Thursday, September 17, 2009

McDonald’s Puts Green Design into New Restaurant

Posted on Thursday, Jul. 09, 2009
Watts are free at new McDonald's
When it opens Tuesday, the McDonald's at 1299 Kildaire Farm Road will be the country's first McDonald's with an electric vehicle charging station. The station will allow drivers of electric cars to plug them in and charge them while they eat. McDonald's is one of several chains exploring green store design. Wal-Mart and Target are revamping their stores to conserve energy. Subway has opened its first stand-alone LEED-certified restaurant in the state in Chapel Hill.

There seems to be a rush to go to the LEED-way of fast food restaurants, is it a good thing or is it greenwashing?

For me, I think this is a start, though these companies are cashing in on the fact that they are certified is questionable, the hand of PR and Marketing always does some hocus pocus per se

I am not really familiar on the LEED standard in terms of architectural planning and construction but during the operation of the proposed site, the critical measure is its actual overall resource efficiency over time compared with the existing rate of resource use in an average fast food store.

Let's not limit ourselves to the WOW factor of building us the Numbers!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yum Brands Opens First Green KFC-Taco Bell Restaurant

The firm issued its first corporate responsibility report last year. And the construction of the KFC-Taco Bell in Northampton is intended as the "first of a series" of projects being pursued by Yum Brands' Building Environmental Sustainability Team as part of the company's Energy Environment and Economics (E3) Initiative, the report says.

The report also says the new restaurant and the initiative make up "the primary exploration vehicle to test and evaluate green building methodologies." Data about the performance of the new restaurant and that of other company sites are expected to inform the Yum Brands' work to green existing buildings, plan prototypes and develop in restaurants.

The new restaurant in Massachusetts has a lighting control system that takes advantage of natural light and uses LED lights inside and out where feasible. The site features energy efficient kitchen and building equipment, rainwater harvesting, a rain garden that serves as filter for storm water and low-flow water fixtures. In addition, the restaurant uses solar energy to preheat fresh air entering building, reducing the need for natural gas.

Yum also said counter tops, insulation and materials used in the building contain recycled content and that wood used in construction was harvested sustainably.
Photographs by Derry Berrigan, DBLD Lighting Design, courtesy of Yum Brands 

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

ANSI Approves Green Seal for Restaurants

ANSI Approves Green Seal for Restaurants
Posted On September 9, 2009 (8:48 am)
Restaurants seeking to be "green" have another measure of confidence...
Article taken from Environmental Leader -
URL to article:

For the industry, this seems to be good news! However, are fast foods included in this standard? Fine Dining and Quick-Serve Restaurants have different operating capacities, once, I even heard people in our industry wanting the QSR to have a separate industry classification.  I am so glad to hear that GS-46 follows the specs and guidelines of ISO14024 which follows specifies a comprehensive framework to operations on how to reduce their environmental impacts.

Maybe I'm just disillusioned about my job because most of my superiors don't like dealing with comprehensive frameworks specified by international science-based standards and would rather make their own "egotistical" frameworks. In my studies, I have learned that the environment is not chaotic and we can always find order like in food chains and the order leads to interconnections.

For more information please see Green Seal, Inc.

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Some Thoughts Behind Industry Conferences on "Greening"

I have been attending industry conferences for quite a while and I do agree that such events can influence corporations to change their ways, but change will be a very slow process. I am not sure what goes into the minds of managers who attend these events but deep inside they are still the same people who are just going for the usual bottomline. Stand alone projects such as energy conservation, waste reduction, etc. are useless if they are simply viewed as individual programs because it does not affect a change the overall corporate views of companies.

As an EMS auditor, I would rather focus on Top Management commitment and clarity of environmental policy rather than the number of environmental projects that a company churns out. Green conferences provide a venue for sharing best practices but the focus is more on technologies and projects that a specific company has proven effective within its own context but such fora must also not fail to provide frameworks for companies who are "lost" in integrating such programs into their sustainability agenda.

Oftentimes, this becomes the root of Greenwashing, because companies focus more on promoting specific projects and programs rather than their actual commitment towards sustainable development.  Third party verification to a certain degree is far more  effective than blatant ads in ensuring compliance to regulations and commitment to sustainability. However, current validation criteria is still not a perfect system of validation, reliance on scientific data on the impacts requires continues studies.

Green conferences are a good thing, but it will take a lot more of these to really change how things go about...

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Saving the Earth is a Balancing Act...It Needs A Lot of Thinking Before We Could Judge...

I have been to both sides of the fence, in my early days, I once supported Greenpeace-like civil society groups in their campaigns to eliminate the ills of the environment by eliminating the cause. However, just my luck when my first job was with a business school to do research on how companies can implement environmental management systems. After more than a decade, the business school paradigm did influence my way of thinking but the social action awareness is still there. My problem right now is how do I put the two together.

Stakeholders are important, they can be customers, the government, regulatory agencies or even our Friends of the Earth. Having a voice is important and fast food companies must consider the deeper meaning of their stakeholder's advocacy not just simply please them and give them what they want.  Just like the polystyrene dilemma, in effect, a new problem arose in term of effluent and air quality impacts within the vicinity of a fast food facility. Such is the impact of just simply trying "to please" a stakeholder rather submit themselves on a far more critical environmental due diligence.

