Today, after a short bus ride,  we were met by a  Ms. An-Sofie Hendrickx and Paolino Miranda at what appeared to be a trendy sit-down restaurant. It turned out to be the McDonald's location we would be visiting in Waterloo, Belgium. It was one of the nicest McDonald's we have ever seen and apparently this is how all of the McDonalds are designed. Bottles of recycled oils were displayed in a large glass case and pictures of the sustainability of the building materials and green initiatives lined the walls. Leather seats  and stools. Another unique quality included the change of Mcdonalds colors froom red and yellow to green and yellow. The in-your-face bright McDonald's signs that we were all used to is replaced by a  modern wooden sign with white lettering.

The focus for these restaurants has moved from "fast food" to "serving good food fast." We were surprised by how many initiatives they carried out to reduce waste and energy consumption. Currenty, there are seven initiatives including cold rooms and refridgeration that utilizes cold air from the outside. Similarly, rainwater is used in the toilets and the energy generated in the bathrooms is from green energy. Not only is McDonalds trendier in Belgium, the employees are extrememly happy and have won several awards and recognitions for being one of the best places to work.

After the presentation by Mr. Miranda, we were treated to lunch! It was really fun to experience McDonald's in another country, especially becuase it looked different and the food was different as well. Even though we all ordered different things like "royal deluxe" and "gourmet chicken" all of them had a grainy mustard. The fries however were unchanged.  After the lunch we were treated to a presentation by a company that partners with McDonalds to collect waste.   All waste is recycled and used for things such as energy pellets and biodiesel. The bright green trucks McDonalds has for its recycling are tremendously large and we were both able to see inside and smell them!

We continued our daily adventure at the Flemish Business club in Brussels named Club De Warande. The club was positionned right across from the United States Ambassy near a very beautiful park. We were  impressed with the beauty of the building and truly enjoyed the atmosphere.

Our first speaker of the afternoon, Arnaut Petit,  was a representative from the COPA-COGECA "Europe in the Voice of Farmers." We found his speech very interesting and listened him speak to  the main challenges the European Union is facing ragarding agricultural development. The speaker referred to issues such as the 2008 dairy crisis, animal welfare,  food safety, as well as GMOs. It was really interesting to hear the speakers talk about GMOs so passionately after learning so much about them in class.

The second presenter, Thierry de l'Escaille, Secretary General-CEO, followed with a presentation on the challenges farmers face in the EU. He shared several very interesting points that members of the European Landowner organization (ELO) face. The ELO is comprised of 60 federations and produce foods, fiber, farming landscapes, and buildings in the countryside. Some of the key components that ELO must consider are urbanization, population, diminishing poverty, need for energy by industry, climate change, demand for water, demand for biodiversity, and problem with disease. He also shared that only 22% of the Earth (18% from ocean and 4% from land) can be used for production. It was interesting to find out farmers must pay irrigation taxes on water. Thierry concluded with a push for an increase in investment in agricultural farmlands for a growing population in the future.We also met Maurice House who was an American representative for the U.S. in the European Union. He was very confident in his convictions and gave a forceful presentation that touched on many topics such as GMOs and hormones. His insights gave us alot to dicuss.  

Our last speaker of the day was Andreas Pilzecker, of the European Commission working in the Unit 4 (Bioenergy, Biomass, Forestry and Climate change) division of DG Agriculture and Rural development. Andreas gave us a summary of the current renewable energy plan in the EU and the targets that have been set as well as an update on the progress being made toward reaching those targets. He gave us a breakdown on the types and amounts of renewable energy being used as well as the current issues with the energy production and its sustainability. He emphasized that the EU has to move toward the use of second generation biofuels because of the competition with food crops. The trend is for increasing use of dedicated energy crops for biomass, which is supposed to account for more than 10% of total energy consumption in the EU by 2020 and more than 50% of renewable energy sources in the same year. We were excited to hear about so many of the things we have studied and learned through class and research. Energy can be so much fun! We felt like experts, almost anyways.

After a day full of learning and taking in information about various agricultural food policies, we were able to mingle with several University of Illinois alumni whom hold or have previously held positions in the EU. This included our host, Baron Piet van Waeyenberge, a 1962 Alumni of ACE.As expected, all of the alumni still held their alma mater in the highest regards. Each was excited to share their unique experiences abroad as well as inquiry more about our studies and itinerary. All in all, the day was very exciting as well as informative. We really did not realize how large Brussels is and it was great to see another part of the city from the city center we had seen the day before. After enjoying some refreshments and hors' devoirs such as raw salmon and prosciutto with melon,which was a new experience for many of us, we hopped on the bus and headed back to Leuven.

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Blog Writer
Theresa Miller, Visiting Academic Advisor and Marketing Coordinator