How green are you willing to be? With all the talk these days about global warming, carbon offsets, ecomuseums, and the like, two recent drive thru experiences have got me thinking.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were at the window of a leading coffee company's drive thru to pick up the drinks we had ordered, and were somewhat surprised when they were handed to us in a tray. We explained that we had no need for a tray since there were only two drinks which could probably be managed just fine with the cupholders in our vehicle, and asked that the tray be taken back. To our dismay, the dutiful employee refused, saying that the tray had been used (despite our argument that it in fact had not). We suggested that perhaps they should ask their customers whether they would need a tray at the time the order is placed, but were told that, due to a new policy that was being enforced, employees were not allowed to ask that kind of question. We asked how, then, environmentally conscious customers could avoid wasting trays that they have no intention of using, and the response was that customers should remember to specify explicitly that they will not need a tray when placing their orders. Upon asking what we were to do with a tray that we clearly had no use for, we were directed to a blue recycling box several feet ahead of us in the drive thru... which, not surprisingly, was overflowing with "used" drink trays. Stupefied, we got out of our vehicle, picked up the trays that were strewn about, added ours to the pile (after stomping on it a few times), and pulled away, questioning whether that coffee company deserved our business in the future.
Just today, I was waiting in the drive thru of another leading coffee company (this time, a Canadian one) with my regular Friday lunch crowd, and was drawn into a recurring argument about minimization of greenhouse gas emissions via idle reduction. One of my friends has always maintained that an anticipated idle of longer than ten seconds justifies turning off the engine and restarting it. Another friend argued that, as he learned recently, the threshold is actually 60 seconds. In the midst of the discussion, they both stopped and asked whether vehicles needed to idle at all in drive thrus. They then proceeded to put the car in neutral, turn the engine off, get out of the car and, I kid you not, push the vehicle along, despite puzzled stares from patrons inside the restaurant and obvious looks of frustration from the drivers of the vehicles behind us.
Both of these are examples of fastidiousness. As with all things, I think it's important to have standards, and it often pays to be fastidious, especially in a role like mine. But sometimes we need to question whether those standards make practical sense...