Heading out to lunch on Sunday, we dropped in on one of Riverside’s newest unique attractions: a green McDonald’s. Cue the record-scratch sound effect: say what?! One of only 4 such McDonald’s in the country — the only one west of the Mississippi — I had to see this local addition to the oxymoronic master list. Driving up, I was immediately struck by one of the greenest of the green features of this McDonald’s: the low-water landscaping. Using succulents and native plants, as well as mulch and a dry creek bed feature, this landscaping should use less water and still look good, especially during the super hot days of a Riverside summer …
Looking at the landscaping from one end to the other, it’s tidy, but maybe a bit too tidy. It’s like a corporate idea of what low-water landscaping would look like, which I guess it is. I like the low-lying shrubbery and am happy to see shapely agaves being used … The dry creek bed was actually a pool in Sunday’s rain, but, like the landscaping, seems a bit tight overall … it could look a little looser, more natural. In the front of the building there’s a semi-circular wall that incorporates Riverside’s raincross symbol. As a green feature, the landscaping should function well — and design quibbles aside, it’s a good thing. Is there more that’s green here?
Yes, lots, actually: hardscape areas are light-colored to keep down heat emissions; plumbing and fixtures are low-flow to keep down water consumption; 294 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the building will help generate a percentage of the restaurant’s electrical power; recycled denim is used as building insulation (and is visible in a bathroom wall gallery); counters are made of recycled glass; and even the fryers are low-volume to save on oil consumption. More than 80% of McDonald’s paper products are made from recycled materials already, so that’s good, too. Inside the restaurant, attractive placards tout other tactics used such as LED lighting, low-VOC paints and kiroc board made of reclaimed sorghum … all very design-y and current; there’s even a touch screen monitor in the ‘lobby’ that shows you room-by-room what green measures are being employed. Great! … but what about that carbon footprint? Do any of these green features at all offset the massive pollution generated by McDonald’s beef production methods? The simple answer is no. But it is a start, and if it’s a success it just might spur other corporations to become greener. Riverside’s green McDonald’s is hoping for an official Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and it remains to be seen whether it will be awarded to them. The vetting process is quite rigorous, and judging is very strict, with almost every feature of the restaurant being questioned. It will be interesting to see how they fare.
By the way, we didn’t eat lunch at McDonald’s … after checking out Mickey D’s, we had Thai instead.