AUDIO (9:55) | Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group | Tim Hortons Greenwash


In case you missed it the first time.

We are sending this out as there are many new councillors across the country that have recently taken on this issue.

This strategy of “manufacturing scientific uncertainty” comes directly from the industry’s denialism playbook. The industry invests big money for public relations campaign to raise doubts about the increasingly definitive scientific evidence. They realize that if you could argue about the science, then you can stop municipalities from trying to address the problem. If the new ‘science’ which is bought and paid by industry doesn’t work, they fall back on the argument of ‘choice’ – whatever the risk to society, it the citizens right to do so. This is just another example of industry’s scientific consultants who specialize in product defense. Not unlike tobacco, oil and climate change. Corporate spin experts have recognized that manufacturing doubt works and if they do it well they can stop government legislation, or at least slow them down for years. This is a growing trend that disingenuously demands proof over precaution in the realm of public health.

AUDIO: Reporter Giacomo Panico discusses the details on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning

Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group

Last Updated: Monday, August 11, 2008 | 11:35 AM ET

CBC News

A federal government website that highlights the negative health and environmental effects of idling your engine has revamped its message after meeting with a group representing drive-thru restaurants.

‘It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling.’— Ottawa Coun. Clive Doucet

The “Idle-Free Zone,” a website managed by Natural Resources Canada’s office of energy efficiency, was removed for review following a meeting with the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. A revised version was posted five months later, on July 22, that:

  • Advises drivers to shut off their engines after 60 seconds of idling; the previous version advocated turning engines off after 10 seconds.
  • Does not refer to 5,000 premature deaths annually in Canada linked to air pollution, as the previous version did, and no longer includes posters bearing images such as a girl choking and slogans such as “Idling is killing our environment.”

The website says its purpose is to help communities and environmental groups stop engine idling.

Carol Buckley, director general of the office of energy efficiency, confirmed that the restaurant association met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn on Feb. 7.

According to Lunn’s spokeswoman, Louise Girouard, no one from the office of energy efficiency attended the meeting. Girouard confirmed that an e-mail was sent from Lunn’s office on Feb. 8 asking the site to be taken down.

Buckley said the site was temporarily removed because the office didn’t want to leave any misleading information online while it was being revised.

“We wanted to make sure that the website reflected all of the latest data and information that was available about this topic,” she said, adding that in the end the changes were “not really significant.”

The change to the recommended amount of idling time was made because of access to new research taking into account the wear and tear on a car’s battery and starter caused by shutting off and restarting the engine, she said. Previously, the site said such wear and tear was minimal.

The new site now also refers readers to Health Canada instead of detailing the health impacts of idling because Natural Resources felt that wasn’t really their jurisdiction and they wanted to focus on the effects on climate change, Buckley added.

“I think the emphasis in the earlier text was a little strong. Today’s vehicles are more efficient when it comes to smog emissions,” she said.

Site ‘lacks balance’: restaurant group

Joyce Reynolds, executive vice-president for government affairs for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the group corresponded with a number of government officials at various levels about the website, which was used by many municipalities to develop their own anti-idling bylaws.

‘What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling.’— Joyce Reynolds, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association

“Our concern is that municipal decision-making must be based on facts and scientific evidence,” she said. “And we were seeing some municipalities that were focusing on the health impacts of idling based on information that was incorrect and misleading.”

The association argues Natural Resources Canada didn’t put enough weight on pollution caused by a puff of contaminants produced when an engine is restarted after being shut down.

Reynolds said some of that misleading information on the “Idle-Free Zone” site has now been corrected, but the site still “lacks balance.”

In particular, she said, it doesn’t deal with other driving behaviours that cause greenhouse gas and pollution emissions, such as excessive speeding, rapid acceleration and poor vehicle maintenance.

“What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling,” Reynolds said.

With regards to idling, the changes to the site will have an impact on municipalities, Ottawa city Coun. Clive Doucet said.

“It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling. It’s not good news for cities anywhere,” said Doucet, who pushed hard for an anti-idling bylaw in Ottawa.

A bylaw banning idling for more than three minutes in Ottawa went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

With the aim of reducing pollution from idling cars, a number of cities in Canada — including London, Ont., North Vancouver and Sarnia, Ont. — are thinking about making it tougher for restaurants to build new drive-thrus.

Gordon Taylor, an engineering consultant who has done air-quality studies for Natural Resources Canada, suggested that the restaurant association could be taking another approach to deal with criticism of drive-thrus.

