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When McDonald’s opened its first net-zero restaurant in the U.K. last month, the backlash was swift. Despite a number of measures to boost the location’s sustainability — insulation made from sheep’s wool, on-site wind turbines and solar panels, and a biodiversity garden sustained by rainwater collected from the parking lot — environmental advocates cried foul, arguing that the chain had failed to address the outsize environmental impact of its business model.

“McDonald’s plan is greenwashing, plain and simple,” Jim Walsh, a senior energy policy analyst for the nonprofit Food and Water Watch, told Grist.

It’s not a problem unique to the Golden Arches. According to Walsh and others, McDonald’s is one of a growing number of fast food chains that have promoted “meaningless” climate solutions while resisting deeper change. Burger King’s reduced-methane burger, for instance, was criticized as a “gimmick” when it was rolled out back in 2020, since it was based on inconclusive science and did not address broader problems associated with industrial beef production. And more recently, Greenpeace lambasted Taco Bell for “greenwashing” after it announced in April that ... Read more

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