Sustainable Jess is back at it and she’s calling us ALL LAZY!  She is pretty fired up with this post.  My oh my.  I better not tell her I use drive thrus.

Drive Thrus

By Jessica Correa

Through high school, I had the privilege (and yes this isn’t a misused word!) to work at Tim Hortons. It was a privilege because it taught me to work hard, to be kind to strangers, to multi-task, and to work efficiently and effectively. Above all, it made me realize just how lazy human beings are. 

Most people would rather forgo the “laborious” and “inefficient” process of: park their car, walk inside a restaurant, wait in line, order a meal, pay for it, eat and leave. Instead, they would much rather sit in their vehicles to order fast food. 

The first restaurant to operate a drive-thru in Canada was a Wendy’s in Hamilton, Ontario in 1975. Thereafter, drive-thru services have exploded, particularly booming after 1999.  Banks and fast-food services are the most popular in North America; however, more creative applications of drive-thru services have included drive-thru weddings in Las Vegas.
Next, we’ll be ordering engagement rings … and could I get a side order of classy gentleman with that, too?
The most common reasons people use drive-thru services are out of pure human laziness (no, really), comfort and to “save time”.  In addition, customers make their decision on whether to “park and walk” or drive based on the weather outside and the length of the drive-thru line. 

Well friends, vehicle idling affects: 

  1.  The Environment
Your Health
  3. Your Vehicle Performance 

Today, people use the popular excuse that parking and walking into a business or restaurant is worse for the environment. This ignorant explanation is argued with the excuse that “more fuel-use is required to restart a vehicle, so it is better to idle the car”.

Sound familiar?

Not surprisingly, fast-food chains are the publishers of this evidence. The restaurants claim that drive-thrus are “greener”,  however, the data is most often bias, skewed, and unreliable. 

Fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions released from idling surpass restarting a vehicle, IF and only IF idling takes place for anything over 10 seconds.  Of course, various considerations such as vehicle variety, maintenance quality of the vehicle, accumulated mileage, and atmospheric conditions, should be taken into account when determining this variable.  However, as a general rule of thumb, TURN OFF YOUR VEHICLE AFTER 10 SECONDS.


Idling puts a heavier burden on the environment,  your health and the performance of your vehicle; more than twice as much as the “park and walk” option.  C02 emissions can be reduced by half by using the park and walk option.  

Idling is also terrible for your car.  As much as I’d like to see your car break so you may start using public transportation, your own two legs to walk, or god forbid, a bicycle, I’d hate to see you waste all that hard earned money on a car (see what I did there ^.^)
.  Compared to the normal operation of a vehicle, engines consume a highly rich-fuel mixture when idling.  This results in high brake-specific fuel consumption and incomplete fuel combustion.  Idling vehicles leads to high emission release because of the fuel residue in the exhaust. To make matters worse, extended idling affects engine oil. 

 Unburned fuel and soot mix with the oil, decreasing the life of the lubricating oil. Guess what? If lubricant efficiency is reduced, the vehicle needs its oil changed more often.
Can I get a side order of more oil changes with those fries?

Let me simplify this for you: more idling = more trips to the auto shop = more money spent. 

 Jeez, sounds like bad news for your car and your wallet. 

According to the Ontario Medical Association, hospitals experience a high volume of emergency room visits due to increased air pollution.  Strikingly, smog causes more deaths in Canada than car accidents and breast cancer combined and children are most at risk to poor air quality from idling vehicles. Think about this as your sitting in the drive thru ordering 5 bagel sandwiches, 3 Large Double Doubles and 2 Iced Capps.

I know from working at Tim Hortons, wait times can range anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes, depending on the order. This is confirmed in academic literature, where it has been found that per every one vehicle in a queue, three minutes are added to the wait times of the service.

Most modern drive thrus can hold up to 13 cars at a time in Canada. This equals 39 MINUTES in the drive thru if the queue is full.

  At the very least, if people are unwilling to give up their beloved drive-thrus, scholars have suggested that drive-thrus implement a “block-queue” model.   Block-queuing is a simple solution to idling vehicles in drive-thrus, as queues are separated into two sections: “active” and “passive”.  Drivers are asked to turn off their vehicles until the active section clears. Implementing this model can significantly reduce fuel consumption in drive-thru queues. 

 Next time you visit a fast-food restaurant, first of all, ask yourself if you really need to. Then, if you still choose to use these services, at least balance your act by using the park-and-walk option. The environment, your wallet, your car, and the people breathing in the air around you can say “thanks” for not being such a lazy and selfish human being.

Submitted by:

“Sustainable Jess”
Jessica Correa

Who Is Sustainable Jess?

11745890_10153520115499913_3068654813874356758_nM.A. Candidate,
Trent University, 
Sustainability Studies/car sharing reasearcher & enthusiast/ environmentalist/self motivator/ bubbly extrovert/garbage hater/aspiring public speaker/eternal optimist/runner

1 comment

  • When you have a child who just fell asleep in the car seat, sorry….drive thru every time. Or when you have two under two to try and manage while carrying your hot coffee to tea, sorry drive thru. I like them for that reason.