375 comments

Understand the Drive-Thru and We Can Solve All Problems

cloudforest

Morning sunrise from the front door of my hut.

I’ve been out traveling in Ecuador for the past two weeks, living in the jungle, climbing waterfalls and noting the cultural differences of a country set about 3000 miles South and 30 years back in time from my own. Every time I settle into life in a new place, I’m always amazed at how many objects and luxuries I have left behind, and yet how little I miss them.

Eventually the adventure came to an end, and with my eyes and ears still attuned to the quiet of the rainforest, I marveled at the enormous highways and parking lots and suburbs of Atlanta as I flew in for a layover on the way home. Awakening my legs from almost five hours of painful inactivity, I emerged into the world’s busiest airport and started following the signs to concourse B so I could catch the final flight home.

The signs direct you to an underground train, which circulates between all six concourses. But I noticed in smaller letters that there was also an option to walk the same route. So I followed the arrows:

atlanta_walkway

Atlanta Airport’s secret walking route

I was amazed to find a beautiful carpeted walkway, lined with a museum of Atlanta history. Then another train station with an escalator up to the next concourse, then another walkway, another concourse, and so on. In total, I walked almost a mile underground like this, and encountered exactly one other person walking as I was instead of taking the train.

In the world’s busiest airport, with thousands of people trundling by on the trains every few minutes, we were the only two people with the motivation to spend a few minutes using our own legs to get around.

With all this fresh in my mind, I returned at last to Longmont and reconnected with my 10-year-old boy after an unprecedented amount of time apart.

We spent the first morning going for a walk and having adventures along the way. We walked to a bank machine to deposit some checks and he asked me about the odd facility that had been built up to facilitate banking:

machino_del_bankex

Actual thing somebody thought was a good idea to build, and actual people using it (!?)

Together we figured out the system: there was a little building to house three employees. But there was no walk-up access to these people; you could only communicate to them through microphones and speakers, and send them packages through a system of subterranean vacuum tubes. The tubes terminated in three lanes into which you could drive a car. Then there was a fourth lane equipped with the slightly newer invention of a computerized bank machine, and the fifth option of a walk-up bank machine right in the building itself.

It was almost as if we were looking at a banking setup on Mars, where everything had been designed so that humans could get their business done without ever coming in contact with the planet’s hazardously thin sub-zero atmosphere.

All of this was placed in the center of a considerable sea of asphalt: roughly half an acre of it, enough to fit four spacious detached houses with alley-loaded garages or even an apartment building that could house hundreds of people.

I imagined the construction of this facility: decades ago, a tractor trailer probably showed up towing an 80,000 pound CAT excavator. This thing would have smashed down a few houses or trees or whatever was there in the past, 10-wheeler dump trucks would have taken 100 loads of debris and soil away, and returned with another 100 loads of gravel, asphalt and building materials. Steamrollers and bulldozers and laborers would have toiled for a few months, and at the end of it all this gleaming marvel of modern convenience would have been completed.

A million dollar parking lot, thousands of gallons of Diesel, and a million pounds of trucked in materials, consuming a prime piece of downtown real estate big enough to house a huge number of people. All so a few dozen people a day can spend an extra minute burning gas and sitting on their asses instead of using their legs for those 60 seconds.

Just think for a minute of the enormity of this expenditure for such a tiny marginal benefit, and compare it to one example of a slightly more efficient option:

The bank pays the city a small annual lease fee to keep a tiny bank machine booth in the 21-acre public park just across the street. Bank saves money, city makes money, and people benefit for many decades from less traffic and wasted space.

If we can truly appreciate this contrast, scaled up across billions of people in millions of towns and cities, I think we can sum up concisely the underlying reason for most of our problems these days.

At both the individual and the societal level, we just don’t give even the slightest shit about efficiency. If the market is there, goods get produced. If we vote for something, our representative governments will try to make it happen. If a marketer or a lobbyist can shift the markets or the votes to create demand for their product, you bet that sumbitch’ll do it. And if a 64-ounce cup of cola or a zero-interest loan on a luxury truck is dangled in front of a hungry consumer, you bet he’ll reach out and grab it.

Later that day, we went for another walk to a park near our house, and saw this:

pilot_idiot

Area man demonstrates the level of thought that goes into SUV ownership.

A brand-new Honda Pilot SUV, all $37,000 and 280 horsepower of it, was sitting there idling quietly on a little ridge overlooking the golf course. A single person was sitting inside, swiping at his phone and fiddling with the radio. We walked past in the bright sunshine, enjoying the spectacular fall air and looking at the crisp snowcap that had begun to form on the high mountains to the West.

25 minutes later, after a session on the slides and swings of the park, we walked back on the way home and found the same Honda there, still idling. Lightly poisoning the owner and every other resident of the planet, burning fuel at roughly the rate of 75 living human bodies. All because the owner hadn’t thought of pressing the soft-touch “engine off” button and lowering a few of the power windows to let in the quiet, clean 72-degree air. Or hell, opening the airbag-equipped, side-impact-protected door and stepping out of his Crushing Debt Tank into Nature’s splendor for a moment or two.

Like the Drive-Thru, this is a perfect encapsulation of the amount of thought we currently give to efficiency – both in our personal lives and as a society. Exactly none at all.

If the average Joe Taxpayer or Josephine Consumer were able to prop open one eye even just a tiny bit for just a brief period of time, in order to give the slightest shit about efficiency – meeting goals with minimal waste instead of just sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool, the change we would experience would be absolutely spectacular.

Let’s take the three-headed demon of energy consumption, oil supply and climate change for example. Geologists grimly adjust reserve estimates and scientists chart the retreat of glaciers. Countries fight to add renewable energy sources but all predictions point to insurmountable obstacles. So much science and so many calculations, and yet nobody bothers to state the obvious: We could instantly cut our consumption of everything by at least 75%, just by starting to give only the slightest shit about how much we consumed.

So the succesful oil services businessman who likes 16MPG pick-em-up trucks might still decide to buy one, but maybe he’d also throw down 3 grand for a used Honda Insight so he could enjoy 75MPG travel whenever he’s not hauling something. He’d make roughly a 100% annual return on investment and cut his fuel consumption by more than 75%.

People would just make slight adjustments in how far out in the suburbs they would be willing to live, how big to build their houses and what to do on the weekends. Tiny tweaks to vacation and family planning, brief considerations between steak and chicken.

City planners would just briefly entertain the possibility that at least a tiny percentage of its population will have working legs and thus not use a car for 100% of trips, allowing us to replace 60-foot-wide roadways everywhere and an acre of parking for each building, with 30-footers and a few shared parking spaces and some bike racks.

City footprints would shrink by 75% along with infrastructure spending, commutes would shrink, the 75% of healthcare spending that we currently dump into self-inflicted lifestyle diseases would almost disappear. We would be faced with an enormous surplus of energy, time, money, and awesomeness at the individual, city, and national level. Given a few years of such surpluses, the bounty would spill over into the international and then Earth-wide level.

We would all be ten times richer and with enough spare time and money to help those few who have a bit more trouble getting with the program. We’d live 20 years longer and the cost of medical and education and social security and unemployment insurance and every other band-aid for our current woes would drop to a negligible fraction of our national wealth.

All by just giving the tiniest shit for just a few seconds a day.

Are we willing to at least consider this idea briefly, or should we just keep arguing about how to keep the old system going, because it does not dare to suggest that giving a shit is necessary?

Afterword:

Sure, it’s easy for me to joke about giving a shit, but how would we really implement this in real life? I think we should start by:

  • Recruiting engineer/economist/philosophers rather than salesperson/preacher/tycoons to become our political leaders.
  • Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.
  • Studying personal happiness rather than retail catalogs and car brochures when trying to improve your lot in life.
  • Immediately giving up all forms of TV and spend that time walking and doing other things outside. How would your life and your health change, if you spent at least 4 hours out of every 24 in the great outdoors?
  • When you live by this example, you automatically pass the values to everyone around you. Whether you notice or not, people are watching you and they will follow.

 

  • Neil November 1, 2015, 4:34 pm

    Right on MMM. How about financial literacy courses as a regular part of education? Its oddly absent in most curriculums.

    Reply
    • aceyou November 1, 2015, 8:02 pm

      I include financial literacy and the basic ideas of FI into every math class I teach. Every time I know a lesson will take less time than normal…that’s my go to with the extra time these days. The kids actually like it and it gets great conversations going.

      Reply
      • Alison November 2, 2015, 8:49 am

        Thank you so, so much for doing this. I can’t think of a more valuable service to the community.

        Reply
      • Lucas November 2, 2015, 1:15 pm

        Wow! That’s an amazing way to have a real-life long-term impact on your students life.

        Reply
      • Donna December 27, 2015, 3:28 am

        I wondered if that was still part of the curriculum. I do hope you still include the basics of how to write a check and balance a checkbook. It seems with the technology available the actual balancing of a checkbook has fallen by the wayside.

        Reply
        • jsbinkyiii January 13, 2016, 7:46 am

          Lets also teach them to rewind VHS tapes, how to rewind a cassette tape with a pencil, and how to blow the dust out of your NES game cartridges at the same time. Is there any other obsolete technology we should be teaching them? Why waste time writing checks and balancing check books? I resent every organization backwards enough to force me to write a check. fortunately I have been able to cut all of them out of my life. YNAB, and Mint are way more useful than a checkbook.

