Tim Horton’s Places Blame On Consumer Demand

Study defends drive-thru air

Claims regular cafes have larger carbon footprint


You’re sitting in a drive-thru, waiting in a long line of idling cars for that morning cup of jo from the local Tims.

Is it good for the environment?

Not really, but it’s still better than the alternative, according to an Ontario Restaurant and Hotel Association report.

"There’s a lot of myths about drive-thrus and cars," said Robert Evans, president of the association.

"When we talk about the full environmental impact, in the end, a drive-thru restaurant has a smaller (carbon) footprint. The building is smaller, the parking lot is 20% smaller (which) reduces urban sprawl. It’s not just idling, it’s the total package."


According to the study by consulting firm RWDI, a parking-only location produces 20% more smog and 60% more greenhouse gases than a drive-thru outlet, most of that coming from time spent looking for a parking spot.

"When you drive into the parking lot, you have to drive around and look for a spot," Evans said. "You may have to drive around twice or wait for someone to back out."


Dr. Quentin Chiotti, a senior scientist at Pollution Probe, questioned some of the report’s conclusions.

"My feeling is how many Tim Hortons do we have that actually have a parking problem? It’s not an issue of driving around looking for a parking spot."

Chiotti was surprised by the study’s finding that many emissions come from restarting an engine when leaving.

"The new generation of cars don’t have that start-up problem," Chiotti said. "The argument that you’re burning more fuel by turning it off and restarting it is false."

Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish wants to continue working with the restaurant industry to reduce emissions. Mississauga council has been fighting the growth of drive-thrus for the past five years.

"If you’ve got a drive-thru and there’s a huge lineup, you open two windows," she said. "If that’s not good enough, you open four windows.

"If you get people through the lines quickly, you’re making more money, and they’re causing less mess."

Tim Hortons has implemented a number of changes and continues to look for areas of improvement.

"We’re trying to cut down service times with better location design and not requiring signatures on credit card purchases," spokesperson Nick Javor said. "But drive-thru restaurants are a consumer trend and a consumer demand."



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