McDonald’s turns green in Germany

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Out with the ketchup-red. By 2010, all new McDonald’s restaurants in Germany will have its “golden arches” emblazoned on a hunter green background instead.

The reason? McDonald’s Germany wants to reposition the restaurant as a bastion of environmental friendliness, Der Spiegel reported.

“Simplicity and a focus on the essentials is the new design philosophy,” Holger Beeck, deputy head of McDonald’s in Germany, was quoted in the report.  All 40 new restaurants set to open in 2010 will adhere to the new design sensibilities. In addition, the façade of the new restaurants will include natural stone and wood. By the end of the year, more than 100 McDonald’s restaurants will be outfitted with the new design style.

“With the new appearance, we want to clarify our responsibility and relationship with natural resources,” Beeck said.

It’s a big move for one of the world’s most recognizable logo. So much so that some in the Twitter community thought it was a joke. A tweet from Twittizen23 wrote: “Erst greenwashing, jetzt greenlabeling?” Signs of green have already started appearing at its 1.4 million euro (US$2.1 million) flagship store at the Munich airport that recently opened. Some of their commercials have already started to spot the green logo too.

McDonald’s is “trying hard to distance itself from the competition (think Burger King) based on the theme of sustainability, and it fits with the recent developments in the market,” a German marketing blog wrote. Most Germans still associate McDonald’s with obesity and litter, according to Der Spiegel. A greener color can probably help change its image, the article suggested.

mcdonalds-koelnDesign-conscious Germans agree, with some calling it a “bold” move. Others begged to differ. One commentator on a German  design blog said it was a bad call and might cause the brand to lose its unique identity it’s built up over the years. Another said if the yellow and red was a reflection of its food (think fries, buns and ketchup), then the deep green in its logo made it look like it makes bad salads.

“Im Photo mit Kai erinnert mich das Gruen ein bisschen an das Gruen was sie in FIlmen wie Platoon benuetzen oder an schlecht gewordenem Salat… aber irgendwie nicht an was gesundem, ” commented Sascha.

The move didn’t quite resonate with an environmentally-conscious German blogger though. Suggesting that McDonald’s was being hypocritical about going “green”, he said the company should have done more to reduce its product packaging. “When I was with my wife and my 2 sons to eat there, this produces more packaging waste as regulated 3 days eating at home,” he wrote in German.

Not everyone agrees. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace, which has heavily criticized McDonald’s (and practically everyone else) for its food processing methods, lauded the logo change. McDonald’s has to be given some credit for trying to be more environmentally friendly, though much of what it has done to go green has taken place in the US. Last year, they opened their first “green restaurant” (in Chicago) for a new pilot program on green building and received the Gold LEED rating. In one location in North Carolina (opened last month), it has actually installed a charging station for electric vehicles.

This is not the first time McDonald’s in Germany has gone out of the way to align itself environmentally with folks of Germany, one of the world’s greenest countries and McDonald’s third largest market, behind the US and Japan. In March last year, the company went to the extent of redesigning the lids of its McFlurry ice cream lids to save German hedgehogs.

Do you think going the green way will cause McDonald’s competitors to turn green with envy? Or is going eco-friendly a moral obligation it has to fulfill? And if so, is the fast food chain doing enough?

Bye boycotts, carrotmobs are cooler.

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Forget boycotts. Over the weekend some Berliners queued, bought and chomped their way through a restaurant as part of a new movement to foster a greener environment.

Carrotmobs is a relatively new wave of environmental activism that spreading quickly in Germany. The concept is simple – and best phrased by TIME magazine: Instead of steering clear of environmentally backward stores, why not reward businesses with mass purchases if they promise to use some of the money to get greener? Put simply, it’s a reverse boycott.

Eve and Adam’s was the participating store in Berlin’s second carrotmob. The restaurant pledged to donate 45 percent of their profits that day into making their shop more energy efficient and hence reduce their carbon footprint. The theme this round: WIR STUERMEN DEN HEISSESTEN IMBISS IN MITTE – which translates literally into “We conquer the hottest diner in Berlin Mitte“, Berlin Mitte being one of the city’s well-known district/borough around the famous Brandenburg Gate. Berliner and many north Germans call their boroughs in a city ‘Kiez’. “Mein Kiz” means “my ‘hood”.

Some 500 turned up for the event and there was a good buzz on Twitter. Several bloggers including Hamburg-based Henning thought the concept was “an extremely clever idea, which should be supported”.

Organizers hailed the event as a resounding success and reported a total amount of €2334.34 (about US$3,500) spent at the store during the even – €300 more than the first carrotmob held in June. That works out to about just under US$1,600 that the store will set aside to make its business more green. The restaurant too made its largest ever turnover that day, according to Max Patzig, who tweeted on his page.

The first carrotmob in Berlin held earlier in June reeled about US$1,000 – the grocery store, Spätverkauf: Multikulti, only committed 35 percent of the day’s profits – and was spent on items such as energy-efficient light bulbs and a thermal protector. That in effect helps save the grocer 1454 kWh of electricity per year, and a reduction of 1152 kilograms of CO2. It’s not clear at this point exactly how Eve and Adam’s will spend the money.

Similar carrotmobs were also held in Munich and Bielefeld within the past couple of weeks.

This fledgling movement has its roots in the United States though. Started by Brent Schulkin, a San Francisco–based activist turned entrepreneur, the first carrotmob took place on March 29, 2008. Hundreds of green-minded patrons poured into a San Francisco convenience store after Schulkin solicited bids from 23 stores in the area to find the business that would promise to spend the highest percentage of Carrotmob profits on more energy-efficient lighting

“Traditional activism revolves around conflict,” Schulkin told TIME magazine. “Boycotting, protesting, lawsuits — it’s about going into attack mode,” says the former Googler and onetime game developer. “What’s unique about a Carrotmob is that there are no enemies.” The focus is on positive cooperation, using the power of the casual consumer to help save the planet.

Out of the total number of carrotmobs conducted, nearly half were done in Europe though. It’s little surprise given that the Europeans – particularly the Germans – have long seen to be more conscious of the environment.

An American college tutor who grew up in Germany wrote on his site saying that environmentalism is much stronger, if more abstract, in Germany.

“The abstract, big German environmental issues, such as the greenhouse effect, the ozone hole, energy saving, overconsumption, and garbage reduction are almost non-existent in American public debate.”

Environmentalism in the US is often very down-to-earth: getting industry to clean up a certain toxic waste site, protecting a particular endangered species, or preventing a particular piece of land from being developed, he writes.

“While all German political parties have embraced the notion that environmentalism is not detrimental to economic progress and in fact can spur technological innovation and provide job and export opportunities, most American politicians still see environmental regulations as a direct threat to jobs and to the competitiveness of US businesses.”

Carrotmob Berlin #2 from Andreas Förster on Vimeo.

Do you think this new movement will have harder bite in environmentalism? What would work in Germany that might not work here in the US when combating climate change?