reducing daily meat consumption has proven to an extremely healthy dietary switch. Just some of its positive implications include decreasing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Not to mention, going meatless is also extremely beneficial to the environment.

On the Meatless Mondays website, there are three main reasons to limit consumption for the environment. For one, it helps decrease water usage. In comparison to the 39 gallons of water it takes to produce a pound of vegetables, just one pound of meat requires 1,700 gallons of water.

Two, a reduction in daily meat intake also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Three, it also helps lower fossil fuel dependency. If grain used to feed livestock was instead used to feed people, it’d be enough to feed 840 million people.

Earlier this year, The Meatless Farm Company debuted its “Meatless Consumption Target” campaign. Their goal was to encourage UK households to switch to one plant-based meal per week.

In a study performed alongside environmental scientist Dr. Joseph Poore, researchers found if every UK household were to swap out meat for one meal a week, greenhouse gas emissions in the UK would be cut by 8.4% (or 50 million tons). That’s the same as removing 16 million cars from the road.

Looking Ahead At The Future Of Plant-Based Meat

Anyone can go out to a fast-food restaurant and try a meatless burger out of curiosity. However, companies like The Meatless Farm Company want to make sure plant-based meat can be served at home too.

One of the biggest concerns with adopting a more flexitarian diet is that of convenience. Sure, it is easy to point fingers at those not following the perfectly sustainable diet. However, until recently, access to these options was fairly limited.

Typically, the typical consumer focuses on two things: accessibility and affordability. As companies continue to come up with more plant-based meat options, we should expect more consumers to change up their diet — even if it’s just for one day out of the week.

Continue Reading

Business

Black Friday: Amazon Adds Greatly To Unsustainable Throwaway Culture

Maddie Blaauw

Published

on

Black Friday, which happened just two days ago, is a day full of great deals, ones that are bringing millions out to shop; but at the same time, it is also fueling a new weave of throwaway culture. On Black Friday, companies typically make record sales.

And his year was no exception; companies made over $7 billion in sales this time around. But while many are raving about the great deals they got, some environmental activists are drawing attention to the impact of throwaway culture.

Specifically, as online shopping becomes increasingly popular and convenient for customers, how is it impacting throwaway culture? And what role has Amazon had in perpetuating that culture?

The Shift To Online Shopping Exacerbates Throwaway Culture

While the majority of Black Friday shopping still takes place in brick-and-mortar stores, each year an increasing amount of the day’s transactions are taking place online. From 2017 to 2018, online shopping on Black Friday increased by 23.6%.

Totals for 2019 are still up in the air, but the upward trend of online shopping will likely increase again. An estimated 800 million packages will be shipped in the upcoming weeks by the United States Postal Service alone. 

At first, it might seem that online shopping is a benefit for the environment. After all, consumers are not driving in their cars to get to stores.

However, with the rise of one day- and two day- shipping, largely driven by Amazon, online shopping has taken a sharp swing towards becoming unsustainable

Fast Shipping Generates Lots Of Waste, Sparks Throwaway Culture

The waste generated from these fast shipping rates is certainly not a secret. The topic has drawn concern from many environmental activists.

Shipping goods within one or two days means giving each item bought individual packaging. This packaging often cannot be recycled, composted, or reused. Then, items can be shipped separately to prevent delays.

As a result, more delivery trucks are put out on the roads to transport them, increasing vehicle emissions. 

Many retailers offer returns for free. Then, instead of taking the effort to restock returned goods, retailers may just throw them away.

This is very common with returned cosmetic items. Not only does this generate large amounts of waste as a reckless nonuse of resources, but it also doubles all of the transport and packaging environmental tolls.

As shoppers opt for online deals, these effects will increase. One of the largest and most popular companies giving shoppers an online shopping option is Amazon, and many protesters are taking aim.

Black Friday Protests: Concerns About Climate Continue

Climate protesters took to the streets all over the world on Friday in an attempt to bring attention to environmental concerns. Many took place in France, where the American cultural phenomenon has caught on over the past few years. 

Protesters weren’t alone. More than 200 companies, most of them based in France, boycotted the event, closing doors and taking down websites for 24 hours.

These 200 companies follow in the footsteps of outdoor merchandise retailer REI, a more familiar brand in the States. Since 2015, the company has kept stores closed on Black Friday, while still paying employees.

