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Curb Your Hunger Featured on Aug 07, 2008
Do you use drive-thrus? If so, we challenge you to cut back. Park your car, and go inside to place your order.
Avoiding drive-thrus for food, ATMs, etc. for 1 month will reduce your CO2 emissions by 4.9 lbs.
3884 people have reduced CO2 emissions by 9.24 tons by completing this challenge so far. That's equal to turning off the electricity of 7 homes for about 1 month!
When did getting a cup of coffee or a bite to eat become the suburban version of a Nascar pit stop? Americans have had a long-running love affair with their cars. From road trips to drive-in theaters to Winnebagos, our cars have been the center of our mobile universe. Now with the high price of gasoline, we have to break with cultural tradition and park the family beast, if only for a few minutes more this week than last. It’s time to get your fast food more slowly. It’s time you said you’re through with the drive-thru.
This Featured Challenge was originally suggested by Elizabeth Elephant. To date, Elizabeth’s suggestion has received 81 positive votes in our Challenge Workshop. Elizabeth is a proud member of the Royal Acorns team, current leaders in the School League on our 30-Day Leaderboard.
The Carbon Connection
This is the second time we’ve issued a Challenge for Rallyers to idle their cars and trucks less. In the first Challenge, Stop the Idle Threat, we asked you to reduce your idling time by 5 minutes a day for one month. So far, over 1000 people have taken that Challenge and have saved more than 12 tons of CO2. On average, each American car is idled 5 to 10 minutes per day. It is estimated that those cars idle enough each day to burn an additional 3.8 million gallons of gasoline. And they do it, minute by minute, in places like drive-thrus.
You may think that you’re in and out of a drive-thru in a short enough time that it doesn’t matter. But remember that even the little things aren’t that little when taken over time or when added with someone else’s little things. A study by the HERO Program at Clark University in Worcester, MA found that on an average day, 272 cars and 131 trucks used the drive-thru at a popular local fast food restaurant. The total idling time for all of those vehicles for that one day at that one restaurant was over 2200 minutes. That’s over 37 hours of idling, which burned up over 21 gallons of gasoline and released over 400 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Now, pull back and think about the bigger picture. That’s one day. A full year of idling at that one restaurant would be over 73 tons of CO2. That’s one drive-thru in one town. The study found 78 drive-thrus in Worcester. That’s just under 5700 tons of CO2 released in one medium-sized town each year, just from people idling their cars while waiting 3 minutes to get their double cheeseburger and soft drink. It’s no wonder that towns in Canada are looking seriously at banning new drive-thrus completely .
Getting It Done
There isn’t much to say about how to get this Challenge done. This Challenge is for those of you who use drive-thrus; the Challenge is not for those you who never use drive-thrus. If you take this Challenge, you just need to avoid using a drive-thru window three times in the next month. That probably involves something as ordinary as pulling into a parking spot instead of the drive-thru lane, getting out of your car, and walking inside. Here are few other things you might want to consider:
- It’s hard to make your own donuts. But there are other things you get at a drive-thru that you might be able to bring from home. Make some muffins. Thaw a frozen bagel. Pack yourself a nice salad or sandwich at home and bring that with you to work or school. Not only will you be saving all that time and energy by not idling your car, but you’ll also be reducing the need for fast food packaging. And you’ll be saving money, too.
- Maybe fast food is too fast to begin with. Slow down. According to the Mayo Clinic, any exercise can help you unwind and reduce your stress. Park a block away and get a little exercise walking to and from the restaurant.
- There are, of course, other places with drive-thru windows. Just remember that if there’s a wait in line with your car idling, then the same rules apply: park the car and go inside. Use the ATM that isn’t a drive-thru. Go into the pharmacy to pick up your prescription.
- And when you get out of your car, you see things you might not see otherwise. Like floss. If you’re in the pharmacy and see floss on your way to the back of the store, you may think to yourself, “Hey, I ran out of that. I should buy that while I’m here.” Presto! You’ve saved yourself a separate trip. And the donut shop where you get your coffee may have a new muffin flavor you didn’t know about or a cute new babe/hunk working the register. You do remember eye contact, don’t you?
- If you really don’t have a choice but to use a drive-thru, be smart about how you wait in line. Size up the line of cars in front of you. If the line is moving, then you can leave your car running. But if the line is moving in fits and starts, think about turning your engine off until it moves again. The rule of thumb is that if you are going to idle your car for longer than 10 seconds, it’s more efficient to turn the car off and then restart it when you need to move.
Do you have any personal stories of cutting back on idling at drive-thrus? If so, please share them with your fellow Rallyers in the Challenge forum section below.
Rules of the Challenge
This Challenge asks those of you who normally use drive-thrus to avoid them for the next month. Park your car and order your food inside. Bring food from home. At an average of 3 trips through the drive-thru per month and an average stay in line of 9 minutes per trip, we estimate that you will reduce the amount of time you idle your car by 27 minutes over a period of 30 days. By eliminating 27 minutes of idling time, you will reduce your CO2 emissions by 4.9 lbs for the month. This Challenge is repeatable after 30 days.
And for those Rallyers already doing the Stop the Idle Threat Challenge or who may choose to do it now, you may want to consider adding a few extra days or another missed trip to the drive-thru to both Challenges in order to keep your Rally scores accurate.
See the Math
Let’s see how avoiding the drive-thru will affect your carbon emissions over the next month. Here are the known or estimated numbers being used for this Challenge:
- Idling a 4-cylinder car for 5 minutes burns approximately a half cup (4 ounces) of gasoline. Idling an 8-cylinder car for 5 minutes burns about 1 cup (8 ounces) of gasoline. We’ll split the difference and say that idling an average car burns 6 ounces of gasoline for every 5 minutes. source
- According to the 2007 Drive-Thru Consumer Survey, the average person who uses drive-thrus uses them 5.7 times every 60 days. We are calling that 3 times per month. If you’re a heavy user, your savings will be greater. source
- Based on the same survey, we are saying that the average wait from the time you start ordering your food until the time you receive your food and pull away from the drive-thru window is 3 minutes. Furthermore, we are going to say that there is an average of 2 cars ahead of you in line, each taking 3 minutes. Therefore, your total wait time in the drive- thru line with your car’s motor idling is 9 minutes.
- Three trips to the drive-thru at 9 minutes each is 27 minutes of unnecessary idling per month.
- There are 128 fluid ounces in a gallon.
- The burning of 1 gallon of gasoline by the average car, van, truck, or SUV engine releases 19.4 pounds of CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere. source
Skipping the drive-thru for 30 days equals a savings of 4.9 lbs of CO2. And the savings from the quarter gallon of gas you aren’t burning will just about pay for another order of fries the next time you do walk inside to place your order. Do you want ketchup with that, Rallyers?
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