          Reply
          • Jill October 7, 2016, 8:52 pm

            @jsbinkyiii I’d have a hard time understanding a business’s balance sheet, or the valuation of my employer of choice, if I never balanced a checkbook. Debits vs credits are a key piece of financial literacy, and frankly my husband still struggles with our checkbook because he just “used his online balance for reference.” Very important skill if you ask me.

            Reply
    • Steve November 2, 2015, 8:32 am

      Hey, now there’s an idea! Imagine walking around in a society where the majority of people understand supply and demand, saving and spending, income and expenses – instead of one that *largely* doesn’t.

      Reply
      • Laurie C November 2, 2015, 8:43 am

        Here’s an aspect of financial literacy that would be amazing to start seeing discussed not only in classrooms, but in our national dialogue: natural capital.

        I just recently heard about this concept of natural capital, which a bunch of economists and ecologists have developed in the past decade to help people understand the price of nature. So when MMM talks about the acres of new concrete (diverting rain water to sewers instead of soil) and trees torn down to create that drive through, natural capital was spent to built that thing.

        Not taking into account the value of natural capital is like not noticing you have a constant debit from your bank account that is silently depleting your principal. When it comes to our environment, we are living off the principal, not our interest. And as every good Mustachian knows, that is a bonehead move.

        Read Paddy Woodworth’s book Our Once and Future Planet, or check out http://www.naturalcapitalproject.org

        Reply
        • Casey Woolley November 8, 2015, 2:57 pm

          I’m also a huge fan of natural capital / henry george/ land tax principles. Implemented correctly they could correct so much waste and inefficiency through natural market forces. Our current market system is just incomplete as it stands. Land and resources aren’t capital, so when they run out from wastefulness (due to improper pricing and monopoly) you can’t just go out and make more of it.

          Reply
    • Stockbeard November 2, 2015, 12:33 pm

      I’m still wondering why I had to remember the name and height of a bunch of mountains, yet never had a single hour of finance education throughout almost 20 years of school…

      Reply
    • Jim Wang November 2, 2015, 6:20 pm

      I think too many educational systems are focused on getting kids into college, not giving them a set of life skills. That’s why things like shop class, cooking, and the like have largely disappeared. Financial literacy would be great… but I’d argue that comes behind fitness and food and a litany of other things!

      Reply
      • renee November 4, 2015, 7:51 am

        Parents should be teaching light carpentry, light plumbing, light electrical, cooking, balancing a check book, everyday frugality, etc. Alas, most parents don’t know how to do these things on even a rudimentary level so we moan and groan that the schools should do it. How about all us parents who don’t have life skills go down to the local community college and request heavily that these classes be offered and then if nothing else take the classes with our kids. Maybe then can we bootstrap the future generations in to better habits and a more well rounded life.

        Reply
        • Jasmine November 7, 2015, 4:38 pm

          One way I keep thinking this should be done is there are a great deal of senior citizens and semi-retired people with said skills who could use a little extra cash. How about classes taught by them or old school apprenticeships for a summer?

          Because of my job I run into a lot of people with great skills like this. Mentally, I’m keeping a list for when I have kids. When we do have kids, I’m going to reach out to these same people if this isn’t set up in some way already.

          Reply
          • renee November 9, 2015, 7:09 pm

            Keep thinking this. We’re ready! And we love it. And we certainly could use the extra cash. Being on Social “Security” is the best incentive to live frugally a la MMM. Furthermore, I’m “old” but there’s always someone older. I got my 88 year old neighbor across the creek to teach me how to crochet an old fashioned rag rug, for example, and now I have another cool skill and a great friend.

            Reply
      • thinkmore November 4, 2015, 1:58 pm

        being able to cook a good meal, i would argue, is PART of financial literacy.

        Reply
      • Deanno November 9, 2015, 11:32 am

        They don’t want you to learn financial literacy! The system is designed to keep the worker bees at the bottom so the rich up top get richer. That’s the truth. It’s a rat race trap.

        Reply
    • Karl Nelson November 3, 2015, 8:37 am

      Although financial literacy courses are regularly recommended, the economics research I have reviewed makes a stronger argument for additional mathematics courses (rather than financial literacy) as making a greater long-term impact in this area. I suspect this means that the critical component in financial literacy has almost everything to do with feeling comfortable thinking numerically and not feeling afraid of information communicated in this format. Thus, I would argue for focusing on all high school students finishing at least one statistics and at least one calculus course as a likely better way to achieve this end.

      Reply
      • renee November 4, 2015, 8:01 am

        In community college they made my psychology-bound daughter suffer through calculus and statistics and I’m glad they did. She had to take them over a couple times to pass but she did and in the process learned that perseverance creates success as well as the other skills.

        Reply
      • David Robarts November 6, 2015, 3:56 pm

        I agree that a basic education should at least include the fundamental principle of calculus. I really don’t think we need more people who can manipulate equations to generate beautiful exact answers to slopes or areas between curves – but it would be grand if everyone understood that all they are doing is breaking down a complex problem into a bunch of very simple ones.

        Reply
  • PatrickGSR94 November 1, 2015, 4:40 pm

    I like the drive thru at my bank. I ride up there on my bike and can deposit my check without having to worry about locking it up outside or rolling it inside. The other day I was forced to use the drive thru by car instead of walking inside because the bank across the street had just been robbed and they had the lobby locked down.

    Reply
    • Lorraine November 1, 2015, 7:28 pm

      I like the drive through because it takes about 30 seconds. I would burn more gas shutting my car off and restarting it.
      I also hope for your sake that you stay as healthy as you think you will because of your lifestyle. For a moment, just realize that everyone is not walking like you do because some of them have illnesses that you aren’t privy to that don’t allow them to have your level of activity. Good people who exercise and live thoughtful, meaningful and frugal lives do get illnesses that they couldn’t prevent and at an early age. Instead of ridiculing everyone in a car, try to be more understanding since you don’t know everyone’s circumstances. Sure some are lazy but many are not.

      Reply
      • Nate November 1, 2015, 8:23 pm

        I don’t think the inefficiency of the driving was the point (or atleast not the whole point). Rather, it was the devotion of so much infrastructure to save people a marginal amount of time and avoid all physical exertion (which most of them need more of any way). I don’t really think that such infrastructure is the best or most efficient way to serve the disabled either.

        Reply
      • PatrickGSR94 November 1, 2015, 9:41 pm

        Not sure if you meant to reply to me or what. I never ridiculed anyone who drives a car. I ridicule people who drive monster Yukon XL and H2 Hummer SUV’s. But not everyone. I have a 21 year old Honda sports car myself that I love driving. I just don’t want to drive it all the time. Much prefer cycling for most mundane errands.

        Reply
      • Iniq November 1, 2015, 10:49 pm

        Idling for anything over ten seconds is more wasteful than restarting. Let’s also not pretend that the average drive thru transaction is less than a minute. Let’s also not pretend that “not lazy” is a larger population than “lazy”. The vast majority of people are not forced into their lifestyles by illness or other limitations.

        Reply
      • Jeff November 2, 2015, 8:40 am

        “Good people who exercise and live thoughtful, meaningful and frugal lives do get illnesses that they couldn’t prevent and at an early age.”
        And far greater numbers of people die of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, due to sedentary lifestyles and insufficient exertion.
        This article isn’t shaming all car users, just those who do it mindlessly and excessively.

        Reply
      • MoyamoyaMom November 2, 2015, 9:57 am

        I was one of those young, active people living a thoughtful, meaningful and frugal life when I had a devastating stroke at 33. That lifestyle was what saved my family’s butt! We were used to living off of 40% of our income and had only a mortgage payment to worry about, so when I was in the hospital and rehab for the majority of 18 months my husband was able to focus on helping me get better and taking care of our child instead of worrying about how to pay all our bills. When I lost my job after the 12 month return deadline we weren’t that stressed because we had already made it a year without my income. I also lost my license because of my stroke… but that wasn’t a big deal either since I didn’t drive much before.

        Another BIG bonus to being a family that didn’t always follow the herd was that my husband is great at researching and making educated decisions. He was able to get me in to see the top neurosurgeon in the US for my disease. That was a life changing move. The top doctors in our state just told me to “live your life while you can”. He also got me into 7 days a week of vision therapy that’s considered experimental, but was also a life changer for me.

        I just wanted to remind everyone that there are a lot of people with disabilities that don’t allow them to drive… but that doesn’t have to stop us from living a thoughtful, meaningful, frugal life.

        Reply
        • Mable November 2, 2015, 3:44 pm

          Thank you, MoyamoyaMom, for representing those of us who can’t live the life of Mr. MM. I, too, became the unlikely victim of a catastrophic illness. Despite what my physician calls a platinum insurance policy, we paid tens of thousands for things not covered by insurance (like having to live in another state for a year and a half for specialized treatment0 or that the insurance company fought against paying for so long that we finally gave in and paid for the item ourselves (like a wheelchair because I was so weak my husband literally had to carry me from bed to bathroom). Now we own what people consider a gas guzzler, but it is a van that accommodates a wheelchair and the ramp to load and unload it. If we had not been living a frugal lifestyle before, we could not have survived me not working for two years and my husband not working for a year and a half. I am still unable to work, but my husband has gone back to work part time and we can live on his part time salary. We have spent over $100,000 out of pocket during this illness (this includes buying a handicapped equipped van)—had we been profligate before this happened, we would have been pushed into bankruptcy. Anyway, before I hope readers think twice before judging someone in a gas guzzler—it may be a necessity, not a lazy luxury. And when I drive (yes, people in wheelchairs can drive) to the bank, it is such a chore to transfer myself to the wheelchair that I always use the drive thru, as I do for picking up prescriptions. Remember that you can be healthy one day and felled the next day, by accident or illness.

