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Sustainability

Environment

Making Fast Food Chains More Sustainable

November 19, 2018
sustainable fast food chains

Fast food chains rule the casual eating landscape in the United States and around the world. Companies like Taco Bell and the omnipresent McDonald’s regularly feed enormous proportions of the population — around 84.8 million U.S. adults every day, according to some estimates — in part due to their ability to supply meals quickly and cheaply.

Considering their prevalence in society, it doesn’t seem like fast food chains are going anywhere anytime soon. Accordingly, many people wonder whether these chains can adjust business practices to fit growing demands for ethically sourced food.

Fast food companies impact the sustainability of the food supply, since their practices may differentiate lucrative farming practices from unsuccessful ones. Let’s look at how fast food chains impact the environment and consider how they could become more sustainable in the future.

The Cost of Convenience

When considering sustainability, most people don’t imagine their favorite drive-through burger chain. When compared to eating at home or dining at a local, family-owned restaurant, fast food generally takes a larger toll on the environment.

To provide supply for millions of customers every day, fast food companies must buy large amounts of ingredients. In most cases, local farmers cannot provide all of these ingredients, so stores must ship them from around the world, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

In some cases, the ingredients themselves produce greenhouse gas emissions. Cows raised for beef, for example, emit copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with more warming potential the carbon dioxide. Americans alone consume one billion pounds of beef at McDonald’s annually. When beef makes up a large portion of a fast food company’s menu, as it does at McDonald’s, that chain contributes heavily to climate change.

In addition to the ingredients themselves, fast food companies also produce packaging waste, since most products come wrapped in paper, stored in cardboard boxes and stuffed in paper or plastic bags. It’s easy to see how fast food convenience negatively impacts the planet.

A Sustainable Food Supply

The USDA defines sustainable agriculture as plant and animal production practices that maintain and enrich the environment while filling human food requirements and improving life for farmers and farming communities. This loose definition covers a wide range of practices.

From an environmental standpoint, sustainable agriculture tends to have a stricter definition, one that prioritizes responsible land use, protection of the water supply, reduced carbon emissions and humane conditions for farm animals.

However you define sustainable agriculture, the term grows in influence as the public grows increasingly concerned about environmental issues like climate change and deforestation. Sustainable life for humans depends on a sustainable food supply, which fast food chains are beginning to realize.

Sustainable Baby Steps

Some fast food companies have started sustainability initiatives in hopes of appealing to an environmentally conscious audience. McDonald’s, for example, recently committed to recycling packaging in 100 percent of stores by 2025. Similarly, as part of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, Wendy’s has committed to reducing energy consumption 20 percent by 2025.

From reducing the number of animals raised with antibiotics to purchasing more cage-free eggs, companies have hopped on the sustainability bandwagon in recent years. While these baby steps do help the environment, some believe fast food companies can and should do more to encourage sustainable food production.

Until companies make big changes, eco-conscious consumers may want to limit environmental impact when eating out at restaurants, either by skipping fast food altogether or by choosing menu options with the least impact.

Big Bargaining Power

Here’s the good news: fast food chains have the power to make a big impact on the food supply chain. As they make changes, the rest of the market will follow. And investors are beginning to demand sustainable changes.

When giant fast food companies switch over to sustainable practices, their suppliers have to keep up or risk going out of business. Companies like Chipotle lead the charge by purchasing only responsibly raised pork from sustainable farms. However, small and innovative farming operations sometimes struggle to compete.

Fast food companies often use only one part of the animal raised. This means that sustainable farmers must find buyers for the rest of their products as well. Cheap prices can keep sustainable farms from growing when compared to factory farms. In order to truly provide sustainable food to the market, fast food companies may need to pay more for their ingredients and work together to help farmers improve agricultural practices.

Though fast food companies’ big bargaining power could allow them to make big changes in food production, it’s unclear whether or not they will take this important plunge.

A Better Food Future

Fast food companies have the ability to improve sustainable agriculture. Through small initiatives and changes to business practices, many companies are already moving forward. However, these companies still have a lot of work to do before they can call their menus “sustainable.”

By demanding ethical production and helping small farmers compete, fast food companies may help create a better future for food production.

Oceans

Common Chemicals in Our Water Supply and How to Avoid Them

November 15, 2018
chemicals in water supply

People rely on tap water almost every day of their lives, at least in the United States, where we are lucky enough to have running water available in our homes. Most of the time, people don’t question the safety of their water. However, when a water crisis such as the one in Flint, Michigan captures public attention, people grow more concerned about the chemicals that may exist in their water.

The human instinct to guard the water supply exists for a reason. Water contaminated by undesirable bacteria and chemicals can make people sick, sometimes severely so. For this reason, it’s smart to remain cautious about water safety even when no obvious problems present themselves.

