An Exhaustingly Bad Habit

Climate change is a global problem, but a big part of the solution
lies in the hands of individuals – including the millions
of people who drive vehicles. If you have ever left your
car’s engine running while waiting to pick someone up, if you
have ever been stuck in a traffic jam or if you have ever sat with
your car idling while waiting in line at a drive-through teller or
restaurant, then you are part of the problem.
Idling for five minutes a day in a small car will burn 38 liters
of gas a year and release 88 kilograms of carbon dioxide (twice
as much in a large car.) For every thousand small and large cars
that idle for five minutes a day, that’s 132 tonnes!
A recent study suggests that in the peak of winter, Canadians
voluntarily idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than
75 million minutes a day – equivalent to one vehicle idling for
144 years.
According to Natural Resources Canada, for every liter of
gasoline used, the average car produces about 2.4 kilos of carbon
dioxide. If every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided
idling by five minutes a day, collectively over the year, we
would save 680 million liters of fuel and over 1.6 million tonnes
of greenhouse gas emissions.
Idling is Bad for our Health
Research has demonstrated a direct link between contaminants
in vehicle emissions and respiratory problems. Smog –
caused in part by vehicle exhaust – results in increased hospital
admissions, respiratory illnesses and premature deaths, particularly
in urban areas. Health Canada estimates that more than
5,000 Canadians die prematurely each year because of air pollution,
and thousands more become unnecessarily ill. The World
Health Organization reports three million people now die each
year from the effects of air pollution. This is three times more
than those who die each year in auto accidents. Children are particularly
vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe faster
than adults and inhale more air relative to their body weight (approximately
50 percent more per pound than adults, according
to an EPA information sheet on school bus idling.)
For that reason, school buses and parents waiting outside
schools create a major idling problem. Air pollution also causes
unnecessary difficulty for elderly people and those with respiratory
problems, such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
These health problems could become even more common
and pronounced as climate change progresses. That’s because
climate change results in more frequent and severe heat waves,
which tend to make smog and air pollution worse.


Challenge for Canadians

Most of the energy we use each day produces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. On average, each Canadian generates just over five tonnes of greenhouse gases per year by driving vehicles, heating and cooling homes, washing and drying clothes and using other appliances. By making choices that reduce our GHG emissions, we are doing our part to address climate change.

“Canadian motorists idle their vehicles an average of five to 10 minutes per day,” said a Natural Resources news release. “A recent study suggests that in the peak of winter, Canadians voluntarily idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than 75 million minutes a day – equivalent to one vehicle idling for 144 years.”

If idling was avoided – most cars are ready to go after 15 to 30 seconds – Canadians would save 1.8-million litres of fuel per day, preventing 4,500 tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. Natural Resources Canada goes on to argue that, beside wasting money, fuel and contributing to pollution, idling damages an engine. That’s because an idling engine runs at a cool temperature and does not burn all the fuel that leaves residue on the cylinder walls and can cause damage.

Furthermore, idling an engine does nothing to warm up other parts of the car. Other “myths” include the suggestion that starting and stopping a car causes wear and tear and that it uses up more fuel. “Believe it or not, more than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel that restarting the engine,” Natural Resources found. More frequent use of the starter and battery adds $10 a year to the maintenance of a car, far less than the money saved by using less fuel.

  • Transport – Cars travel about 15,000 km a year, creating six tonnes of greenhouse gases. You can cut greenhouse gas emissions now, by using your vehicle less.

  • Drive less. Reduce the number of car journeys you make, by planning ahead. Can you do without your car? Live close to your workplace, use public transport, cycle, walk, car pool or use a taxi. They are all options for helping take vehicles off the road.

Thank you for choosing to no longer use drive-thrus…

On behalf of our children, your children and children all over our small planet - thank you for your time and consideration.
Council of Canadians

Change Begets Change

If we are strong enough, brave enough to do what is right we will set an example for other cities. If enough other cities each care enough, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others – from other people, other corporations, even other countries.

The Bottom Line on Drive-thrus

There is one basic issue here.  That is the basic reality that drive thrus are wrong.  Simple.  End of discussion. The main issue is that there are going to be many more issues that will have to be tackled – issues that are not nearly as clear cut and simple.  So drive thrus have to go. If we cannot sacrifice a convenience such as drive-thrus in order to secure the possibility of life on this planet for our children – then how can we ever hope to make the hard choices, the hard decisions that we will have to make in order to save our species. We do not need the industry’s science. Because we share an environment, that does not mean we have to share the industry’s obtuse ideas on economics and environment.

Social Aspects – Community

So do we choose to protect and keep non essential items such as drive-thrus or do we choose to re-design our planet in which future generation can live?  The benefits are immense – environmental health, physical health.  People stepping out of their cars symbolize people re-engaging in community. Such a culture shift is a step to encourage people to slow down, walk or bike, and to ride mass transit.  Slowing down is necessary in this fast-paced culture. We must organize and embrace a resistance to the momentum of running.  If we learn how to slow down and nourish ourselves, we can pay more attention to living sustainably and mindfully in our communities.  Many of today’s problems are rooted in efficiency and convenience; we zoom from place to place without slowing down to enjoy the simple joys around us. Sustainable yet slower modes of transportation like walking and biking, getting us out of our cars and help us to do that. This gives us the clarity and mindfulness to recognize things as they are. When you are mindful, you recognize what is going on, what is happening in the here and now. Without mindfulness we make and spend our money in ways that destroys us and other people. We use our wealth in such a way that we destroy ourselves and other people.

The Bottom Line – Idling Kills

There are now more refugees displaced by climate change environmental disasters than there are refugees displaced by war.  People with families – just like us.  It is sad to know that the people who did little to  contribute to climate change are the very ones suffering the most.  The poor choices we continue to make are killing other people.  Other species.  Each and every minute.  Are we so entitled that we cannot see beyond our own wants?  Not even when it comes to the health of our own children?  Does this not go directly against the most natural instinct in every woman and man?  The natural instinct to protect your child at any and every sacrifice?  The damage to our children’s lungs goes largely unnoticed.  We don’t see our children’s lungs each morning at the breakfast table. Toronto’s medical officer has released a report stating a 30% reduction in vehicle emissions could save 200 lives, one billion dollars a year in health care costs and 68,000 asthma attacks for children a year.  If we had 68,000 children dying a year from leukemia – it would be nothing less than that of a crisis.  One must wonder why there is such apathy towards these numbers when pollution is something we can clearly defeat. The selfish excuse to use drive-thrus because you have children is the poorest excuse when it is ultimately our children’s lives, by way of their health and their future that we are destroying.  If we love our children – surely we can do something as simple as stop idling wherever possible. Whether it is at a railway tracks, waiting at the school or at a drive-thru – the end result is the same.  Idling kills.
Natural Resources Canada clearly states: If your car is stopped for more than ten seconds – turn off your engine.

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