We recently did research on the environmental sustainability of famous theme parks in Orlando, Florida. In Life Beyond Plastics: Make Your Next Trip Sustainable, we compared firsthand experiences at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Our aim was to determine which company did a better job creating a sustainable trip for the enormous numbers that visit daily. What we found was that even minor progress towards sustainability equals a lot when your daily visitors number in the six figures.
One of the major things a lot of these visitors will consume in each venue is fast food. So, as a follow-up on conscious consumerism, we turned to the behemoth of fast food for analysis–McDonald’s. Five minutes of research on sustainability turned up all sorts of interesting data.

first mcdonalds restaurant 1955 oakbrook il


69 Million Customers Daily!

The McDonald’s empire includes nearly 40,000 restaurants. They are located in 120 countries and serve 69 million customers each day. (photo – first McDonald’s from 1955, in Oakbrook, Il.)

The organization is the world’s second largest private employer! Within its franchises, McDonald’s employs nearly 2 million people and makes about US$25 billion in revenue annually.


Millions of Plastic Straws When There are Alternatives

Everyday, McDonald’s hands out millions of plastic straws that are used for a few minutes and then thrown away!
As we know, of the 500 million plastic straws used everyday, very few are recycled. The issue of plastic straw use is particularly troubling because an easy alternative exists. There are disposable paper options readily available.
The fast food business is extremely competitive. This means that companies need to be sensitive to their customers’ preferences. Plus, we know from the past that McDonald’s can be very sensitive to their consumer’s needs. They will change, when pressured!
Consider this. A restaurant that became famous for its Big Mac is now offering a vegan burger. Plus, there are specific regional dishes in international destinations. In New Zealand, you will find meat pies at McDonald’s. Indonesian franchises have the McRice. And, in Japan and Singapore, you will find the Ebi Burger, which is a prawn option.


Yes, You Heard Us Right. McDonald’s is Sensitive to Environmental Issues!


mcdonalds food containersMcDonald’s is sensitive to environmental complaints. What’s the evidence? They got rid of the infamous Styrofoam clam-shell food container and replaced it with paper and cardboard.

More than two decades ago McDonald’s partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund. Their goal was to determine a switch to more sustainable packaging. One result of this collaboration was that they replaced some materials. In 2013, they stopped carrying polystyrene foam cups. More sustainable fiber-based paper cups took their place serving hot coffee drinks.

Yet, we can agree; McDonald’s needs to do more. According to tech news site, Engadget, McDonald’s recently redesigned some of their straws. They made a U-shaped snorkel for slurping their Shamrock shake. Unfortunately, even though they are changing, this new straw is still plastic.

If you do a Google search on “McDonald’s plastic straw,” “McDonald’s plastic straw petition” will be the first search suggestion to pop up. You may be surprised at how many petitions there are to get them to ditch plastic straws.


The “Take Away” is Apply Pressure!

So, the “take away”–see what I did there? I just couldn’t resist–is that McDonald’s has made changes in the past in response to consumer pressure. This company is capable of making more. So, let’s apply some pressure to turn this global giant from a company with sustainability issues into a leader of green practices.
At the very least, we can get them to #StopSucking.


Here are petitions that you can check out and join:

One Green Planet: To learn how to limit your use of plastic everyday see the: Crush Plastic Campaign

SumOfUs: Demand that McDonald’s Ban Plastic Straws

Change.org: No More Plastic Straws in McDonald’s

Care2 Petitions: McDonald’s: End the Use of Plastic Straws

Empowering Youth Can Save Our Oceans: Take the OneLessStraw Pledge!


Who’s Who in the Fight against Plastic Pollution

While we are on the subject of how to cut plastic pollution see the Guardian’s article: ‘Ditch plastic straws’ – experts and campaigners on how to cut plastic waste. This article is one of the most comprehensive who’s-who list of leaders in the fight against plastic pollution. Meet Lily Cole, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Lizzie Carr and others who can give you tips on what more needs to be done to reduce plastic waste. This is “MUST” reading.

By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network


See These Related Blue Ocean Articles:

Great Britain leads the way in fighting Plastic Pollution
Top Ocean Stories of 2017, Part 3: Ocean Plastic Pollution
Life Beyond Plastics: How Fashion is Killing Our Rivers
Life Beyond Plastics: Not Everything that Glitters is Good
Life Beyond Plastics: How Yoga Pants Are Destroying the Ocean!
Life Beyond Plastics: Bee Kind Wraps


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