September 18, 2019
McDonald’s Corporation / Steve Easterbrook, President and CEO 110 N Carpenter Street / Chicago, IL 60607-2101
Dear Steve Easterbrook:
I grew up with two hard-working parents, in a family of four. Because of my parents’ full schedules throughout my childhood, our family generally ate out two meals per week, and one of those meals was usually fast food. McDonald’s, as a fast-food franchise, is a very early part of my dining experience and cultural awareness.
Six hours from Chicago by car, the first white-and-red-tiled McDonald’s we frequented was a drive-up. The golden arches were singular—one adjacent to the other, as if guarding the little magic building which produced consistently perfect, golden French fries, super rich shakes and reliably filling sandwiches. Eating there was like basking in a spot of California sunshine during the long winters of the Upper Midwest. (I think the Beach Boys’ music playing on the car radio might have helped a little bit or the sunny feeling that warm food produces in a child’s full belly.)
Now, back to our story. Our family counted the rising number of burgers, updated on the sign each week, along with headquarters, as well as enjoying the introduction of the Big Mac to the menu. We appreciated that our McDonald’s restaurant, as busy as it was, would also take the time to make a plain fish sandwich for the likes of my younger sister, who was a particular, particular eater. (Yes, two particulars.)
As a young, conscientious American family, we were on-board with the put-your-litter-in-its-place campaign. My father, a teacher, drew attention to the printing of the campaign’s slogan on McDonald’s packaging. As a household, we celebrated McDonald’s corporate decision to changeout polystyrene clamshells for biodegradable cardboard. (We might have held a bias on this decision because we lived in paper-making country.) The conscientious, corporate move on McDonald’s part to phase out all-white napkins and take-out bags and replace them with their natural counterparts made us, as a family, feel like you cared about our rivers and streams, the very waterways where the logs for making paper used to float to the papermills.
Because I grew up in a teaching household, each of these seemingly minor decisions granted my father additional teaching moments. “Industry leader” and “corporate responsibility” entered my awareness, shaped my observing mind and expanded my growing vocabulary.
The time has come for McDonald’s to reassume its position as an industry leader of corporate responsibility.
I am writing to request that you consider the use of bamboo utensils, going retro with your straws by reintroducing paper, phasing out the use of plastic drinking cups in favor of a biodegradable alternative/s, as well as switching to tree-free toilet paper. Then, tell us about it. Education is a two-way street. These may seem like large requests, but I know that McDonald’s has a history of solution-based leadership. I trust you to do that which you have been able to do in the past—innovate and help us all move forward.
Because I sent out more than one letter, choosing to mail to multiple corporate officers, I received two responses.
October 17, 2019
Thank you for contacting McDonald’s about the environment. Like you, we care about the environment and are always looking for ways to preserve it.
McDonald’s has a long history of helping the environment. More than 40 years ago, our corporation’s founder, Ray Kroc, picked up litter for several blocks surrounding his first restaurant. Today, we remain committed to responsible and environmentally sound practices in every aspect of our business.
For more information about our commitment to the environment, please visit our website at www. macdonalds.com.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact us about this important issue.
It is 2020, and I pick up the trash in and around my neighborhood, which is about seven blocks from a MacDonald’s, as well as a variety of other fastfood chains. Alas, I have not yet had a sighting of the benevolent ghost of a Ray Kroc doing trash pick-up in my neighorhood. The trash I collect includes many nonbiodegradable, plastic drink cups from MacDonald’s.
This is the second response from the same customer service representative.
December 04, 2019
Thank you for taking the time to re-contact McDonald’s about our sustainability efforts and the use of plastic straws.
At McDonald’s, we are committed to improving the environmental and social impact of the way food is farmed, produced and served. We are working to maximize the efficiency of our restaurants, create smarter packaging and transform waste into new resources. McDonald’s is resolved to be part of the solution and influence change.
As you stated, plastic pollution is a problem. But it’s also an opportunity for creative thinking and innovation. We continue to work with our suppliers to seek innovative, sustainable packaging designs. It takes a lot of work, effective partnerships and new technologies, and we’re committed to doing it.
Again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s.