          Reply
          • postscript November 4, 2015, 1:28 pm

            Thank you Moyamoya Mom and Mabel for sharing your experiences. Good reminder that disability is not always visible and that Mustachianism also helps us prepare to weather unexpected tough times.

            Reply
      • Colby November 2, 2015, 10:17 am

        @Lorraine

        Your car uses no gas when turned off vs getting 0 MPG and wasting gas while idling. It’s a myth that the car uses more gas to start. Why do you think all new hybrids and efficient cars have auto start/stop features that will turn off the engine instead of idling? Turn the car off instead of idling, even if it’s just for 20 or 30 seconds.

        Reply
        • Tawcan November 2, 2015, 3:25 pm

          Definitely waste more gas when idling. The restarting car takes more gas than leaving it idle for a few seconds is totally a myth. The amount of idling you see at US/Canada border is mind boggling. There’s totally a reason why hybrids and some diesel cars that you see have auto start/stop feature that shut off the engine when the car comes at a stop.

          Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 2, 2015, 11:10 am

        I left Lorraine’s Classic Complainypants comment in here as an example of exactly what I’m up against in a battle like this.

        Note the assumption about “shutting off my car” – YOU DON’T NEED TO BRING YOUR INTERSTATE RACING LA-Z-BOY TO THE BANK IN THE FIRST PLACE!

        Note our built-in assumption that half an acre of asphalt is a reasonable thing to lay down in a high density area to allow us to do this.

        And on the unrelated health comments: sure, there are always unlucky exceptions, but it is counterproductive to even bother mentioning them when planning your own daily activities. Because you need to place your bet where the odds are in your favor.

        In the overwhelming majority of cases, your health is in your own hands. Allow yourself to get out of shape, and multiply your risk of virtually every ailment by an enormous factor as you age. Relying on a car daily may be one of the biggest ways we destroy our own health.

        “Sure some are lazy but many are not” – I’d still wager that over 90% of car trips are avoidable and thus due to some for of laziness or poor planning.

        Reply
        • BC November 2, 2015, 1:14 pm

          Also, Lorraine’s comments about idling versus shut off are also incorrect. In the old days of carburetors cars flooded a burst of fuel into the engine. Now starting a car, using electronic fuel injectors, uses about 6 seconds of fuel. More about this here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2008/05/is_an_idle_car_the_devils_workshop.html

          Me, I just ride my bike – 0 seconds of fuel consumption!

          Reply
          • DP November 16, 2015, 4:47 pm

            “Me, I just ride my bike – 0 seconds of fuel consumption!”

            Kind of funny posting that when your avatar is a picture of you in the driver’s seat of a car. ;-)

            Reply
        • J White November 2, 2015, 9:50 pm

          Hey Mr. Money Mustashe,
          I’m a small business owner in Hawaii and totally get your focus on efficiency. I especially like when things you do combine effiently and synergistically with other enjoyable things. Recently, I’ve been realizing that my HCLF vegan diet has been very synergistically efficient due to its very low cost, healthful benefits and the fact that it’s very good for the planet and all creatures on it. Sorry to go off topic for a bit but I thought it might relate since your post touched on efficiency and addressing environmental issues. Let me know what you think! Much Aloha, J

          Reply
          • Greg December 2, 2016, 6:02 am

            Hey, JWhite, this is a whole year later so maybe you won’t see this. But two thumbs up on the HCLF vegan diet. Same in our household and it is truly amazing the impact the lifestyle can have on the planets resources (and health, of course). Ultimate in efficiency.

            Reply
        • renee November 7, 2015, 8:15 pm

          I’ve heard this: “Sitting is the new smoking.” And boy oh howdy was it ever true in my case. Sitting led to chronic lower back pain, chronic lower back pain led to severe lower back pain and drugs and not being able to take a deep breath which compromised my lungs and next thing I know I have San Joaquin Valley Fever and in the hospital near death. Get out of your chair (car or otherwise) ! We’ve jumped out of a skyscraper window and we think the view is great on the way down until we hit the pavement.

          Reply
          • TomTrottier November 8, 2015, 12:52 pm

            FWIW, sitting can be healthy too. Instead of back supports and arms, sit on a Balans chair or big exercise ball. Then your back & body are constantly adjusting, & staying toned, while sitting.
            When we “support” our body, we are making it lazy. Ditto for shoes vs barefoot.

            Reply
      • Barb November 2, 2015, 1:52 pm

        More importantly, Good people who exercise and live thoughtful and meaningful lives use the drive through. Again, it’s a choice. I use drive through because I find it efficient and it cuts down on time, pure and simple. I don’t have stores within walking distance to begin with, but even if I did I would still be using the drive through. If I don’t do what you do, am I lazy? In my case, almost every single time, the drive through is faster and more efficient-at least where I live. Recently that theory got tested twice with my twenty something college student who got out and went in to do what needed to be done, and I was done and finished waiting for him every time. I don’t live my life runnjing from one place to another, but when I do leave this oasis todo errands, I want them done quickly and efficiently. I have plenty of other time to visit with small business owners, talk with the neighbors and walk the canal path (for an hour a day)

        Oh, and when it comes to good old Atlanta? The last two times I was there I had less than half an hour to be on another plane. Had I walked through the airport, it would have been more like that scene in Broadcast News. You know, the one where she jumps and leaps over desks and people to get to the news desk before they go live? Give me the train, give me the train.

        Reply
        • Barb November 2, 2015, 1:54 pm

          Oh, and as far as depositing checks, that’s what my smart phone is for!!

          Reply
      • AnneD November 2, 2015, 4:23 pm

        Or just not young … I cared for 5 elderly friends and family members (ranging in age from 87-101) in my home for a period of about 8 years. I used drive-throughs every chance I could get: bank, Starbucks, and pharmacy. No way I could have left any of them at home while I was out and about running errands – and also wonderful for them to get out of them house! However, getting in/out of vehicles, let alone walking in the rain, cold, and over uneven surfaces, was a huge hassle. Three of them had some level of dementia, so leaving them in the car for even one minute (let alone the 30 minutes a pharmacy visit can turn into) was not an option.

        I suppose you could say that in most cases a good drive through would result in the need for fewer parking spaces.

        I’m not even touching the bike issue. None of the people I was caring for would have appreciated a rickshaw.

        Reply
        • Pablito November 3, 2015, 8:29 am

          While I obviously cannot comment on your particular family members, I will note that I saw many extremely old people in Japan going to banks/groceries, etc. on their own. I think sometimes our culture expects/encourages the elderly to be sedentary and assume they cannot do anything. But it may be more cultural conditioning than a true physical limitation, in some cases.

          Reply
          • susan November 16, 2015, 6:18 pm

            Agreed. If you have ever left the confines of the United States, you will soon see that there are whole countries, not just cities, but whole countries, with no drive thrus. With elderly. And disabled.

            My very active father is in his 70s and drives 2,000 miles a year. He had a pacemaker put in and was on his bike….the next day.

            Reply
          • susan November 16, 2015, 6:30 pm

            I don’t have a single neighbor that walks their child to school. The school is three blocks away.
            I have one neighbor whose daughter goes to the second level school in town which is a 20 minute walk, so she takes the school bus there…ok, I can understand this maybe. However, he drives her to the school bus. The school bus is two blocks away. This neighbor also does P90X every day. So he will work out a half hour a day, but can’t walk his 10 year old daughter 2 blocks…or God forbid…she can walk there herself? Our town has zero crime – stealing GPSs and DUIs are the only crime, and I read the police blotter every week for 10 years.
            I cringe when I see all of this. What message are they teaching their children?????

            Reply
      • Jason Dunn November 2, 2015, 7:19 pm

        There are a lot of things we hear and simply aren’t true:

        “Turn off your ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds. Contrary to popular belief, restarting your car does not burn more fuel than leaving it idling. In fact, idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine.”

        https://www.edf.org/climate/reports/idling

        Spread the word: turning off your car makes sense in almost every case. :-)

        Reply
      • Jasmine November 10, 2015, 2:09 pm

        Lorraine, you’re right that not everyone is lucky enough to be healthy.

        Take me, for instance. I’ve suffered from asthma and allergies my whole life. Often walking at a normal pace leaves me out of breath. And a couple of months ago I badly sprained my ankle, which slowed me down even more.

        But here’s the difference between how you and I see the world- I still didn’t drive. Instead, I changed up my bus routes so that I had the option to not walk so far. I gave myself more time to get to my destinations. I rested at the end of every day. And I gave myself permission to call a taxi if things got bad (they didn’t).

        So here I was, gingerly walking down the street with a hurt ankle, stopping to catch my breath every few blocks, and being passed by people in cars who say things like “we aren’t all so lucky to be healthy enough to walk.”

