The debate on those damaging drive-thrus

Published Wednesday August 20th, 2008


Having recently read a statistic suggesting that 40 per cent of our meals are considered fast-food and of that nearly 80 per cent of those pass through a drive-thru window, I was determined to do my part and see that change.

My plan is to write to local municipal councils, to the ministers of Local Government, Health, Wellness, and Environment, and of course write the ever-so-influential letters to the editor.

As the environment grows as an issue of concern and as land-use planning becomes increasingly important in Metro Moncton, policies on drive-thrus will certainly become increasingly important for municipalities and planning commissions. Nationally, there also appears to be a trend and a growing persuasion that drive-thrus just ain’t what they used to be.

My letters will be to the point and no tip-toeing around. The statistic above is deplorable. Simply put, drive-thrus must be stopped. Moreover, those that currently exist should be systematically dismantled, and cities and towns should give serious thought to phasing them out. Municipalities and planning commissions should be aware of the health, environmental and even social evils these lanes of laziness are responsible for, if they do not already know. My letters will include those condemnations as well as many others.

We suffer from a serious societal illness where we can exchange e-mails daily with hundreds of people, spend hours on the telephone and texting (if you’re good at it, you can do them simultaneously), and we fulfill our need for face-to-face communication with a site called Facebook. Many of us perform these acts of semi-interaction while spending our days enclosed in cubicles or wrapped within office walls.

Indeed, science magazines and TV shows continue to promote the growth of our virtual realities over our real realities.

To even further isolate ourselves, we drive from our homes to our work spaces to the drive-thru kitchens. Some of us, me included, even start our vehicles under the protection of a garage, because God forbid we talk to our neighbours. Worse, there’s the off chance of a conversation with the garbage-man or postal worker.

Due to the popularity of MP3 players we need no longer worry about chatting with the walker, early morning jogger or any other passerby. The sad fact is my dog gets more one-on-one socialization at the Riverview dog park in a single visit than I get with my fellow human beings in a whole week!

When I gaze upon the occasional construction site I often give serious thought to a change of careers. One where I could work side-by-side with my fellow citizens, where there’s no room for a Blackberry on my belt because it’s already full holding necessary tools like a hammer, a measuring tape and whatever other useful items a carpenter, plumber or landscaper would have on his or her belt. But, the daydream quickly ends when I notice how hot or wet or cold or dry it is outside.

The state of our society aside, we must also consider the environmental and health issues that arise from drive-thrus. I shouldn’t need to mention in the letters the scourge upon our health system that obesity causes. That it will increasingly play a role in every aspect of our financial lives from the amount of sick time taken to the cost on taxpayers for health care to the amount of disability payments made from our government pension plans. One would think we wouldn’t mind getting out of our cars to actually walk into a restaurant rather than sit within our vehicles breathing in the exhaust fumes of the cars around us.

Speaking of exhaust fumes, despite advances in automobile technology over the last 50 years, the last 20 years has seen a decrease in the fuel efficiency of cars rather than an increase. The rising price of gasoline will hopefully see a reverse to that trend but the sad fact is our cars idling in drive-thrus are a health hazard. More and more and bigger and bigger vehicles, built with decreasingly fuel efficient engines cannot be good for our health or for the neighbourhoods these alleys of ease find themselves within.

Before getting started on these letters however, I dropped by my nearest java supplier for a cup of inspiration. Anxious to get going but wanting to avoid hypocrisy, I parked my car and chin held up high — because the view is always better that way when you’re on a pedestal — I strutted inside.

And waited . . . for what seemed like a Dark Ages 10 minutes. I don’t quite know which annoyed me more, seeing the vehicles in the drive-thru actually driving through with relative ease compared to my slow march to the front of the line or the server talking about her two children with a customer while my knuckles whitened and I held back a scream only someone without children can make.

As you can imagine, those letters won’t get written. I would have just e-mailed them anyway, so living with some degree of hypocrisy was in my future. Whether the problem with drive-thrus is people like me who claim we should interact more but would rather tempt diabetes than do so themselves or fast food businesses which devote more and better resources to their drive-thrus than to their counter service is a debate for another day.

The answer is likely a mixture of the two or depends upon whether one sees drive-thrus as a product of our sedentary lifestyles or as one of its multiple causes.

* David Gingras is a Metro Moncton resident and is currently working towards a National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration (NACLAA).

Headline News | Idling | Restaurant Industry | NRCAN: CBC World Report

CBC World News:

Here is a link to the audio file from the CBC report. (above) It aired on CBC (National) Radio One this morning at 6 am.