“I think the restaurant association should have some kind of a pro-active campaign to say, ‘Hey, if there’s a big long lineup, consider walking in the door.’ ”

Tim Hortons Drive-thru Threat Heats Up | Greenwashing at it’s Best in Comox Canada …


Burger King Outlets Denialism on Climate Change Encourage 24 Hour Drive-thru

Burger chain’s climate change whopper


Tennessee outlets ended up eating humble pie after a local reporter spotted ‘rogue’ signs outside Burger King outlets

Burger King outlets in Tennessee calls global warming ‘baloney’. Photograph:

Would you like a side order of climate denial with your flame-broiled Triple Whopper? If so, then you need to get yourself over to Tennessee where a number of Burger King franchises in the US state that gave us Al Gore have been displaying “Global Warming is Baloney” signs outside their fast-food restaurants.

Chris Davis, a staff writer for the Memphis Flyer, a local newsweekly, noticed the signs outside two Burger Kings in the city last week and decided to put in a call to one of the restaurants to inquire whether such a view was now official Burger King policy. Here’s his transcript of the call…

Davis: Hi, I’m calling from the Flyer about your sign. Does Burger King really think global warming is baloney?
BK: [Hang-up]
Davis: [Calling back]: Your sign out front says global warming is baloney.
BK: I don’t see that, sir.
Davis: Well, it does.
BK: I don’t see that sir… I change the signs and that sign’s been up for a week.
Davis: Well, I have pictures that I took this afternoon…So, there’s no question that your sign said it and so did one in Midtown. I want to know if it was on purpose, or if it was a prank someone pulled on you.
BK: Let me get the manager. [several minutes of dead air then the same or very similar voice picks up.]
BK: Who were you holding for?
Davis: A manager, about the sign. I have pictures of the sign and people have called me upset. I just want to know if it’s a mistake or not so I can report it.
BK: Let me go outside and look at the sign and I’ll call you right back. [exchange of contact info]
[Phone rings, Davis answers]
BK: The sign was put up yesterday.
Davis: And it’s not a mistake?
BK: No.
Davis: It reflects the opinion of BK international?
BK: Yes. Would you like to talk to the home office? I can give you a number.
Davis: I’ve got the number, I’ve already contacted them. Thanks.

A few days pass before Davis hears back from someone higher up the food chain at Burger King. Last Friday, he finally received an email from Susan Robison, the vice president of corporate communications at the Burger King Corporation:

This statement [“Global Warming is baloney”] does not reflect a Burger King Corp. (BKC) opinion or view. The two restaurants where these signs appeared are independently owned and operated and were not authorized to display this statement. The signs have since been removed. BKC believes in operating as a socially responsible company and is committed to making a positive impact in the communities where it lives and works.

One imagines that someone at Burger King realised that the “global warming is baloney” line didn’t exactly chime with the views of John Chidsey, the company’s CEO, who believes that climate change is “an overriding issue of importance for the global community, business community and people in general”, as he stated in this short interview conducted at this year’s World Economic Forum. (How he squares this concern with his company’s drive-thru, meat-munching business model is another matter, though.)

Memphis Flyer readers have been contacting the paper since the story first appeared to say that they have noticed other restaurants across Tennessee displaying the same sign. It appears that they are all owned by a company called the Mirabile Investment Corporation (MIC) that owns more than 40 Burger Kings across Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, as well as a handful of Popeyes and All In One franchises. Some readers have added that the signs are still up at some of the restaurants. Davis says he has requested a response from MIC, but has not yet received one.

I applaud their honesty, though. I think we should know what a restaurant’s position is on the key issues of the day before we choose to step across their threshold. Let’s go the full hog – I want to know their views on immigration, cap and trade, MPs expenses, schooling, the Middle East’s roadmap, Susan Boyle and stem cell research before I even reach the menu board outside. Maybe there’s room in the fast-food sector for a politically-themed chain of restaurants? How about we call it Hard To Swallow?

U.S. Corporation Tim Hortons Supercedes Government Again – This Time Municipal

Tim Hortons Cross-checks City Into Submission

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 11.13.08

tim hortonThe late Tim Horton never let anyone push him around, and neither does his eponymous coffee chain. They just body-checked and high-sticked the City of Toronto into submission on its plans to reduce waste, so much of which comes from that one hugely successful chain.

The City calls it a “compromise”.

“This allows industry and leaders like Tim Hortons to sit down with the city on how we are actually going to reduce the volume of garbage going into our garbage dumps,” said committee chairman Glenn De Baeremaeker “How do we get 365 million coffee cups out of the garbage stream and into the recycling stream?”

