London CoC on Drive Thru Proliferation

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published February 28, 2008

RTH received the following letter from the London ON chapter of the Council of Canadians and wanted to pass it along for your interest.

Drive-Thru Proliferation - issue draws national attention in media

From the Council of Canadians

London Chapter demands moratorium

People around the world are finally awakening to the fact that climate change is a reality as impacts are unfolding in many parts of the world. Further, there is increasingly broad awareness that much worse is on the way without urgent and significant change, and that the costs of mitigation are considerably less than dealing with the calamitous fallout of doing nothing.

Yet at the same time as there is growing awareness about this broad and urgent threat, there is a tremendous amount of inertia in the way our society operates, and particularly how it is structured around the automobile.

In this context, we are hoping to inspire you and your organization to consider extending your support to our current campaign to ban Drive-Thru windows in the City of London. We believe that this is one important way to challenge the supremacy of the automobile in both public policy and in people's consciousness more broadly.

Drive-thrus are to double their capacity over the next five years, presently representing 60% of all transactions in a 129 billion dollar fast food industry in North America alone. Estimated statistics (May 2007) from the University of Calgary found Edmonton drive-thrus contribute an estimated 25 tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere per day. Over a year, this could represent up to 9,000 tons.

Using a total of 115 cities with same population and the same amount of drive-thrus, this could generate a total of ONE MILLION TONS in a year, and this is just for large cities in Canada. We are now starting to see proliferation of the Drive-Thru concept by American corporations in South-East Asia and elsewhere.

We are convinced that this is a winnable campaign, and we have already had some success. In November 2007 we convinced the City of London Council to support a resolution to mandate their staff consider both health and environmental implications when preparing a report on the impact of allowing new establishments to have Drive-thrus.

If the analysis ends up demonstrating negative health and environmental consequences, our expectation is that Council would impose a moratorium on any future Drive-thrus.

The essence of our case to Council is that Drive-thrus represent the worst of our automobile culture, an extremely frivolous convenience that comes at a great - and unnecessary - cost to the atmosphere and to human health. This is particularly glaring given that we live in a "smog belt" in southwestern Ontario with a high number of days with dangerous air quality.

This initiative was pushed forward by our London Chapter - Council of Canadians with the active support of like-minded individuals from the general public, and our online and paper petitions have been steadily garnering support and awareness in London, across the country and indeed the world.

We are of the belief that we have accomplished a significant achievement already by getting them to agree to have a question such as this referred back to staff with a mandate to get an independent scientific opinion on the health and environmental impacts of additional Drive-Thru windows. There has been some local and National media attention to what we have started already.

Currently, we are seeking a mechanism to provide significant scientific data to support this cause at a deeper level than what has been presented to the City Council thus far. We believe that clear and convincing science will help us continue to build momentum towards the moratorium we are seeking.

It is admittedly a huge task to slow down and ultimately change our auto-centered culture, but we must start somewhere, and we think that eliminating the unnecessary pollution of Drive-thrus in London, Ontario - a very typical Canadian city - is just such a place.

In short, we see this struggle as both a very direct one in terms of reducing emissions, but also a much bigger one symbolically, which is ultimately one way of making change in terms of public policy and broader consciousness.

As mentioned earlier, we hope to have your support behind us in this struggle, and it would greatly assist in continuing to build momentum. Thus, we are graciously requesting your endorsement for our campaign, and would welcome the opportunity for you to discuss any possible collaboration on this matter.

The Council of Canadians supports the London chapter in its efforts to raise concerns about the environmental impacts of drive-thru restaurants and is encouraged by the number of municipalities across Canada that are either studying, or looking at further regulating or banning drive-thrus due to environmental considerations.

Brent Patterson
Director of Campaigns & Organizing, The Blue Planet Project, The Council of Canadians

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


Trey lives in Williamsville NY via Hamilton. He is a Marketing Manager for Tourism and Destination Marketing in the Buffalo-Niagara Metro.

His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger.

And can't wait for the day he stops hearing "on facebook".


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