1:57 seconds | Transcript:

“A federal cabinet minister may have thrown his weight behind changes to a website run by the government, that discourages idling cars.

The call for changes comes from an association of restaurants in connection with the debate surrounding drive-through restaurants in Canada.

At first the Natural Resources department wouldn’t go along with any changes.

But as Giacomo Panico reports, the restaurants made some headway after a high level meeting…..

Cont’d – (listen to audio file)


See full story & comment on this story at:

Story by: Giacomo Panico :

p. 613.288.6501

CTV News Live – Gov’t Assistance Non-Existant – The Children’s Clean Air Network

CTV News Live at Five with a feature on The Children’s Clean Air Network



MEDIA ADVISORY                                                              DATE: June 16th, 2008

In solidarity with local environmental activist groups, Greenpeace Canada, will urge the City of London to lead on climate change by imposing Canada’s first moratorium on all new drive-thrus.

In a campaign launched by Maude Barlow’s Council of Canadians | London Chapter, the issue on a drive-thru moratorium has quickly become a hot topic across the nation.  Today the industry launched a glossy campaign in an attempt to ‘put out fires’ on an issue that garners more and more support as climate change continues to accelerate out of control.  World experts call for an 80% reduction in emissions before the year 2050 if we are to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

The debate will take place Tuesday, June 17th at 7pm at city hall.

Activists, students and citizens concerned about air pollution and climate change will hear a presentation by Bruce Cox, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada.  Individuals will also hear representation from esteemed organizations such as CAPE (Canadian Physicians for the Environment) and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. Gordon McBean, appointed member of Mayor’s Sustainable Energy Council and  world renown climatologist for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction urge the city to take action on all ways of reducing emissions as part of national and global efforts to combat climate change.

London currently has approx. 150 drive-thrus and many thousands of vehicles line up everyday spewing unnecessary pollution into the environment.

Environmentalists and Canada’s fast-food empires collided head-on at London city hall on May 26th, as politicians considered whether to limit or even ban new drive-thrus. At a public participation meeting of the city’s planning committee, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and A&W served up a team of critics that included Ontario’s largest restaurant association, an engineering consultant and a lawyer who fought drive-through restrictions in Ottawa. Industry and the Tim Hortons’ study drew a heated rebuttle from the Council of Canadians and the London District Labour Council, both of which called for a moratorium on new drive-thus.

Statistics: Eight thousand people a day die from air pollution. There are 3 million annual deaths, worldwide. In Canada toxic emissions from transportation continue to rise drastically. Vehicles are the primary sources of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates and benzene, a carcinogen. In the past 15 years alone, there has been a fourfold increase in asthma in children under 15 in Canada. In fact, the Ontario Medical Association estimated that health care costs caused by poor air quality in 2000 would amount to nearly $630 million, not to mention the $566 million in costs due to workers taking sick days.

We are in a world wide public health crisis epidemic as a direct result of air pollution amidst a climate change crisis that threatens human survival on this earth – expanding services which promote unnecessary idling for convenience is not only reckless and irresponsible – it is the absolute opposite direction we need to be taking.

For more information:

Cory Morningstar | President | London Chapter | Council of Canadians | Environment & Climate Change Committee

Kevin Lomack | Membership Coordinator | London Chapter | Council of Canadians | Environment & Climate Change Committee | 519-872-0978

Bruce Cox | Executive Director | Greenpeace Canada | (416) 597-8408 Ext. 3012

This Joint Call To Action Is Also Issued By The Following Organizations:

* Campaign for Clean Air in London’ [England]

* Campbell River, B.C. CoC Chapter

* Coquitlam Greendrinks British Columbia

* Deeper Shade of Green – British Columbia

* Fanshawe Social Justice Club

* Frank de Jong – Leader of Green Party Ontario

* Great Lakes United

* London and District Labour Council

* London Project for a Participatory Society

* London West NDP Riding Association

* LOVE – London Organization of Vegetarians for the Environment

* M E M E S – Movement of Environmental Minimalists Embracing Sustainability

* Maude Barlow – Council of Canadians – National Chairperson

* New Westminster B.C. CoC Chapter

* Peterborough – Kawarthas CoC Chapter

* Post Carbon London

* Regina SK CoC Chapter

* Surrey, Langley and White Rock CoC Chapter – British Columbia

* TREA – Thames Regional Ecological Association

* Waste Free World London

* Whistler B.C CoC Chapter

* Windsor CoC Chapter

The Advisory Committee on the Environment to the City of London also advises the city to impose a moratorium on new drive-thrus.