Simple. You dump them on his doorstep. But Timmy stomped his skates and refused to change his cups or lids, or to contribute to the three million dollar cost of recycling machinery to separate them. And for some reason, he got his way.

More on Garbage from Tim Hortons:

Business Enraged at Toronto Proposals for Reducing Waste
Time For Canadians to Boycott Tim Hortons

Drive-thru ban still on track in Comox | Restaurant Association Continues to Greenwash

The Tim Hortons in Ottawa Featured in the Infamous 'RWDI' Repoty - (Note the parking lot is empty)

The Tim Hortons in Ottawa Featured in the Infamous 'RWDI' Report - (Note the empty parking lot)

Drive-thru ban still on track in Comox
Restaurant Association argues that emissions will actually increase

By Elaine Mitropoulos, Comox Valley EchoApril 10, 2009
Banning drive-thrus in Comox will curb business and employment – not greenhouse emissions, warns the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
Mark Von Schellwitz, the association’s vice president for Western Canada spoke before the town council this week, urging it to consider other anti-idling measures like a hybrid fleet, more roundabouts, and a consumer awareness campaign.
In a plea to the council to permit the fast-food fixture in future developments, Von Schellwitz turned to independent studies that suggested banning drive-thrus could boost rather than curb greenhouse gases.
“Drive-thrus have allowed our industry to serve a growing customer base without huge parking lots or more store locations,” he said. “That has environmental implications.”
The average time it took for someone to order their meal and have it in their hands was 125 seconds, he said.
Looking for a free parking stall could take minutes longer, leading to more emissions than those spewed forth picking up a burger from a drive-thru, Von Schellwitz said.
“I think it’s important to note that idling in drive-thrus represents only a fraction of total idling, and that idling itself actually only represents 0.2 per cent of overall emissions,” he added.
“One single snow blower, or perhaps more appropriately in the Comox Valley, one single chainsaw, produces more smog emissions than all the cars produced during the busiest hour at a typical Tim Horton’s drive-thru.”
Town planner Marvin Kamenz also suggested the ban could be counterproductive.
“Given that Courtenay is so close our own residents would then drive further to go to drive-thrus,” he said.
He recommended the council limit drive-thrus to arterial commercial zones and ban them from the downtown core, as well as approach other
Valley municipalities to participate in a joint ban to make it effective.
Without backing from Couns. Ken Grant and Tom Grant, the council was still in favour of completely banning future drive-thrus from the Comox business community.
“This is an issue that is timely and is now a conversation that the community needs to engage in,” said Coun. Ray Crossley, who chairs the town’s green team.
But Coun. Ken Grant disagreed, saying the motion was 15-20 years too late, especially with the advent of hybrid vehicles and the likelihood that vehicles would soon be emission-free.
“I don’t know why we’d wait until probably our worst economic downturn we’ve ever had to start doing this to our commercial residents in Comox,” he said.
The issue, however, will go to public hearing – much to Mayor Paul Ives’ disappointment.
“I would have much rather focused on a more comprehensive discussion on anti-idling,” he said.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Note: Last summer, The CRFA (Canadian Restaurant Food Association) worked with London Restaurants such as Tim Hortons & McDonalds in a massive lobbying effort against a campaign for a moratorium on new drive-thrus.  During one of the most beautiful weeks of the year – these corporations had teenagers stand in the heavy exhaust of drive-thru lanes ultimately collecting 60,000 signatures in the one week period.  Note that London has incredibly poor air quality in Ontario second only to Toronto.  Smog days have quadrupled.

It’s time to clear the air | To cut carbon emissions, we must switch to renewable energy sources – and get polluting industries to foot the bill

It’s time to clear the air

To cut carbon emissions, we must switch to renewable energy sources – and get polluting industries to foot the bill

George Monbiot is correct in asserting that “If we behave as though it is too late, then our prophecy is bound to come true.” But it’s not, so let’s not.

I attended the Science Conference in Copenhagen last week, and, like many there I was dismayed by what I heard, but also heartened. As senior researcher to Colin Challen MP I have been listening to pronouncements of the “end of the world is nigh” variety at meetings and conferences for several years now, and continue to be amazed at the intellectual contortionism of our species in clinging to old, dirty technology rather than embracing the means of harnessing resources that are freely available all around us, such as wind and solar power. At these same meetings and conferences I often hear that the UK has the best “wind resource” in Europe – so why not take advantage of this? Instead we try to convince ourselves that we can carry on burning coal as long as we can “bury” the nasty side-effects underground? Haven’t we already realised that this is unsustainable for household waste, and have developed alternatives to “landfill”?