        For most people, that’s simply an excuse. If you’re healthy enough to walk down the hall, you’re healthy enough to walk down the street. It may not be fast, and it may not be easy, but it’s far from impossible.

        Something I noticed in the month or so I needed to recover- I also gained several pounds. I’m losing them easily now that I’m walking more again, but it became clear very quickly how much walking every day helps keep me healthy.

        So feel free to keep saying that this lifestyle is only for the young, lucky, and healthy. Keep telling yourself that one day I’ll know what it’s like to be old and sick and car-dependant. Keep making excuses and pretending as though you have no choice.

        I’ll be the little old lady walking down the street, proving you wrong.

        Reply
        • Matt (Semper Fi) December 14, 2016, 5:47 am

          Well said, Jasmine. Aside from a few legit cases, lazy bags-of-bones need to be hoofing it more. Less complaining, more walking/biking.

          Reply
    • Insourcelife November 2, 2015, 7:54 am

      At least at a bank the drive thru can make SOME sense (like if you had to deposit cash and felt insecure about walking around with it in your pocket – not my argument, but just maybe…) I think the absurdity of it all is even more apparent when talking about fast food drive thrus. It must be so convenient to keep your fat ass planted in a gas guzzler as an order of additional fat is fed directly through a window!

      Reply
      • Lucas November 2, 2015, 1:25 pm

        Indeed, fast food drive thrus are so ironic! It’s killer convenience!

        The absurdity of it always reminds me of a joke from an Italian magician I saw perform years ago:

        “The sign said Drive Thru Window. I said, Why? It’s a very nice window! I don’t want to drive thru it!”

        Reply
      • casserole55 November 7, 2015, 6:34 am

        When I worked in an office (and I don’t anymore because I achieved early retirement about a year ago) I witnessed my coworkers coming in to work late, stressed and frazzled because of the long lines at the drive through to get their morning coffee. Ridiculous! I made myself a perfect cup of coffee, drank it at home. Managed to survive my commute without a beverage. Then at work I had tea throughout the day in a ceramic mug. You can buy 100 tea bags for $3.00. So that’s 3 cents per cup. So – add to all the waste outlined by MMM in this article the waste of resources for those disposable cups, and the waste of money for expensive inferior coffee.

        Reply
        • renee November 7, 2015, 8:21 pm

          On a similar vein: When we go to the salad bar I bring my own bowl. I have them weigh it first and then I fill is up and subtract the difference. Everybody always says “Mmmmm, that looks so GOOD!” I say yeah. Food looks better (and maybe even tastes better ) in a real bowl than a disposable container.

          Reply
          • casserole55 November 9, 2015, 6:32 pm

            This
            is absolutely fantastic. I love it!

            Reply
    • David September 7, 2016, 5:19 am

      I use the drive thru for a different reason. It opens an hour before the lobby. Although I prefer to walk into the lobby to do my banking I don’t want to wait until 9:00 when the drive thru opens at 8:00. The drive thru is also open on Saturday mornings and the loby is not. I never let the engine idle at the drive thru. I shut it off when I’m sitting in line or at the window.

      Reply
  • Mme Bovary's daughter November 1, 2015, 4:44 pm

    I wouldn’t want to live in a world ruled by engineers — my experience so far is that they tend to have an empathy/ emotional bypass. MMM excluded, naturally. And I’m not convinced efficiency is the answer/ solution here. Data is not often as univocal as you make it: it can be bent every which way, if people are so minded. As you say, there are powerful interests at work in making us all consume far more than we need, and in subsidising the car industry (it’s not coincidental that the VW cheat was discovered in the US: nobody would have dared doing it in Europe!).
    But living by example can work. I live about 1.5 miles from my daughter’s school, and walk there and back at pick up. Another family started doing the same after they saw us. It’s the highlight of my day, and makes my daughter very proud to be doing something different — and good for the polar bears, as she puts it — from her friends. Most of the other kids are ferried to school and the various post-school activities in monstrous SUVs, left idling while they strap the car seats in. To my mind we need to make environmental education a compulsory part of the school curriculum, so children will start nagging their parents that they want to walk everywhere. Failing that, we’ll just have to wait for the Saudis to bust the US oil industry so that we can go back to paying the real price of oil ($100+ per barrel). That will concentrate minds.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 1, 2015, 5:15 pm

      Haha.. I agree that we engineers have been known to substitute equations for emotions at times, but I argue that this is exactly what we need in this case. If we know the data on what makes us happy, we can subtly design those ideas right into our urban planning and fiscal policies. Then the more emotionally driven people with no interest in engineering can stumble into these happiness-producing features of our society and just live better without realizing why.

      Right now, the engineering is happening with just as much intensity, it is just being done by a different group with the goal of building an army of lifelong consumers.

      Great example on the walking to school. We started this in our own hood along with just a few other families about five years ago, and now it has reached epic proportions: hundreds of walkers and cyclists flood in on a good day. My goal is to reach the point where people don’t even bother taking their cars within a 2-block radius of the school because there are too many humans.

      Driving a kid less than a mile to school should be considered just as ridiculous as driving your truck right into the classroom and dropping them off at the desk.

      Reply
      • Ocbh November 2, 2015, 12:51 pm

        Say that only one group of people should govern feels kinda extremist, today it’s the engineers but tomorrow it could be the philosopher or the economist or etc… . What about trying to give a chance to anybody ( by giving the same good education for everyone who is interested )

        Reply
        • James A November 8, 2015, 11:46 pm

          That is what we already do, and you can see the result. Mmm is not advocating totalitarianism of engineers here. He’s simply saying that it would be in the voter’s best interest to focus on engineer-y qualities rather than whatever it is they are currently focusing on.

          Reply
      • Cecile November 6, 2015, 3:27 am

        I couldn’t agree more with the general premise of the post. We recently moved to a small school district with no busing. It’s about a ten minute walk to the elementary school, yet everyone drives their child to and from school in an SUV or truck (in absolutely gorgeous, dry 70 -75 F fall weather no less). The only traffic on the main road is before/after school (to the point that the air by the road seems polluted during the pre/post school traffic jams). This is an affluent community. Presumably many of the citizens are reasonably well educated. Any suggestions as to how to persuade people to change? We are not charismatic, and we’re not from the area, so leading by example won’t get the job done. This would be a tough sell. These people love their vehicles. Every last one of the parents sits in their idling SUV, clicking away on their iphones while they wait for their children after school. The older kids have their own SUVs, which they drive a few blocks to/from the high school. Everyone is busy and important, so asking them to spend an extra twenty minutes each morning and afternoon walking/biking to/from school would be a tough sell. There has to be a way to market walking to school in good weather in a small, safe community to make people feel good about themselves (improving their health, while protecting the environment, and making their community more appealing) for choosing to spend the extra time walking/biking. Suggestions? Success stories?

        Reply
        • Missy B November 6, 2015, 1:52 pm

          Hi Cecile-
          Difficult as this situation looks, I think you can get a wedge in despite being new. Influence is earned in different ways, and I think you can earn yours by offering help to the other parents. If you can find out which families are on your walking route, you could offer to walk their children to school when you walk your own. If your kid(s) know someone in their class who lives nearby, they can invite them, ask them if they want to walk to school with them in the morning.
          If you have a Block Parents operating in your area, you can join. This will give you another way to reach people, especially if it’s difficult to connect at school because everyone is in their cars. If there isn’t a Block Parents, start one. It’s work, but it will pay dividends, and you’ll meet a lot of people. If you’re a block parent, it won’t seem that strange to offer to the others that you’re happy to walk their kids too.
          Communities are strongest and safest when everyone knows each other, and walking together daily is a good way to do that. I doubt most of these folks care too much about their environmental impact, but they do care about feeling like they’re in a good, safe neighbourhood. So that’s what I’d stress, if people think you’re wierd for offering to walk their children. You’re new, it’s a good way to meet people and be part of the community, you think your kids focus better when they’ve had a little excercise, etc.

          Last thing — don’t focus on trying to get a lot of people to do this. If you can get one family to buy in and walk with you, you’ve won. More will follow. It will take time, but you can shift the culture. Just focus on getting one more family.

          Here’s a resource that changed the way I think about this kind of thing. It includes some studies that measured what actually changed people’s behaviour.
          Good luck!
          It’s available as a free PDF on different sites, so if the link below doesn’t work, google it and try another.
          Fostering Sustainable Behavior
          http://www.cbsm.com/public/images/FosteringSustainableBehavior.pdf

          Reply
          • Cecile November 12, 2015, 7:24 am

            Missy, Thank you so much for your thoughtful recommendations. Your suggestions are excellent. Since I posted, our neighbor has walked home with us a few times because it’s more fun, so that’s a start. Completely agree that the best pitch is community for the kids and fitness for the moms. Many thanks!–Cecile

            Reply
        • KS November 8, 2015, 9:05 am

          Check out http://www.walkbiketoschool.org for resources and ideas.

          Reply
    • Liz November 1, 2015, 5:45 pm

      Just in the interests of accuracy in the discussion – European regulators actually let automakers get away with much more than US ones.

      Cite: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21666226-volkswagens-falsification-pollution-tests-opens-door-very-different-car

      Reply
    • Anonymous November 2, 2015, 12:32 am

      > my experience so far is that they tend to have an empathy/ emotional bypass

      Only the broken engineers, or the ones who haven’t yet grown up past the “I dislike reality so I reject it” phase. The phase that still says “fashion shouldn’t be important so I’ll dress however I like”, for instance.