Instead, they encourage their staff and families to explore the outdoors and spend time together. 

French Parliament Motions To Ban Black Friday

The French Parliament, receiving a strong signal from the country’s population, has even put forth an amendment to “ban” Black Friday.

While still far from becoming a law, the proposal nonetheless has gained attention worldwide. 

Large amounts of the protesters were youth, as Black Friday also coincided with the “Fridays for Future” campaign started by teen activist Greta Thunberg. Many protests were also aimed at Amazon, as a result of the environmental cost of fast shipping.

Activists gathered outside of the headquarters in France and distribution centers, trying to voice environmental concerns to Jeff Bezos. 

What Is Amazon Doing To Combat The Issue

Protesters focused on two topics: Amazon and the consumer. Amazon has responded to the unrest by restating its environmental goals, announced several months ago.

The company aims to obtain 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Specialists at Amazon currently estimate that about 40% of the total energy used comes from renewable sources.

Amazon also stated that it plans to invest $100 million to restore rainforests and wetlands. Finally, they will attempt to become net carbon neutral by 2040. If able to do so, the company will be 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.  

What Can We Do To Combat Throwaway Culture?

What can consumers do this holiday season to help the environment? Asking everyone to cease online shopping altogether is unreasonable.

Certainly, consumers should not take full blame blame for the environmental crisis, as those selling the products, and governments that oversee the transactions should take responsibility as well.

Nonetheless, there are some small steps that everyone can take in these next few weeks to minimize harm.

  • Choose longer shipping options when shopping online, so items can be packaged, transported, and delivered together, cutting down on waste and emissions.
  • Order required items all at once instead of individually over time to help to achieve the same effect. This helps reduce the throwing away of multiple packages, common of throwaway culture.
  • Limit online returns as much as possible, especially with items that will likely just be thrown away by the manufacturer. While some returns are necessary, limiting impulse buys and similar habits can help.
  • Support green companies and companies that focus on protecting the environment.

Whether on Black Friday or any other time, if we are all a little more mindful of the environmental effects of our shopping habits, we can make a big impact.

Continue Reading

Advocacy

Most Australians Want Businesses To Be Fully Powered By Renewables, Poll Finds

Rich Bowden

Published

on

Renewables

A whopping 68.5 percent of respondents urged Australian businesses to source power entirely from renewables, according to a uComms poll. Moreover, the poll also found that 78.9 percent of people wanted businesses to use more solar and wind energy. Additionally, some 65.7 percent said they would be more likely to buy products or services from companies that do so. It is safe to say that the poll is a signal.

Australians Want More Action On Climate Change And Pivot Towards Renewables

The poll finds Australians want the business community to do more to integrate renewables into their energy mix.

“This poll clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of Australians want businesses and corporations to step up and take action on climate change,” Lindsay Soutar, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, says in a media statement.

He was quick to point out Australia’s over-reliance on the fossil fuel industry. Consequently, he believes the issue is something the business community needs to address.

“The biggest driver of climate change in Australia is coal, which is still burned to make a large amount of our electricity.

“As some of Australia’s biggest users of electricity, businesses and corporations have an obligation to clean up their act and make the move to 100% renewable energy,” he added.  

Businesses Respond To Call For Renewables

There are many examples of Australian businesses that are already committing to change towards a renewable energy future. One is the banking and investment firm Macquarie Group. The company recently announced it has joined a new sustainability initiative.

It is the RE100 initiative, which encourages influential businesses to source their entire energy supply from renewables.

“Macquarie will seek to develop projects to supply the green energy for its new Sydney headquarters and Melbourne office,” said the bank in a recent media release. “Macquarie has been carbon neutral in sourcing its energy supply since 2010 through the purchase of carbon credits.”

“The commitment from Macquarie Group means that it now joins the ‘Big Four’ Australian banks in agreeing to source all of their electricity consumption from renewable sources under the RE100 initiative.”

Macquarie Continues To Support Fossil Fuel Investments

However, while Macquerie’s public pledge to source 100 percent of its energy from renewables has been applauded, others remain skeptical. Even some of Macquerie’s own shareholders question Macquarie’s continued investment in fossil fuels.

Market Forces reported that Macquarie’s shareholders have grilled the company over its financial backing of oil, gas and coal projects. After all, why would it do so after announcing a global risk scenario analysis on climate change?

Continue Reading

Trending

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap