Environmental Sustainability: Awareness and the Fast Food Customer

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The focus of this inquiry was to discover what decisions fast-food customers made about their trash disposal and to discover how aware people are about waste and environmental sustainability (Christopher, Cooper, and Andrew 691). Fast food consumption behavior in the mall is a good way to use the research methods unobtrusive observation and shadowing. The researcher took unobtrusive measurements by sitting in the food court and covertly observing the different behaviors of the people there. This method allowed the researcher to study the participants before, during, and after they dined in order to see what they did with their trash. Unobtrusive observations allowed the researcher to check for trace measures, e.g., erosion and accretion. Shadowing was also a useful research method in the context of the mall because it allowed the researcher to study what the people did, how far they walked, and where. The requirements for both unobtrusive observation and shadowing were several hours and access to participants. It did not require any consent forms or any technology.

The participants were customers at fast-food restaurants and the coffee shop in the mall on a Saturday during lunch and in the afternoon. The first groups observed were males: young males under 18 years old and university age males. The second group was females of different ages. The third group was a family.

Unobtrusively observation revealed that diners in the food court were mostly males. These males ordered large amounts of food from McDonalds and KFC. They ate with great enthusiasm and produced lots of trash. Trace evidence in the form of accretion left by these males amounted to a lot. Mostly the trash left behind was from McDonald's but there was also trash from KFC. Male diners left McDonald’s wrappers, cartons, Pepsi cups, and cardboard trays along with KFC wrappers and a lot of half-eaten food and french fries on the tables. Food court workers cleaned up all the trash and placed it in one bag.

There was one set of females who ate at the food court. They ordered McDonald's, ate with enthusiasm, and talked while eating. Trace measurements left behind were burger wrappers, Pepsi cups, napkins, and trays but not food. The females disposed of some of their Pepsi cups in trash receptacles but left the rest on their tables. Again, food court workers came and dumped everything in the same trash receptacle. Then they cleaned the table and area so it would look nice for the next customers.

The family with small children came and settled with their shopping bags at a table. The parents ordered at Hardee's and soon they received their food. The father ate quickly and left. He left all of his trash on the table. The mother and children ate longer. The mother did not try to clean the table after they finished eating. They left Pepsi and Hardee's cups and the carton for french fries. They took some food with them for snacks and left ketchup, burger wrappers, and a half-eaten hot dog on a Styrofoam container. The food court worker arrived soon after they left and put everything in one trash receptacle with no attempt to separate for recycling - which is a known solution to aid in the reduction of global warming.

The participants for shadowing were the same customers during the same timeframe plus a large group of young males. Shadowing was a good way to see what people did after they left the fast-food court. The young women walked and looked in the windows of the fashion shops near the food court. There were older females wearing niqabs in groups of three or four shopping. On the other side of the mall, food court customers passed by Starbucks but did not go in. Starbucks had a different set of people; university-aged males in western wear. They sat in large groups and drank coffee, had snacks, and talked loudly.

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The outcomes we observed added greatly to our knowledge about environmental awareness, fast-food consumers, and the production of trash at these restaurants in the mall. Most customers went to McDonald's and KFC for full meals. A family went to Hardees for full meals. By unobtrusively observing and shadowing diners after their meals, both researchers noted that the majority were males. Shadowing revealed that Starbucks was crowded with young men in the afternoon. Many university age males went to Starbucks for coffee and snacks. Through both research methods, the context became very important. Starbucks customers produced less trash because of two factors 1) the customers did not eat full meals and 2) the customers used regular cups instead of paper and plastic cups.

We set out to monitor environmental sustainability and awareness of fast-food customers about their trash disposal. In the mall context over 80% of the customers did not dispose of any trash because the workers disposed of the trash. We assume the fast-food workers were following their employer's policy Our conclusion is that Hardee’s, McDonald's, KFC, and Starbucks owners and managers who do not practice environmental sustainability waste management.

Work Cited

Christopher, T B, Cooper Rachel, L D. Caroline, and B W. Andrew. "Addressing Sustainability Early in the Urban Design Process." Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal. 17.6 (2006): 689-706. Print.