Visit the new McDonald’s restaurant in the town of Market Drayton, Shropshire, this month, and you will be able to nibble your Big Mac not just in any old garden, but a “biodiversity” garden; admire not just any old wall art, but wall art made from “used” coffee beans; enter not via any standard “drive-thru” lane, but one made from recycled tyres.
You will, in other words, be visiting the country’s first “net-zero carbon restaurant” (open 10 December), the global burger chain has promised. As long as you don’t eat the meat, that is.
The aspiration to build and operate a venue that meets net-zero standards is commendable at a time of rising carbon emissions. As is the company’s decision to offer its new vegan McPlant burger at its new outlet, in addition to its standard fare.
But McDonald’s restaurants without any animal-based food at all seem an unlikely prospect, and those that serve the standard menu will kick net-zero to the (recycled-plastic) kerb.
For it is the company’s supply chain, in particular its use of beef, chicken, dairy and other proteins – not its buildings – that produce the majority of its total emissions. The fast food giant’s beef footprint alone accounts for more than 22 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
McDonald’s may have set itself a global net-zero target by 2050, which will include its food supply chain too. But the International Panel on Climate Change has warned that global emissions must peak before 2030 to keep warming to 1.5°C. Waiting until 2050 to take on the world’s carbon-intensive meat consumption will be too McLate.