      The engineers who get past that realize that emotions are one of the many things that should go into their equations. Emotions themselves have no place in any decisionmaking process, but people’s feelings absolutely have value and get a term in the balance.

      > Data is not often as univocal as you make it: it can be bent every which way, if people are so minded.

      That’s exactly why emotions have no place in decisionmaking: if you’re invested in the result, you can bias it, maliciously or simply through cognitive bias. You should want to know the truth, whatever the truth is; you should never want to believe a falsehood, no matter how comforting.

      Reply
      • Ballin November 2, 2015, 1:00 pm

        For what it’s worth, the Economist had another interesting article: “Data Analysis: On the Other Hands,” in which they talked about a paper that had numerous research groups answer a seemingly simple data analytics question. To the researchers’ surprise, the 29 different teams came up with a surprisingly wide range of results, all with the same data. Anyways, an interesting read, and I think it speaks to some of the hazards associated with trying to solve questions with numbers/science. Not only are there biases, but there are different methodologies and approaches to take in answering a question. And it seems politicians have grown very fond of citing research results… the true answer may not be the same to two unbiased, researchers.

        Reply
      • ks November 2, 2015, 1:37 pm

        yep, anyone can torture/waterboard the data to make it say what they want to hear! f you have infants or suffer from mobility problems, drive thrus for food, prescriptions and banking are genuine lifesavers and can give some sense of independence. As a reminder, not all mobility problems are caused by poor eating habits or a sedentary lifestyle…chemo can cause neuropathy, for example, and that can reduce your ability to walk. I too have walked the length of ATL’s bowels and enjoyed its artwork. Yesterday, I combined biking with bus and train public transit to drop off a car for its semi-annual wellness check and maintenance. It took a few hours, but I was able to read 2 Sunday newspapers and enjoy some outdoor time, get some mental and physical exercise, and relax while enjoying professional driving for 2/3 of the distance, all for less than $5 (over 25 miles covered). My neighbors think I’m nuts and they always offer me rides that I refuse. Use the right tool for the task, I say, and for short distances, that’s my feet on the ground, on pedals, or on a bus or train floor.

        Reply
        • The_Overdog November 5, 2015, 2:21 pm

          Mr Money Mustache and myself had or have infants, we know what life is like with them, and whether drive thrus are necessary with them or not (they are not).

          Reply
        • Andrew November 11, 2015, 10:59 pm

          I dunno, I have an infant (4 months old!) and I don’t think my wife or I have taken him through the drive thru yet. When I had to run a couple errands at the bank while my wife was at a doctor’s appointment, I just strapped him into the baby carrier and walked to the bank. He was cool even though the line was long, and all of the older people in line loved making faces at him. If we need a prescription filled, one of us stays home with the kid while the other goes out, or we go for a family walk.

          I live in a relatively car-unfriendly city, and 60% of people here still drive alone. I’m willing to grant that some people have disabilities and actually NEED a car to get around but 60% of Chicago doesn’t have that kind of debilitating illness.

          Reply
      • The_Overdog November 5, 2015, 2:19 pm

        Engineers design highways and roadways, and look how awful those systems are. You would most assuredly need a philosopher in there to remind them that their job is to connect people and commerce, not build fast roads.

        Reply
      • Slevin November 5, 2015, 9:33 pm

        >That’s exactly why emotions have no place in decisionmaking: if you’re invested in the result, you can bias it, maliciously or simply through cognitive bias. You should want to know the truth, whatever the truth is; you should never want to believe a falsehood, no matter how comforting.

        Unfortunately biases are inherently how humans are built. Decisions about things are made immediately, and the “rationalizations” for our actions are just post-hoc constructions we tell ourselves to make us feel better. Modern psychologists refer to this as “the rider on the elephant”. You cannot change many people’s minds with the facts, because inherently our conscious mind is not in charge of making the immediate decision .

        A good read on the subject is Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

        Reply
  • Finance Clever November 1, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Thanks for another great post MMM! As somebody born outside of the U.S., drive-through places and other inefficiencies we see everyday are like a slap in the face to me. Sadly and strangely, 99% of people in the U.S. and perhaps other rich countries are completely oblivious.

    On a separate note, I am guilty of always using the subway to get around in the Atlanta airport! Most times because I am in a rush, but a few other times just because walking didn’t even cross my mind. Kinda surprising how nice the walking paths are! Will definitely give them a try the next time I am there and have some time to spare.

    Reply
    • Craig in Cary November 2, 2015, 8:11 am

      Same here on navigating the mess that is the Atlanta airport. If we’re in a hurry to catch the flight, we take the subway, but if not, we enjoy the walk. They always have some interesting African art displays along the walkway, so it’s sort of like a walking museum tour!

      Reply
      • Mountains_o_Mustaches November 2, 2015, 8:12 pm

        I actually use the walkways because they are faster (or just as fast as) the subways, especially if you’re walking (not standing) on the moving walkways. I love those things – they’re kinda like the speed boosts in Mario Kart. If I need to get to the next terminal in a rush, how does it help me to wait around for the next train?

        I second the sentiment about the walkways being like a walking museum tour. If you have the time, skip the moving walkways and soak in the exhibits – they’re lots of fun!

        Reply
        • Sarah November 4, 2015, 3:29 pm

          I concur! I didn’t know Atlanta had a subway. Always walk the walk-way in a rush and walk the path when it’s only a terminal/lots of time.

          Reply
      • Finance Clever November 3, 2015, 5:17 am

        I definitely have to check it out! Are you in Cary as in Cary, NC??
        I live in Raleigh, NC. Don’t know many MMM readers in the area

        Reply
        • Craig in Cary November 4, 2015, 8:35 am

          Yep, Cary, NC. Been here since 2005, when I escaped the madness that is the Washington DC area. :-)

          Reply
          • Ramparts November 5, 2015, 10:52 am

            I too am looking to escape the madness that is the Washington DC area :). We are investigating the greater Raleigh area – any recommendations on Mustachian (read: bike-able) parts of town? Or places to avoid?

            Reply
            • Emily C November 7, 2015, 2:07 pm

              Carrboro. And Chapel Hill. Free buses! And awesome people and great food. Very Mustachian communities, especially if you ignore the undergrad students.

              Reply
            • Finance Clever November 10, 2015, 6:37 am

              If you will be coming down for work I’d recommend living close to work (can’t think of places I would avoid in Raleigh, but at the same time I have only lived here about 3 years so I am no expert). If you are already retired, Cary has a good amount of bike lanes and trails I think!

              Reply
              • Ramparts November 12, 2015, 11:25 am

                Thank you both for the tips! I work from home, so that opens up a lot of possibilities… but sometimes I think too many choices makes it more difficult :). I’ll be sure to check out each of these areas.

        • Cristie November 5, 2015, 9:30 am

          A Durham, NC reader here! Nice to meet you both.

          Reply
          • Finance Clever November 10, 2015, 6:40 am

            Nice to meet you too, Cristie! We should have a triangle gathering some time.
            MMM: if you are reading this and feel like checking out the Raleigh/Durham, NC area, we would love to have you!

            Reply
  • Vawt November 1, 2015, 4:56 pm

    The faster the world moves, the more convenience options there are for people too busy to be bothered with the smallest tasks. I am guilty of it sometimes, but I have tried to make some changes to reduce my footprint.

    I always walk in the airport too. Especially after being stuck in a tiny seat, you just need to stretch your legs.

    Reply
  • Ron November 1, 2015, 4:59 pm

    In general, I appreciate your counter-cultural critiques, but can’t help but wonder if your penchant for thinking that science and engineering are panaceas for modern ills constitutes an ideology? Any evidence engineers walk or cycle more than average and are healthier than the next occupation? Is it even remotely possible that some engineers drive SUVs and let them idle way too much? Maybe even Mr. Honda Pilot?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 1, 2015, 5:39 pm

      I think science and engineering can go either way: if we apply them while giving zero shits about the environmental consequences (as we have over the past century or two), we just get more efficient consumption. But if we take the astonishing efficiency and combine it with a vague awareness of a finite ecosystem, we’ll get stunning change overnight.

      I don’t have evidence that engineers consume less than their counterparts, but there is at least some evidence of a related effect: we are about 50 times more common among MMM readers than among the general population: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/09/17/a-one-question-survey-who-are-the-mustachians/

      Reply
    • ST November 2, 2015, 6:45 am

      My anecdotal evidence that that every other cyclist I run into while commuting, thus far, has been an engineer. At parties, the people who advocate for bicycle commuting or small cars (I have both), have typically engineers (75% of the time?) or people with little money (25% of the time) such as college students.

      Related note – our household income (2 engineers) is ~180K and we could trivially afford a wasteful car. This morning I was listening to Dave Ramsey where he was interviewing millionaires. One of the questions he asked was “how many new cars, in your life, have you purchased?”, to which the most common answers was ” Zero”. Someone with $3M in net worth still looks at a new car and says “I don’t have enough to just throw it away like that”.

      Here are some statistics:
      http://www.peopleforbikes.org/statistics/category/participation-statistics

      Reply
      • Eles November 2, 2015, 4:07 pm

        Thank you for the reminder that I do not have to crave a new car, just because my “old one” is 8 years “old”. Even after years of reading MMM and ERE, I still catch myself randomly thinking the consumer sucka way.
        Our ego can rationalize even the stupidest choices.