Often, we see environmental managers strongly influenced by NGO pressure that they fail to consider that managing environmental impacts is implemented in a strategic framework....I remember a case when a fast food manager agrees to set up an NGO-recommended compost bins for a fast food store without due consideration to the existing HACCP-based food safety management system....well flies swarmed over the burgers...and it became bad for business.

The purpose of civil action is not to be simply pleased for a certain issue, it requires companies to take a more responsible approach in their strategies that environmental management becomes a core organization framework not just simply a fire-fighting PR agenda.

(Photo credits from Greenpeace)

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Saturdays, Beef and the Dilemma of Food Security in the Third World

When I was young we only get beef on Saturdays, that's how it is in developing countries if you source it out from the local market, you can only get beef once a week and most of the time its Saturday and its in limited supply, if you get to the market late well, better settle for pork then or chicken.  In developing countries, it is much easier to become a locavore since what is available to you are simply local stuff.

With economic growth and the affluence that enabled us to have western standards, things have changed, we can get beef anytime of the week in meat shops at groceries and hypermarkets. Cattle raising and beef farming did try its expansion given the demand but it is still cheaper to most of the beef in the frozen section comes from Australia, New Zealand and of course Brazil. With blast freeze technology, we really could not recognize whether that beef came from a top a nearby hill or halfway around the world. Now, we rarely get beef at the local market, maybe once a month but not too often.

It is the need to cheapen things up that expanded the mega-fast-food's supply chain. Producers are trying to do their best to minimize cost and this means externalizing most of it. However, acting on the short-term interest like cheap fast food right now often produces long-term results that nobody really likes.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Disturbing News from Taco Bell!

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

The video from ONN was forwarded by Squidgirl! Its a Taco Bell spoof....some people thought it was real. Its really funny but I found it disturbing because those kinds of  PR guys go around the fast food offices "spin-doctoring" proven scientific research on the impacts of fast food operations. Those PR people made my work life difficult to a certain degree but it made the fast food smell good in the public just like roasted burger with melting cheese on top....yum!

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The Five Stages of Adopting Corporate Sustainability: Yeah Right, We're at Stage 5..woohoo!

The Five Stages of Adopting Corporate Sustainability
Posted On September 2, 2009 (8:14 am)
Adopting sustainability as a goal now will help corporations develop...
Article taken from Environmental Leader -
URL to article:

The usual Greenwashing firm couldn't care less about the stages of adopting corporate sustainability. I can truly attest to that. Most fast food firms are still stuck in compliance issues which is the core measure of feasible environmental responsibility. Its because profitability is much stronger a driver than responsibility. I think it is the stiff competition that drove most fast food environmental programs to be viewed as a marketing ploy rather than a shift in corporate paradigms. I just hope people   suggesting to the fast food industry to adopt stuff like biodegradable packaging or biodiesel development have to realize that such suggestions would just fall on deaf ears if fast food firms do not have the proper Top Management commitment, organizational infrastructure and comprehensive programs on how they will integrate such suggestions into their environmental management frameworks.

In putting pressure to the fast food, what is essential is to pressure them to change structure not adopt projects like shifting from polystyrene to paper packaging, or getting them to convert used vegetable oil into biodiesel. This will require that civil groups adopt a mindset and skill of a third party auditor make sure that what a Greenwashing firm's commitment to sustainability is indeed at the level in which it is trying to project!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Starbucks Serves up its First Fairtrade Lattes and Cappuccinos Across the UK and Ireland

Starbucks Serves up its First Fairtrade Lattes and Cappuccinos Across the UK and Ireland

Limited only to UK and Ireland?

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Life Cycle Thinking

In my readings, I came across an old article about a cause I once supported during my college days. I guess I had previously written about it in an earlier post. I once supported a popular civil society group in convincing some big fast food company to switch from polystyrene to reusable wares. It was a victory on our part because gradually, the fast food company's ware did change part of their dine-in customers. However, after a decade, these fast food who once got acclaim for their effort in shifting are now condemned as polluters of our waterways because the cost to clean up their effluents is still not present. The point is we should never look at one thing and think such is a great thing, environmentalists still haven't caught up with life cycle thinking. 

I guess this is my problem being most of the time a consultant more than being an advocate which is every now and then. Sometimes, I just know too much because I have been in both sides of the fence, before lobbying for stricter environmental regulations and working for an industry requesting for a compliance holiday. But the point is what matters is our overall impact.

Ever since we were born, we have always consumed resources. A professor who had passed away a year ago once told us in his lecture that it is much more energy efficient to die than to stay alive, wherever he is, he sure has reached a level of optimum efficiency. Looking at the chicken diagram, well I have eaten so many eggs and so many chicken in my lifetime and that consumption had supported the chicken farms, etc., etc.

Going back to the fast food sector, polystyrene packaging is not the only issue, not only waste water or its impact on the Amazon rain forest since most them outsource their beef from that region. We should know that all fast food corporations are made out of people, not in the "soylent green" sense but in the human resource sense. What drives these people to stick to their guns and continue on their unsustainable path is the way they think and how they see things and the need of their immediate customers. It will be quite a while but the transition is on-going.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Will Greenwashers Push the Green Movement Back to the Fringe?

Will Greenwashers Push the Green Movement Back to the Fringe?
Posted On May 1, 2007 (10:37 am)
If you want to attract a loyal green consumer, use...
Article taken from Environmental Leader -
URL to article:

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