Letter to Get Better- McDonald's

by - Thursday, March 30, 2017

mcdonalds recycled bags
from mashable
Well, hey McDonald's,

I actually stopped by your restaurant in Northgate Seattle this week, and I was shocked at how many awesome things you were up to! I mean, you were still serving your food, but you did it in all recyclable packaging. When I turned down apples because they were wrapped in plastic, you offered cuties instead. I am going to be honest with you, it was awesome.

Go you, McDonalds! You may not do everything right, but just your bioplastic straws in one location could keep tons of plastic out of landfills over time.

So my first big question is, why not have every McDonald's be as awesome as the one in Northgate? My brother and his wife were also shocked, because their McDonald's in PA wasn't nearly as conscientious. But if you can do it right in Seattle, why not everywhere?

You could change the fast food industry. You could keep millions of tons of waste out of our water and land. And, you could get a hell of a lot of good press attention.

It seems like the positive press could really help you. When it comes to health, you have a pretty bad reputation. In fact, your brand is synonymous with a sort of American gluttony that is bad for the individuals, for families, and the environment.

I don't have to tell you this. Based on the number of times you have rebranded, I am guessing there is a conference room at your corporate office constantly full of nervous people trying to overcome this very problem. People know just how bad you are. Luckily, lots of people don't care. But others do. I grew up eating McDonald's often, now we maybe go once a year. I am guessing lots of people in my generation would tell you a similar story.

Right now, you are stressing quality ingredients. You want us to know you believe in quality food- you have a kind of faux-cafe aesthetic now too. You offered fitness trackers in your happy meals (granted, they turned out to be bad for the kids). Your website offer stories about your suppliers and tells us again and again that you are working toward sustainable beef. All good (ish) things, though your commitment to eliminating plastic from your packaging and making everything recyclable also seems worth stressing.

Good for you! Hope you stick with it, because your guilty pleasure charm can really wear off on closer scrutiny. Beef is particularly bad for the environment as well, and now that people know that, you really have to highlight the good you are doing to downplay the bad.

So change the world by changing your standards. You are proving you can do it, so do it everywhere.

I have a couple more ideas for you that I think would be public relations gold. Yeah, proving your food isn't made of plastic and chemicals is pretty damn important, but I think you could make some other changes to get people's attention and to have massive positive cultural and environmental impact.

1. Solar Fast Food


 McDonalds restaurants are everywhere, in all sorts of buildings. If you converted to solar power, you would constantly be advertising your environmental concern- the proof would be hanging right out there for everyone to see! Your buildings are a ubiquitous part of almost every town and city in the United States. If you started switching to solar, you would pique the interest of local consumers, but you would also contribute to normalizing clean energy, and I think that would get people's attention.

Even better for you, this is a move that would eventually pay itself back. In Hawaii, most estimates say you will pay off your investment in solar power in 5 years. Then no more power bill. So you could start in places with low estimates and work your way to the high ones. It would lower costs for you, catch consumer's attention, and save the world. No downside!

2. Say no to Straws

Americans throw away billions (yes, billions) of plastic straws a day, and this is contributing to massive plastic waste flowing into our water. How many drinks do you serve in a day? Can you see how much of the problem you might be? That's good, because it means you can be a HUGE part of the solution.

 Have you seen the videos of the turtles with straws in their noses? Somebody in Northgate did. By 2050, our oceans will have more plastic than fish in them. This is unacceptable. Make the change today, and you can look ahead of the game instead of at the back of the pack 10 years from now.

Bioplastic straws are awesome (could you get them for lids too?), and you could even do good by letting your patrons know why you switched. If you want great materials on how to do so, check out  The Last Plastic Straw. Obviously this isn't important to everyone, but at best people give you credit and at worst, they don't care.

3. Recycled and Recyclable

I really was so excited to see your new packaging, and I have read this is a big part of your mission. I love it, and I can see why you might start in urban markets, but recycled paper packaging is amazing everywhere. Why? Because we really need our trees right now. 

I feel like your company is on a really good path with your packaging, so I just think you need to push it even harder! No more plastic!

Yeah, you could change your food too, but I am no expert on that. I think these steps would be radical enough to get people's attention, effective enough to help save the world, and manageable enough that you could effectively implement some if not all in your 35,000 restaurants. Doing even one of these would have a bigger positive impact than I will make in my life. That's powerful, and it certainly beats leaning on the Shamrock Shake to get attention.

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