        Reply
    • Rachel November 2, 2015, 12:47 pm

      I am also an engineer – so I am surely biased, but I agree that we really are well suited for running the world. Think about it – an engineer’s job is to design and then figure out how to build a solution to a given problem in the real world. I am a mechanical engineer that has worked in the automotive and furniture industries. Sure, we use a lot of cold hard logic and data driven problem solving to come up with our design. But the whole goal of that nerdy design work is to delight a customer using resources as efficiently as possible. We want to engineer a solution that people will want to use. Who wouldn’t want people that think like that in charge?

      Reply
      • Ron November 5, 2015, 9:55 am

        Now I’m convinced that there is another commonality among engineers—hubris. I always admire and respect engineers’ technical chops, but an even semi-objective observer would conclude that on average (MMM fortunately is an outlier) engineers really struggle with communicating clearly with non-engineers. An Intel exec friend of mine would go farther and say they really struggle with interacting effectively with non-engineers. So, many don’t communicate or collaborate with other particularly well. Of course I would never say they suck at working with non-engineers because it would only unleash a firestorm of angry replies from engineers whose interpersonal skills are way better than most peoples.

        Reply
  • M from Loveland November 1, 2015, 5:06 pm

    Great post!. Already got my free ticket for the gathering in Longmont. So excited to meet you and all the awesome readers of this blog!

    Reply
  • Mother Frugal November 1, 2015, 5:43 pm

    Drive-thrus are supposed to be a convenience, and I have taken full advantage of them when driving a carload of several small, sleeping children. They sure are a blessing when hobbling around on a sprained ankle, too. Were it not for that convenience, there are times in my life I would not have been able to run certain errands at all.

    Having said that, it is ridiculous how lazy many have become. How many people in the drive-thru lanes at the bank, at the pharmacy, at the grocery store or at the local McHeartattack are unable to park, turn off their car engines and walk upright for a little while? This convenience option sometimes actually takes LONGER now because so many fully capable people are using it, causing those who might actually need or truly benefit from them to wait.

    And of course, in turn, businesses respond to this by building more drive-thrus, more roadways, and generally paving paradise to put up a parking lot. When will the madness end?

    Reply
    • PatrickGSR94 November 1, 2015, 9:44 pm

      Fast food drive thru’s are often slower than going inside especially at peak hours. I prefer going inside also for better security if paying by card, or it’s easier to count exact change while standing than sitting in the car, if I’m doing that.

      Reply
    • Hibryd November 2, 2015, 8:46 am

      “Were it not for that convenience, there are times in my life I would not have been able to run certain errands at all. Having said that, it is ridiculous how lazy many have become. How many people in the drive-thru lanes at the bank, at the pharmacy, at the grocery store or at the local McHeartattack are unable to park, turn off their car engines and walk upright for a little while?”

      So your use of the drive-through was not only reasonable, it was a lifesaver. Other people’s use of the drive-through is proof of laziness.

      MMM seems to be adopting a similar attitude. My indulgences are okay and reasonable. Other people’s indulgences are wrong.

      Reply
    • Hibryd November 2, 2015, 9:02 am

      Shit. Wish I could delete comments, because the above was unnecessarily snarky and confrontational without adding anything to the conversation. You were already defending the drive-through and pointing out that there are good reasons to have one. Sorry about that Frugal.

      Not gonna take back my comment about MMM, though. “Hey, let me ruminate about how much better I am for having the time to walk a mile in an airport. Wouldn’t the world be better if more people were like me? Yes it would.”

      Reply
      • iniq November 2, 2015, 2:41 pm

        Are you saying it wouldn’t? I’m pretty sure if everyone in the world was more empathetic, thoughtful, and tried harder, yes the world WOULD be a better place. The laziness and self-entitlement in the world is completely off the charts and traces back to a lack of empathy and thoughtfulness. People just glide through their selfish bubble until they die, but not before squeezing out several little copies of themselves.

        Reply
      • QQ November 2, 2015, 2:47 pm

        And why was The Mustache in an airport? He was in between riding airplanes, taking an approximately 9,000-mile round trip.

        I’d have to idle my engine at a drive-through for a really long time to match traveling to Ecuador for fuel use.

        Why be smug about a one-mile walk through the air-conditioned building, then?

        Reply
        • Doug November 2, 2015, 9:31 pm

          Because it’s not really that difficult to walk a mile in an airport, or into a bank rather than use a drive through. It’s not so easy to walk 9000 miles, with luggage and all, and going through all those border crossings to go from the United States to Ecuador. There’s no comparison between the two.

          Reply
    • Liz November 3, 2015, 1:22 pm

      I think another thing that MMM was trying to get across in this post is that the concept of a drive thru could also be made obsolete by other feats of engineering/coordination. Think about how much more banking we do on our phone now than we used to! I still have to go to the bank for darn quarters for laundry (rental woes), but I’m happy to do that via bike or walking. More and more cities are offering bike delivery services for our pharmacy orders. This would be a great option for the elderly or disabled folks!

      Reply
    • David Robarts November 6, 2015, 4:44 pm

      Years ago, I was taken to a fast food place by someone who parked and we walked in. Inside I noticed an article posted about the location being “the fastest drive-thru in the world” (measured by number of orders served – not wait time). Indeed, we had our meals well before those who got into the drive-thru queue as we parked the car.

      Reply
  • Hannah November 1, 2015, 5:44 pm

    There’s a great quote I read recently that seems applicable:
    “Drive in banks were established so most of the cars today could see their real owners.” (E. Joseph Grossman)

    As someone not from the US, I find the concept of drive-thru banks absolutely bizarre. It truly baffles me.

    Reply
    • casserole55 November 7, 2015, 6:53 am

      Has anyone noticed that these bank drive up ATMs are designed for big, tall vehicles? From the window of my Honda Accord, I can’t reach the dang buttons. So I park my car, walk up to the drive thru, but then don’t have a surface to write on for the deposit envelope. The bank replaced the walk-in ATM with a drive up ATM “for my convenience” years ago.

      Reply
      • marietka November 26, 2015, 9:05 pm

        Yes yes yes! As a small person in a small car, I have to GET OUT of my car to use the damned drive-thrus! Might as well park and walk into the bank…or better yet, walk to the bank!

        Reply
  • Jon November 1, 2015, 5:59 pm

    It’s ironic that the proposal is for more engineering. In the field of urban planning, it is the planners who you suggest should be doing things differently that are generally the ones pushing for these ideas and engineers solidly enforcing the status quo. Perhaps us planners could be doing more or learning to be more persuasive on this front but at least we are the ones trying. My intent is not to bash engineers, but to defend planners who honestly need help from citizens because it is ultimately the elected officials that make these decisions often against the recommendations of the planners.

    Reply
    • Stuart November 2, 2015, 11:18 am

      Thank you for this! I am a planner and found the road comment infinitely frustrating because it’s the engineers and their manuals who are responsible for the overbuilt roads. Then the fire chief gets to weigh in and decide if his hugest fire truck can make a full 180-degree turn in the street. It’s not until decades into the life of a particular road that planners get the opportunity to intervene with road diets and traffic calming measures. Here in Richmond, VA we are about to construct our first bike boulevard on a residential street in a central neighborhood. It includes curb extensions, roundabouts in place of 4-way stops, lowered speed limit, etc to calm auto traffic and encourage more cycling.

      We DO have some control over mandatory minimum off-street parking regs. We can encourage reductions of minimums and inclusion of bike parking. Substitution of bike parking for car parking is a great policy. Still, amending the zoning ordinance is a democratic process and the public and politicians don’t always understand the issue. I was recently at a community meeting about the redevelopment of a large parcel. The developers were over-parking it beyond the required minimums, and still there was a room full of angry neighbors saying there wasn’t enough parking and they wouldn’t be able to find street parking.

      Reply
      • Dean November 2, 2015, 1:05 pm

        People’s obsession with parking amazes me. Reading blog posts on urban planning, any talk of reducing free street parking results in giant comment threads. When I lived in DC any talk of development was met with a wave of “but what about parking?????????” laments. I get why it happens (people want free stuff courtesy of the public), but the strength of that demand is boggling.

        Reply
        • Tara November 2, 2015, 3:35 pm

          Ditto – having the same problem here in Montreal. Our borough mayor is pursuing traffic reduction and pro-cycling measures and gets an incredible amount of heat for it. I don’t understand why people think free street parking is some divine right. The latest squawk was provoked when he had started putting up concrete barriers to protect cyclists on the bike path, which would have eliminated 40 parking spots. So then another group proposed removing the sidewalk in order to preserve the protected cycle path and the parking spots – bzzt, cue the pedestrian protest. So now the whole thing is at a standstill. Ridiculous. Meanwhile we have fantastic public transportation and a very walkable city – 40% of the population doesn’t own a car. But those who do are very vocal about their “rights” and they have the support of the merchants who say if there isn’t enough free parking, people won’t come to shop. Feh.

          Reply
        • crazyworld November 6, 2015, 10:21 am

          because the reality is life in the US requires you to have a car – the distances are huge and you are supposed to be very productive with your time, ie, not be wasting it taking 2 hours to get somewhere. So even with the best of intentions, you need a spot to park your car.

