Opinion | Drive-thru study isn’t convincing | The Record | Kitchener

Drive-thru study isn’t convincing

December 16, 2008

Tim Hortons has become as much of an esteemed Canadian institution as any corporate entity, but the company’s environmental policy doesn’t have the same top-notch reputation.

The coffee shop chain is going to have to do better than present the type of report it released on drive-thrus if it expects both coffee drinkers and everyone else to take its commitment to the environment seriously.

Concerned about the possibility that Kitchener and other cities could set tough rules or ban drive-thrus at coffee shops, Tim Hortons commissioned a report that said if cars shift from using drive-thru lanes to parking lots they will create more, not less, pollution. The report was prepared by a consulting company, RWDI of Guelph.

At the very least, this result seems to be counter intuitive. Skeptics may feel the report’s conclusions sound like the reports issued by the tobacco industry a few decades ago that denied a link between tobacco and cancer.

Sure enough, Kitchener’s environmental committee treated the report with scathing skepticism.

“It is not a scientific study, it is a piece of marketing and public relations,” committee member Bob McColl said. He wondered not only about the small number of locations used in the study but also about some of the comparisons in the report.

It compared emissions at a drive-thru with emissions made by a 16-horsepower snowblower and an 11-horsepower chainsaw. This comparison just confuses the issue.

What snowblowers and chainsaws do or do not emit has nothing to do with the question: Does taking a vehicle through a drive-thru produce more emissions than a vehicle that stops and starts in a parking space?

Perhaps the answer depends on the length of time a vehicle spends in a drive-thru.

Tim Hortons might even argue persuasively that the amount emitted at drive-thrus is small compared to all the emissions made by all vehicles, but its current strategy makes the company appear defensive. It would be wise to have an open mind and review its entire policy.

http://news.therecord.com/Opinions/article/459371

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