Hey! You in the drive-through lane! Yes, you in the Explorer with the A/C cranked! Do us all a favor, just this once, and skip the drive-through!
Last Thursday was a gorgeous afternoon—75 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze. I parked, walked into McDonald’s, got my food, and walked back out to my car. On the way out, I just shook my head sadly at the zombies who’d been idling away in the drive-through lane the whole time.
But what I really wanted to do was walk up to their closed windows and scream, “What are you people thinking?”
If anyone ever rolled their window down, here’s what I’d tell them:
You’re wasting time.
To a culture obsessed with convenience, the drive-through looks like a great time-saver. (I swear, if fast food joints created a way to use the bathroom without leaving the car, suburbanites would happily add #1 to every order.) But most of the time, I actually get my food faster than the dopes in the drive-through. While they’re backed up four or five cars deep, there’s no one waiting at the counter when I skip the drive-through and walk in.
And even when there’s only one car in line, I sometimes get in and out faster. After all, I don’t have to ask a distorted loudspeaker to repeat the same information three times, pull forward to two different windows or send the attendant back for napkins.
Now, I’ll give you a pass if you’ve got kids strapped into car seats, or you’re recovering from knee surgery. But most of you are alone, and you probably put in 45 on the treadmill this morning. Get your ass out of the car!
You’re wasting gas and money.
They probably don’t cover this in business school, but internal combustion engines burn fuel whenever they’re running. That’s a worthwhile trade-off when the vehicle’s actually moving, but a complete waste of gas when it’s not.
So how much gas do you burn poking along the drive-through lane? The rule of thumb is, for every two minutes a car idles, it uses about the same fuel it takes to go about one mile.
Think about that. From a fuel-efficiency standpoint, idling in the drive-through lane is the same as driving 30 mph—to nowhere.
If your car gets 18 miles per gallon, a six-minute wait at the drive-through consumes one-sixth of a gallon. With gas $3.60 a gallon, you just wasted 60 cents. Okay, it’s not the GDP of China, but skip the drive-through and you can super-size your fries with that money!
You’re killing the planet.
Burning gasoline, as you’ve no doubt heard staunch conservatives denying, raises carbon dioxide levels and contributes to global climate change.
How much are we talking about here? Cars idling at fast food drive-throughs burn roughly 50 million gallons of gas each year. Every gallon releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. According to my calculator, that’s a billion pounds of CO2 every year, give or take a Rush Limbaugh diatribe.
Yes folks, that’s one billion pounds of CO2created by Americans too lazy to skip the drive-through and walk maybe a hundred feet. Every year.
And how many of you simply pull into the “Drive-Through Guests Only” spots and eat your meals with the engine still running? Come on, you know who you are.
When the Lake Michigan coastline extends to Indianapolis and skin cancer’s as common as athlete’s foot, maybe you’ll wish the United States had followed Toronto’s lead and essentially banned restaurant drive-throughs altogether.
You’re still reading?
Next time you hear that Big Mac calling your name, do your wallet and the planet a favor. Get your ass out of the car, see what the restaurant looks like inside for a change, and skip the drive-through.
This post was originally published in Less White, More Green from PrintEco.