          Reply
          • David Robarts November 6, 2015, 4:56 pm

            So instead of wasting 2 hours to get somewhere (by bike), we waste 30-60 minutes driving and looking for parking. Obviously, we’re doing it wrong in both these cases. If we dramatically cut down on infrastructure for cars and plan better to reduce the distance we travel on a regular basis we’d be able to get things done with less time wasted getting from A to B.

            Reply
            • crazyworld November 12, 2015, 11:59 am

              I wait zero minutes for parking. Maybe that long for very dense urban cities? But those places are ones that have good public transport options and so may not require car ownership to that extent.
              Anecdotally, in my mid-sized city, it takes me door to door 15 minutes to get to work driving. It would take 50 minutes biking. Sure the workout would be awesome, but the timing is not right in terms of getting child off to school and me to work and then opposite in the afternoon.
              America is a very large country and everything sprawls. Public transit is rare. Unless your life requires you to not go anywhere very far from home, you do need a car. and hence a parking spot from time to time.
              I actually lived without a car for 3 years when I first arrived in the country. Depended on friends to take us to the laundromat, grocery store etc, especially in winter. When I finally got a job, I still did not have money saved for a car for another 6 months and it took 1.5+ hours and 2 bus changes to get to work.

              Reply
              • woofer2609 November 16, 2015, 8:25 am

                If city planning is done right, there is very little need for on street parking, which is what is being discussed here. In Vancouver, many people who have two car garages have now complained about non residents parking on “Their” streets, all because they have their garages full of crap. The 2 hours is not wasted time either, it is time to commune with nature, get exercise, and talk with your family, wether you be walking or biking.

    • Bennett Gardner November 4, 2015, 2:32 am

      Thanks for this comment. It’s currently illegal in most developed areas of America to build walkable communities. Governments mandate minimum road widths, rights-of-way, and parking spaces. Civil engineers obediently design ever-expanding highways to accommodate longer commutes and more cars. Maybe what we need is more ideology – an ideology of people over cars, sustainability over ostentation, community over convenience. Efficiency may encompass different or even opposing ideals: “those 400,000 single occupant automobile commuters are moving at the perfect combination of speed and safety ” versus “those 400,000 single occupant automobile commuters are wasting resources.” Ideology is important because ideals clarify our ultimate objectives.

      Reply
    • Catie November 6, 2015, 1:29 pm

      Yes Yes Yes. I have not gone through any formal urban/traffic planning studies, but my experience in cycling/ped advocacy indicates that citizens are smart enough to tell you what the specific problems are with public transit, street design, etc. Unfortunately most cities set up the process of getting the public involved as an afterthought. Redesigning American cities to make them more sustainable & equitable needs a new era of Jane Jacobs. Even Amsterdam and Copenhagen had huge backlashes when they divorced from car-centric design. Takes a lot of leadership and vision to get there, it takes brave souls to stick their neck out.

      Reply
  • poorplayer November 1, 2015, 6:05 pm

    Interesting that you chose to write about the Honda Pilot driver rather than engage him in some sort of discussion about what he was doing. That’s the problem with the internet in general: it allows us to vent our outrage without fear of consequences or the trouble of a little human engagement. If you really wanted to change something, walk over to the guy, and politely see if you can get him to change his behavior. Much more effective if successful than a 1000-word rant.

    Reply
    • Jim November 1, 2015, 6:45 pm

      Ha! Yeah I don’t think that would go over very well. I certainly wouldn’t recommend especially when he has son with him.

      I 100% agree with MMM in this case but if some stranger approached me and asked me to turn off my engine I would tell them to go F themselves. :)

      Reply
    • Mr .1500 November 1, 2015, 7:20 pm

      “If you really wanted to change something, walk over to the guy, and politely see if you can get him to change his behavior. Much more effective if successful than a 1000-word rant.”

      I’m not so sure about that. This blog reaches many, many more people than MMM personally could. However, I’d bet that MMM has changed many in his personal sphere. This isn’t an easy task either. Mr. Idling SUV probably wouldn’t have been thrilled to talk to someone knocking on his window, disturbing his facebooking.

      With that in mind, the line in the post that stuck out to me was this one:

      “When you live by this example, you automatically pass the values to everyone around you. Whether you notice or not, people are watching you and they will follow.”

      People are social animals and this is absolutely correct. I have seen this firsthand in my own life. I found the MMM blog and changed the way I live. While subtle, I see the way my positive example rubs off on friends, family and neighbors. One thing we do as a family is ride our bikes everywhere we can. This summer, another family started biking around town and they attributed it to us. It’s a small step, but a great and important one. How many folks will they rub off on? Maybe some day, that guy in the SUV will notice my neighbors on their bikes…

      Reply
      • Sir Exodus November 2, 2015, 4:14 am

        The suggestion I found interesting was this:

        “Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.”

        I fully support this, but the New York Times recently had a fascinating article on recycling which essentially argued that much of the recycling we do is not efficient, but that politicians continue to support it since it polls well and makes people feel better about voting for a pro-recycling candidate. If the NYT ‘science’ and facts are true, then MMM’s rationale would actually lead to less recycling. I’d be fine with this as long as people began to reduce and reuse more (and therefore have less to recycle anyway).

        http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/opinion/sunday/the-reign-of-recycling.html

        Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 1, 2015, 7:51 pm

      Very nice challenge poorplayer!

      Much to my wife’s embarrassment, I DO often knock on windows and get people to shut off their trucks.. but I try to focus the effort more on the stinkier and louder ones, especially when they are shooting the exhaust into the crowd of hundreds of elementary school kids heading in for the morning. It’s against the law, harmful to others, and it’s worth speaking out for.

      Although I deliver the request with an apology and a smile, the drivers are usually confused and/or defensive – but they do tend to comply.

      Reply
      • LM in FL November 1, 2015, 9:48 pm

        Maybe it’s just the ‘hoods where I’ve lived, but there is no way I’d approach a closed, idling SUV (or other car, particularly if the windows are tinted) in a park. Around here, those sorts of cars either have customers approaching for products that aren’t my thing or are *ahem* taking care of business. If you know what I mean.

        Reply
      • Monk November 2, 2015, 11:02 am

        It’s SO hard to do that in a loving way that will be well received if you don’t already have a relationship with that person. Humans are stiff-necked and rebellious, especially us American humans. Please be careful, as I can see the Longmont Times headline now: “Local Blogger Run Down by F-250 after Asking Driver to Turn off Engine. He is survived by his electric bike.”

        Unless I think there’s immediate danger (as when I ask smokers pumping gas next to me to extinguish) or unless I already have a relationship with someone, I don’t think it’s productive to say something.

        Reply
      • Matt (Semper Fi) December 14, 2016, 11:56 pm

        Hate to sound like I’ve given up, but from numerous past encounters with inconsiderate people, I have come to the conclusion that they are largely total dumbasses that are way too selfish and/or clueless to “get it”.

        Reply
  • Philip November 1, 2015, 6:23 pm

    I recognized Hartsfield airport before I got to the caption! I’m very familiar with the interconcourse walkways. The artwork changes every so often so come back sometime!

    Reply
  • Homer Bartlett November 1, 2015, 6:35 pm

    As an Atlanta resident I’m happy you got to experience one of the least appreciated aspects of our airport. I usually see more than just one other person walking from terminal to terminal, but it’s definitely never as many as are on the trains. And it’s way more interesting than the train.

    Also appreciated the recent piece about electric bikes, that tipped me over to finally investing in one, and now instead of riding to work two days per week I ride every day (8 miles each way, and I am simply not in good enough shape to ride 80 miles per week without some assistance). The part of my commute closest to the office is through Piedmont Park and the Beltline, and its a beautiful way to start and end each weekday.

    I’m sitting on my front porch listening to the rain as I type this, and my daughter is in her hammock nearby (playing on her phone of course, but she’s 12 and at least she prefers to be outside!).

    Thank you for the perspective and inspiration.

    Reply
  • Sarah Noelle November 1, 2015, 7:06 pm

    In general, I’m in agreement with the viewpoints expressed in this post. However, I do think it’s worth pointing out some exceptions to the generalization that most people are behaving the way they do because they simply don’t care. Yes, many people (like perhaps the gentleman in the SUV) are choosing the status quo because they couldn’t be bothered to reconsider the impact of their choices. But some people are using a car to get around because they’re physically disabled and need someone to drive them. Other people are using a car because they’re just far enough above the poverty line to own one and drive it to their two minimum-wage jobs, but don’t have the emotional headspace to consider changing their routine for the sake of the environment. And many, many, many people unfortunately lack the education required to understand why they should consider walking in the first place, or why it is worthwhile to work towards (or vote in favor of) efficiency in other areas. The reasons that are compelling to you, and to me, involve a certain amount of basic education in science, environmentalism, and health, and so may not be immediately obvious to everyone. This doesn’t make it okay that we’re ruining our planet the way that we currently are; it just means that it’s a multifaceted issue with complicated causes, and everyone’s circumstances are different.
    That all being said, I do agree with you that the best way to solve these problems is to work towards implementing systemic changes and by setting an example through our own behavior.

    Reply
    • Colby November 2, 2015, 10:29 am

      “Other people are using a car because they’re just far enough above the poverty line to own one and drive it to their two minimum-wage jobs”

      This is like a glass half full type of perception. I view car ownership in the opposite way. Those people are too close to the poverty line to own a car, they should bike/walk.