Ironically, it was in a session at Copenhagen on carbon capture and storage (CCS) that I saw positive possibilities for the future. It was not the presentation of a model (there were a lot of “models” at the conference) of risk of leakage of CO2 from a storage site in a former oil well, and the statement that there was no empirical evidence to offer because oil companies would not release such data that was heartening, as you can imagine. It was the presentation on “mineralisation” of CO2, ie, not treating CO2 emissions as “waste”, but as a potential resource, and converting the CO2 into something useful. It transpires that this is already happening in Finland, that a byproduct is iron, which is snapped up by a nearby steel plant, but which I am given to believe is also what the oceans need to counter acidification. The potential benefits of this process are many and various.

Apart from the aforementioned – far from a mere 3% per annum – dramatic, rapid decreases in CO2 emissions are achievable by switching to renewable sources of energy. Industrialists who have risen to this challenge report decreases in CO2 emissions in the order of 60-70% in the very short term – empirical data, not models. Not only good for the human species, but good for their company’s “bottom line”.

So, there are some reasons to be cheerful: the science conference warned us that we must take action, and also presented examples of ways to clean up the dirty act that some industries insist on continuing to follow. I am not suggesting that we allow these industries to think they can continue as usual, and offload the costs of their clean-up onto the taxpayer – we have already contributed massively to their financial success. Rather, such industries and their shareholders must be the ones who pay for cleaning the atmosphere they have sullied, and for the adaptation measures required by people around the globe whose lives are threatened by the consequences.

What is the global-warming impact of the omnipresent drive-through?

February 25, 2009

Advice about recreational eating

Hey Mr. Green,
What is the global-warming impact of the omnipresent drive-through? Surely this has to be one of our biggest wastes of energy. –Robert in Biglerville, Pennsylvania

In drive-throughs or anyplace, idling is, to summon the old saying, the devil’s workshop. Every hour you idle, you waste up to 0.7 gallons of gas (depending on your engine type) going nowhere. So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.

In a given year, U.S. cars burn some 1.4 billion gallons of fuel just idling. Not to mention idling trucks, which waste another 1.5 billion gallons. Collectively, we emit about 58 million tons of carbon dioxide while we’re essentially doing nothing.

Taking the fast-food industry as an example, and taking into account that the average McDonald’s drive-through wait is 159 seconds, we can calculate that the company’s consumers burn some 7.25 million gallons of gas each year. The figure for the entire U.S. fast-food industry? Roughly 50 million gallons.

Though Wendy’s boasts that it zips you through in a mere 131 seconds, that’s about the amount of time it would take to slap together your own sandwich, or dump some leftovers in Tupperware, and bypass the lines (and perhaps a bypass) entirely.

The spread of American idle may be an exciting prospect for companies seeking to expand this lazy food-getting method to the rest of the world–but it’s a devastating one for the environment. Consider that McDonald’s plans to open 25 drive-throughs in China, following KFC’s lead. KFC installed its first drive-through there in 2002 and is working on 100 more. If China and India, which is also jumping aboard the drive-through bandwagon, get up to speed, they can idle away a truly staggering figure: 30 billion gallons of gas. Every year.

Outsourcing | EDITORIAL: Drive-through science: in search of efficiency

Dec 01, 2008 (The Decatur Daily – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — Running a drive-through at a fast-food restaurant is a science — employing computers to speed up service, fill orders accurately, and track sales patterns.

McDonald’s is doing early tests of call centers to take drive-through orders, according to chicago When you converse with an order taker from your driver’s seat, that person may be miles away, servicing not only your location but also many others.

It’s all part of a constant push to increase efficiency, with drive-throughs handling a bigger portion of fast-food sales each year.

But here’s some science we’d like to know about drive-throughs: How much fuel do vehicles waste each year idling in drive-through lines, and how much healthier would customers be if they’d get out of their cars and burn a few calories while walking inside?

