Sustainability and Happy Meal

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"Society is living beyond its means. We are about to dispossess the earth of capital assets in the space of a few lifetimes through patterns of exploitation. These patterns are devastating the natural environment upon which we depend for our long-term survival." Architects for Social Responsibility

The past 20 years have seen a growing realisation that our current model of development is unsustainable. In other words, we are living beyond our means. From the loss of biodiversity with the destruction of rainforests or over fishing, to the negative effect our consumption patterns are having on the environment and the climate. Our way of life is placing an increasing burden on the planet and unless we start to make real progress towards reconciling these problems, we face a future that is less certain and less secure. Sustainable development refers to "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" and is seen as the step towards which society has to take. Design is utterly crucial towards achieving this - helping us rethink how we can deliver products and their benefits without decimating the world around us.

The following design brief will look at how McDonald's can incorporate the concept of sustainable design in it's business. The idea is to redesign the concept of the "Happy Meal", paticularly the Happy Meal toy, so it's less wastefull and helps promote the concept of sustainability to our children, the generation of the future.

The Problem

Currently McDonald's is not viewed as an "ethical" company. This is reinforced by the fact that in 2006 we were voted as the least ethical company by British consumers, putting us ahead of companies such as Nike, Shell and Nestle. McDonald's has suffered dreadful publicity in recent years, thanks in part to the hit documentary "Super Size Me" released in 2004, which chronicled its presenter's decline into ill-health after a sustained diet of only eating McDonald's food. This has hurt the company significantly, and although we have made great strides to change our image with the recent introduction of healthier products on our menu, such as our new range of "premium salads", a lot more still needs to be done. One way McDonald's can effectively improve it's image is by focusing on the environment and taking a sustainable approach to business. This can improve our reputation and standing with society, not to mention reduce our burden on the environment, helping us contribute towards a more sustainable future.

According to the company mission statement, "McDonald's mission is to be the UK's favourite family restaurant and we believe that this involves protecting the environment at the local and global level. We strive to ensure that our operations today do not have a negative impact on the lives of future generations". Indeed, in the past few years McDonald's has taken many strides to reduce it's overall environmental footprint, including:

Running clean-up events in local communities to tackle "grotspots" with schools, local authorities and community groups. Introducing daily "litter partols" in local communities,
Reducing the amount of packaging per product in 2002, reducing usage of paper by 75,058 kg and plastic by 230,953 kg. Recycling 100% of their corrugated cardboard and cooking oil. Using packaging made from post-industrialized recycled paper in their restaurants. Using light sensors in all new restaurants to turn off lighting when it is not needed. Working closely with their distribution company to minimise environmental impacts associated with deliveries to our restaurants, delivering annual savings of 600,000 less litres of fuel

McDonald's is already taking a sustainable approach to it's business and believes in the concept of...
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