McDonald’s Launches First Net Zero Restaurant

Are half-hearted efforts enough to make a change?

McDonald’s has been trying, gently, to be better for the planet. It began with the chain testing reusable cups in the UK, then came the plant-based McPlant burger, followed by a pledge to only make Happy Meal toys with renewable, recycled, or certified materials. Most recently, the fast food giant has debuted its first net-zero emissions restaurant, which it claims will be a “blueprint” for future branches.

Located in the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, England, the restaurant is net-zero in both construction and day-to-day operations. According to McDonald’s, the restaurant is powered by renewable energy via wind turbines and solar panels, and features a Drive-Thru lane made from old car tyres. Chairs are made from recycled plastic bottles, and the art on the walls is made from recycled coffee beans and styrofoam cups. The restaurant even has an outdoor nature trail —designed by children from a local school—to promote biodiversity. The garden will collect rainwater from the carpark and provide a habitat for frogs and other creatures.

McDonald’s is trying to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, which is a big step forward. But is it enough?

As most of us know, the environmental impact of animal agriculture is huge. The industry is one of the biggest drivers of climate change and deforestation. For the most part, Mcdonald’s emissions come from what’s on the inside, which is its use of meat and dairy products. They’re one of the top buyers of beef in the world. 

The chain has been trying to make moves to improve its environmental impact, but some have criticized them for not doing enough, claiming they were just “nibbling around the edges of sustainability”. Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability program director for the Center of Biological Diversity, a non-profit focusing on animal protection, said, “McDonald’s serves billions of burgers a year, with massive consequences for our climate. According to the company’s own records, beef is responsible for 29 percent of its carbon footprint.”

While the company doesn’t plan on taking meat or dairy off the menu any time soon, Feldstein urged it to “overhaul its menu”—particularly by reducing the amount of beef it serves and bringing vegan options and the McPlant burger to all stores.

Read more: Smalls Steps Towards Sustainable Living