McDonald's in Bethesda is world's 1st green-certified location for megabrand

| by S.A. Whitehead
McDonald's in Bethesda is world's 1st green-certified location for megabrand

photo istock

The iconic "golden arches" might have a slight green tinge at the McDonald's River Road location in Bethesda, Maryland, the world's first store in the massive burger chain to achieve sustainability certification by the 27-year-old nonprofit Green Restaurant Association.

This is no easy task; as a level one-certified Green Restaurant, the location had to meet performance standards in 26 environmentally beneficial areas involving the handling and use of food, water, waste, energy, disposables and chemicals and pollution. 

"It is an exciting time to be part of the brand as McDonald's is working to make sustainability the new normal."

 - Kari Swenson, GRA-certified McDonald's owner

Likewise, this particular restaurant — owned and operated by franchisee Kari Swenson — has gone even further by implementing full-scale recycling, eliminating the use of Styrofoam and other polystyerene foam products and paper towels in the restrooms. The store is also using:

  • 100 percent LED lighting.
  • High-efficiency prerinse sprayers and hand sink aerators.
  • High-efficiency Energy Star equipment.
  • Employer-sponsored public transportation cards. 

"I applaud McDonald's at River Road in becoming the first McDonald's in the world to become a Certified Green Restaurant," GRA founder and CEO Michael Oshman wrote in an email to this website. "This McDonald's location is an environmental trailblazer for all McDonald's and QSRs, and shows that it's possible for any type of restaurant to integrate environmentally sustainable practices."

The first Green Restaurant Association-certified McDonald's restaurant
is located on River Road in Bethesda, Maryland. Photo provided.

Swenson said she's proud of her staff and particularly happy that she is not only helping the environment, but also saving quite a bit of cash that can now go toward making her restaurant even better. 

"The exciting thing is that by switching to LED lighting, addressing water reduction, and by initiating daily waste recycling practices, we not only help the environment, but we achieve significant cost savings," she wrote in an email.

"These savings can be reinvested into our facility and employees to provide a better experience to our guests and staff. I am extremely proud of our team at River Road for embracing the changes and becoming the first McDonald's in the country to become a Certified Green Restaurant."

It's a significant achievement that warrants a deeper look. In this edition of Flash Focus, we aim the lens at Swenson and her team at the world's first Green Restaurant-certified McDonald's to find out how and why she and her team made this happen. 

Q: When did you decide to take this on and why?  
In June 2017, an environmental sustainability specialist from our county referred me to the Green Restaurant Association. We had enormous success converting our lighting to LED and it significantly reduced our electricity consumption. 

With the volume we do at McDonald's, I knew there were other opportunities to reduce, and wanted guidance on how to move the needle. Working with the Green Restaurant association helped us to identify opportunities to save on  consumption as they provided very specific measures. For example, they identified specific item numbers and websites to purchase low-flow adapters for all our sinks, making it very easy.

Q: Was it more or less difficult than you thought to accomplish this goal?  
The most difficult aspect was working with our waste hauler to separate our trash and recycling.  The vendor was not committed to recycling and after a month of witnessing all our recycling being tossed in with the trash, we ultimately had to change vendors.  

Q: Do you own other McDonald's locations and, if so, do you plan to obtain this certification for those locations? 
Our restaurants are currently recycling, using energy-efficient LED lights where possible, and receiving employee transportation benefits. I envision working with the Green Restaurant Association to certify another restaurant and take it to the next level.  

Q: Do your customers know that you've attained this significant goal? 
Our regular customers have seen our addition of recycling bins in the restaurant lobby and have acknowledged and appreciated the changes. We live in a progressive community and as we spread the word on our certification, I believe our customers will be supportive and help us achieve our goals. 

Q: Has McDonald's corporate leadership been involved in these efforts? 
Yes. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It is an exciting time to be part of the brand, as McDonald's is working to make sustainability the new normal.

Topics: Burger/Steak/BBQ, Business Strategy and Profitability, Financial News, Food Cost Management, Going Green, Social Responsibility, Sustainability

Companies: McDonald's

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

Sponsored Links:

Related Content

Latest Content

Subscribe for QSR trends & news

QSR Industry News


Quick Service Restaurant Trends


Restaurant tech: 1 change = dozens more