When a fast-food chain like KFC says that it is opening an eco-friendly restaurant, our ears perk up. Is the fried chicken vendor offering pesticide-free salads along with hormone antibiotic*-free chicken? Perhaps it's silly to assume that a food company would work first on making its food supply more "eco-friendly." Instead, KFC is opening a store in Indianapolis that will feature waste recycling, reduced use of foam, LED lighting, locally sourced building materials, and parking preference for hybrid vehicles.
These are positive developments; any time a large chain starts experimenting with LEED certified buildings, the planet benefits. But some of these things should have been implemented long ago. (Waste recycling? Why not get rid of foam altogether?) And others lead to obvious questions: Using locally sourced building materials is nice, but how about selling locally sourced and organic food?
This is not an impossible demand. Walmart--admittedly not a fast-food chain, but a huge food vendor--is doubling its sales of produce from local farms, and Chipotle sells organic products, as well as hormone and antibiotic-free meats. Even KFC Canada already uses hormone-free chicken.
So yes, it makes sense to test out LEED buildings, if for no other reason than that they will save on energy costs. But it also makes sense for KFC to work on its menu, because ultimately, that's what could make a difference for potential customers, who would get to eat slightly less unhealthy processed chicken parts.
*Correction: You can't buy chicken in America that isn't hormone free. It's mandatory. We regret the error; KFC's chicken is totally hormone-free, like everyone else's. They use antibiotics "judiciously."
[Photo by Mike Saechang]