This week McDonalds completed what they’re calling a “new global flagship”, their first zero carbon “restaurant”. Located near Disneyland in Florida, it’s the first net zero fast food outlet in the United States, and it will serve as a test bed for future McDonalds sites.
The low carbon footprint of the building is achieved by generating all its annual energy needs on site, thanks to a large solar canopy that will produce an estimated 600,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. A further 70,000 Kwh will be generated every year by the solar glass in the walls and skylights, and even more by the solar powered street lights in the car park.
Automatic louvred windows open and close to control ventilation and cool the building, and extensive use of green walls inside purify the air. Altogether it’s quite an impressive building.
Of course, while it continues to serve round slabs of cheap beef as its main product line, McDonalds is never going to come anywhere near sustainability. But one step at a time. It will need to address the energy footprint of it outlets as well as the footprint of its menu, and calling this building a flagship is a clear statement of intent.
I also think it’s worth noting because McDonalds is such an iconic brand. It has influence. And this is in Florida, where only 53% of people think climate change is caused by human activity and where renewable energy rates are remarkably low for a place known as the Sunshine State. McDonalds could actually be a very useful ambassador for zero carbon.