Denialism | Restaurant industry commends St. John’s City Council on drive-through decision

Restaurant industry commends St. John’s City Council on drive-through decision

    ST. JOHN'S, Jan. 20 /CNW/ - The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices
Association (CRFA) commends City Council in St. John's, Newfoundland for
taking a co-operative, consultative approach on solving traffic problems and
rescinding its ban on drive throughs.
    City Council lifted the two-week-old moratorium on drive-through outlets
on Monday.
    "Restaurant owners that operate drive throughs are very sensitive to the
needs of the community when it comes to traffic congestion, and want to work
with municipalities to help solve any issues," says Luc Erjavec, CRFA Vice
President for Atlantic Canada. "We are delighted that St. John's will work
with us to solve the problems instead of banning drive throughs."
    Business owners are typically required to do rigorous site planning and
traffic pattern studies before requesting permission to build a drive through.
Older sites, however, often need updating to handle traffic congestion and
customer demand.
    "Occasionally an outlet is the victim of its own success," Erjavec says.
"As more customers come to the outlet, some site adjustments may be needed to
meet the increased demand."
    Tim Hortons Senior Vice President/Atlantic Region John Montgomery says
his company is always willing to work cooperatively with any community that is
facing a traffic issue.
    "We don't want customers waiting in the drive-through line a minute
longer than necessary or lineups spilling out on to the street impeding
traffic," Montgomery says. "There are many options available to speed up
customer service and reduce traffic congestion, such as restructuring parking
lots or re-routing drive-through lanes."
    Montgomery says drive throughs provide an important service to the
community, particularly for those who may face challenges going into the
restaurant such as people who are mobility impaired, parents with young
children, the elderly or people who are in unfamiliar areas late at night or
in bad weather.
For further information: Luc Erjavec, CRFA Vice President, Atlantic
Canada, (902) 209-0804 or; Jeni Armstrong, CRFA
Communications Specialist, (416) 649-4254 or

It’s still not okay to idle | Published August 25, 2008 in the NB Telegraph Journal

It’s still not okay to idle

By Carl Duivenvoorden

Published August 25, 2008 in the NB Telegraph Journal

Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) is our federal government’s official body for helping Canadians save energy and money. Its website,, has a wealth of information about everything from buying better home appliances to designing better commercial buildings.

If you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you may have noticed that longstanding guidelines for idling reduction were modified recently. But there’s something just a bit suspicious about the changes.

Old rules and new rules

For years, the OEE’s idling reduction programs have been based on the ten second rule. Its message is simple: it’s better to turn a car or light truck engine off than to let it idle for more than 10 seconds.

It’s a general guideline, so as with any such rule there are exceptions. For example, it’s not recommended that engines be shut off at traffic stoplights – they don’t always start back up when you want them to, and that can create a traffic mess. As well, it doesn’t always make sense in cold winter conditions. But overall, the ten second rule has been a great guideline for Canadians, helping us save money, fuel and the environment.

But back in February, the ten second rule suddenly disappeared from OEE’s website. In its place was a message indicating that an update was coming soon.

Six months later, the long-awaited update has finally arrived, and now it seems that it’s okay to idle longer. Has the science behind the recommendation changed – or is something else at work? A recent CBC news story suggests there’s a bit more behind our federal government’s change of heart.

Real science or science of convenience?

You see, excessive idling is starting to become socially frowned upon. It’s about time, of course – Canadians waste literally millions of liters of fuel every day through unnecessary idling. If we are truly ready to believe that the environment is worth taking care of, minimizing our idling is one of the easiest things we can do.

Much of our preventable idling takes place in drive-throughs, so fast food restaurants and coffee shops are becoming concerned that a backlash against idling might put a damper on a part of their business that clearly makes mountains of cash. If that CBC story is correct, they have been very busy behind the scenes, working to sanitize the image of their drive-throughs. That sanitization campaign has included sponsoring a study that concludes that going through the coffee shop drive-through causes no more pollution than parking. It has included publicizing those results using questionable comparisons, such as comparing chain saws (whose 2-stroke engines pollute much more by design) to vehicles in drive-throughs. And it has included pulling political strings to help the study’s conclusions become part of the government’s new recommendations.

Could the story be true? Well, here are a few indisputable facts. RWDI Air, an Ontario engineering firm, recently conducted a study on behalf of Tim Horton’s that seems to vindicate drive-throughs. The study is being widely used to defend them, including by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), whose membership includes most drive-through operators in Canada.

Then last February, the CRFA met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who oversees the OEE – and the ten second rule disappeared from OEE’s website within 24 hours.

I hope the CBC story is wrong, of course, and that this is all just coincidence. Just like any other Canadian, I want to believe that my government bases its recommendations to Canadians on sound science exclusively. Just imagine if Health Canada took its directives from the pharmaceutical industry. But I have to admit I’m concerned that in this case real science may have been trumped by other interests.

In the meantime, since the ten second rule remains valid in other countries, I think it’s too early to give up on it here.If you believe our environment is worth preserving, it’s still a good idea to minimize idling and avoid drive-throughs.

Carl Duivenvoorden ( is a speaker, writer and green consultant living in Upper Kingsclear. His column runs every other Monday.