Let’s consider which chemicals enter the water supply and how you can avoid them.

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Environment

Bayer Is Not About to Escape Monsanto or Roundup History

October 15, 2018
monsanto bayer

Bayer had little time to celebrate its purchase of the U.S. agrochemical company Monsanto after an untimely controversy involving the popular herbicide product Roundup. After a $66 billion investment, Bayer suffered public backlash when a school groundskeeper attributed the weed killer to his cancer.

Already an unpopular name among farmers and the general public, Monsanto has a long history of illicit practices with involvement in chemical warfare. Agent Orange, a defoliant used to eliminate forest cover in the Vietnam War, continues to cause deformities in babies born in affected areas.

It stands to reason, then, why Bayer is choosing to discard the Monsanto name — it comes freighted with a dark past of immorality and greed. Bayer cannot do much to escape this most recent controversy, however, which has attracted a significant amount of attention in the context of Monsanto’s reputation.

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Environment

How to Live Green When No One Around You Is

October 1, 2018
how to live green

You’ve done the research and have started taking some steps.

Maybe you’ve eliminated plastic from your life, or you’ve committed to buying organic food and composting or producing as little waste as possible. You’ve discovered a new determination to break old habits and build new ones, to doing your part to help heal the world.

Especially if you are just beginning your green journey, you are probably full of excitement and determination. But more than likely, you are surrounded by people who don’t share your passion — whether it’s unsupportive family members, skeptical friends or antagonistic co-workers, it’s easy to feel alone in your green lifestyle.

It’s only natural to want the people you care about to join you, or at least to understand why you are making different choices. But sometimes, no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get our people on our side. Here are some ways to handle relationships with people who aren’t supportive of your new sustainable lifestyle.

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Environment

What to Know About Zero Waste Week 2018

September 17, 2018
Zero waste week

If you’re like most people, when you toss something into the trashcan, you probably forget about it almost immediately. That piece of rubbish leaves your sigh with the rest of your trash and begins its journey. Although you may not give this “journey” a second thought, it’s happening nonetheless. Your waste ultimately ends up in a landfill, at the bottom of the ocean or, even worse, dumped into the heart of a cute and cuddly land-dwelling creature’s home.

This doesn’t mean you should never toss anything in the trashcan again. It just means you have an opportunity to cut down on your waste and make a smaller impact on Mother Earth. This is why we have Zero Waste Week. It all started with environmental enthusiast Rachelle Strauss, a woman who decided about a decade ago that it was time to take action to change the planet. Keep reading to learn more about the revolution she launched and how you can get involved.

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Oceans

What Are the Most Effective Water Pollution Solutions?

September 13, 2018
water pollution solutions

Water pollution is one of our most pressing environmental problems. We all need water to survive, and as population grows, so does the demand for clean water. The pollution of the world’s oceans, rivers, lakes and streams, however, is making it harder to meet this demand. Water pollution also harms fragile ecosystems and causes widespread environmental problems.

There are various water pollution solutions that can help to mitigate this issue and prevent it from getting worse. Here are some of the most effective ones.

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Green Technology

Uber Electric Cars Are on the Way

September 6, 2018
uber electric cars

Have you recently booked an Uber trip? There’s a chance the driver’s vehicle was an electric car, but Uber still has progress to make in that area.

To put things in perspective, 4 billion people took Uber trips in 2017, but only 4 million of those were in Uber electric cars.

The relatively few drivers who have electric vehicles (EVs) and work for Uber face challenges such as having difficulty finding charging points. In addition, the time it takes to recharge the cars interferes with time they could spend earning money.

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Environment

10 Sustainable Fashion Designers to Watch

September 3, 2018
sustainable fashion designers

Does it seem like your desire to be eco-conscious doesn’t always fit with your eagerness to keep up with attire trends? If so, you probably haven’t focused on sustainable fashion designers. Here are 10 that are disrupting the clothing sector and showing kindness to the planet while they’re at it.

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Green Technology

In Light of National Aviation Day, How Can We Make Flight Greener?

August 16, 2018
National Aviation Day

On August 19, you can celebrate National Aviation Day. Perhaps you’ll do that by taking a flight to a place you’ve always wanted to explore, making good on your goal of signing up for flight lessons or just spending time feeling thankful we have that method of transportation at our disposal.

But, despite all the conveniences and innovations traveling by plane brings, it’s not kind to the environment. So, what can we do to start changing that bit by bit?

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Environment

10 Best Green Living Blogs

August 2, 2018
green living blogs

So, you’re just getting started on your sustainability journey, and you’re wondering how you can learn more about the topic? You have plenty of options thanks to today’s thriving green living blogging community.

Here are 10 of the best green living blogs to subscribe to for regular updates and tips about living a greener life.

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