      Reply
      • Catie November 6, 2015, 1:39 pm

        A large percentage of cyclists ARE low income people. But many people struggle to find affordable housing anywhere close to a city center. Public transit and bike infrastructure may also be less available on the outskirts of town. Every situation is different, but often people in these situations are stuck between a rock and a hard place. A cheap car is sometimes the best solution. If anything, we need to be better advocates on their behalf for more low/mixed income housing in the center of our cities and better public transit & road safety improvements even in the non-hip area of our cities.

        Reply
  • Liz November 1, 2015, 7:09 pm

    I usually really love the spirit, comradely, and out of the box thinking here. But taking a picture of a guy who doesn’t know you are taking his picture, labeling it “Idiot,” and then posting it on the internet along with a whole lot of snarky commentary feels a lot like the frugal-lifestyle version of Mean Girls. Just saying.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 1, 2015, 7:47 pm

      While I’ve never heard of these Mean Girls, I can reassure you that this has always been the style of Mr. Money Mustache. I mean shit, what would you expect to happen to someone idling an SUV for half an hour within a three minute walk of my house?!?!

      Reply
      • Bob November 2, 2015, 7:42 am

        Reply
      • James A November 9, 2015, 8:16 pm

        Almost every article gets some comment like this. Presumably people discover the site, but are uncomfortable with claims like, “An efficient life will make almost anyone more happy.”

        I think it’s kind of you to respond this way to sincere but wrong-headed newbs, but maybe you should add some image macros to your repertoire. Something like https://i.ytimg.com/vi/kMVWBGknKeA/hqdefault.jpg.

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    • Chris November 2, 2015, 7:32 am

      I disagree. It would be “mean” to make fun of someone for something they can’t control. Captain Dumbass CHOSE his Fury sized battle-tank, and has total control over his idiocy. His ignorance does not protect him from ridicule.

      Reply
    • BKR November 2, 2015, 9:27 am

      Sometimes people need to be told that they’re doing something stupid before they realize that it is stupid.

      Besides, that behavior is actually illegal in a lot of areas, including nearby Denver.
      http://enginesoff.com/2_7_laws_ordinances.htm

      Reply
  • Chris I November 1, 2015, 7:33 pm

    Since you mentioned international travel and CO2 emissions in the same post, you should also talk about the environmental impact of long distance travel. I was amazed when I calculated the CO2 impact of my trip to Thailand last year, and then compared it to the emissions I saved by bike commuting. The trip was nearly equivalent to an entire year of driving a car to work and back!

    Given that you travel a lot, how do you justify the impact? Personally, I struggle with it a bit. I value travel greatly, but it seems that we would be in big trouble if everyone flew long distances as much as we do.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 1, 2015, 8:51 pm

      You’re right Chris – my personal travel and the fuel burned by people flying to attend the Ecuador trips I help to host is ridiculous. I do care about it enough to fully offset the carbon of everyone’s plane tickets via CarbonFund/TerraPass out of my own pocket however.

      If we simply set aside a few cents for every gallon of gas burned for efficient projects to soak up the carbon, we’d be done with the whole worldwide debate. More thoughts on that if I ever finish my climate change post ;-)

      Reply
      • snowcanyon November 1, 2015, 9:28 pm

        All of us first-worlders are certainly guilty of treading rather heavily on the earth. I’d like to think, however, that traveling to Ecuador is a valuable experience while sitting in one’s SUV idling is probably less enjoyable and healthy than walking to the park or at least not idling. We might be in a much better spot if we could just nix the things that don’t actually make our days better. Clothes dryers in sunny locales, SUVs idling unnecessarily, drive thru anything, fast food etc.

        Eagerly awaiting climate change post, and an explanation of the mysterious carbon soaking (it sounds like a fancy spa treatment) projects.

        Reply
      • Amicable Skeptic November 2, 2015, 12:31 pm

        Really excited for this climate change post whenever it’s ready. Also great to hear that you’re offsetting your travel, but I think you can do better than that! When is the Mustache family going to bike to Ottawa, paddle down to the gulf of Mexico or sail to Hawaii? With your boy now 10 years old this is the perfect time for a crazy adventure like this, that won’t even need an offset. Bonus points if you use Craigslist to buy and resell your transportation modes as you go :)

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    • Missy B November 1, 2015, 10:50 pm

      Carbon footprint is the primary reason I don’t travel. At some point, I’d like to. But I was really unhappy with the ‘carbon-credit’ type stuff I looked into. I consider it to be nothing better than greenwashing guilt-amelioration. The systems I looked at all worked like this: you pay a company. Company plants some trees. Over the lifetimes of those trees, they will fix the carbon burned for your flight. Yay! You’re carbon neutral.
      Only… it takes 60 years for the trees to fix the carbon to balance your debt. It’s like borrowing money from someone, then paying then back a fraction of it, saying ‘oh, hey, by the magic of compound interest, you’ll be completely paid back in 60 years.’
      I think such programs, if they are going to be effective, need to fix the carbon produced within the same year. Otherwise, you’re just taking a sort of pay-day loan out on the environment.

      Reply
      • vancouverite November 8, 2015, 6:49 pm

        Totally agree with you. I thought I was the only one in Vancouver who doesn’t fly! So do you take vacations, Missy B? Had you thought about using Amtrak from the Terminal Ave station to get you around? You could get to San Diego, then catch buses to any number of places in Mexico. Footprint way less than flying, especially if you take into account the RAD factor, which can increase the flying footprint by 4-17 times (depending on which metric you decide is correct).

        Reply
    • Anonymous November 2, 2015, 12:40 am

      I don’t know about MMM, but personally, I don’t travel long distances for pleasure (though I sometimes add extra time to an existing business trip). I travel for work quite a bit. And I justify it for two reasons: first, because the work I’m doing is a net win for the world, and second, because I’m firmly in the category MMM refers to as a “SWAMI” – I intend to work long after I could retire, and use the excess to support and establish world-changing philanthropic efforts. So if using a jet a hundred extra times in my career is part of what it takes to from a five-figure income to a seven-figure income, so be it, since that entire seventh figure will go to charity.

      (Note that I don’t donate to “carbon offset” mechanisms, not because I don’t think they’re worthwhile, but because there are other higher-priority charities that save lives.)

      Reply
      • Alan W November 2, 2015, 12:41 pm

        It becomes more and more clear that we need a national carbon tax to make people give a shit about how their (our) emissions affect everyone. Citizens’ Climate Lobby (of which I am a volunteer member) has a compelling proposal to tax fossil fuel at the wellhead or mine or point of entry into the economy (imports, e.g.), and then rebate all the proceeds equally to households. The rebate keeps the tax from hurting the poor, and the tax makes everyone but the ultra-wealthy think twice before they do something so godawful dumbass as to make the kind of drive-through that inspired your rant.

        Keep up the good work!

        Reply
  • John Lawrence November 1, 2015, 7:36 pm

    I’m not sure that engineers are the solution to the problem. After all, engineers helped to create the problem. There’s a fair amount of engineering in the Honda Pilot, the subterranean vacuum tubes and the TVs that you suggest throwing away. The beauty and peace that you found in Ecuador was not engineered (at least not by humans.)

    Reply
    • Anonymous November 2, 2015, 12:41 am

      Give us a problem to solve and we solve it. Give us the *right* problem to solve, or let us select the right problem to solve, and at least some of us will change the world.

      Reply
    • quiviran November 2, 2015, 7:43 am

      I think the proposal was:

      • Recruiting engineers rather than salespeople to become our political leaders.

      • Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things.

      I would add lawyers and MBAs to the list of poor choices for political leadership.

      Engineers tend to solve the problems they are charged with solving. Yes there is a lot of really good engineering in the Honda Pilot. But there was also a lot of good engineering in the GM EV-1. Yet the EV-1 was crushed, over the protests of its users, due to corporate leadership, not engineering decisions. Political (or corporate) leadership picks the problems and goals. By putting people who use the factual world and data as valid inputs (and hopefully recognize ideological BS when they see it) in the primary decision making role, it is possible to have better outcomes.

      The other good thing about having engineers as political leaders is that they don’t need the jobs. The day a politician is elected to Congress he is advanced from his former income level to the top 10% of income earners in the US, about 350% of the median, with a good retirement and health benefit package. Most elected officials will do anything to keep their jobs because they have nothing better to go back to (except lobbying, which is its own barrel of snakes). Engineers have better prospects after a turn in politics.

      Solving the wrong problem is not the result of engineering, it is the fault of management.

      Reply
      • BCC November 5, 2015, 9:58 pm

        I like your vision MMM. Though I believe we tried having an engineer as our President between 1976 and 1980. Not sure it worked out completely. Also, regarding science it’s not always exact. Further Woz was creative but Jobs was the visionary which is why you own an I-phone. We need more leaders with vision to look at the world and imagine what it could be and then go against the tide.

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    • Frugality Runs in the Family November 3, 2015, 11:48 am

      Sorry, MMM, but I have to respectfully disagree with the idea of seeking out engineers for political office. Sure, a decent engineer can solve some very important problems. (Someone should write a book about some of the unknown but vital problems that engineers have solved in the world.) But 95% of what a president or member of Congress faces is not an engineering problem. For example, we’ve had two presidents who were engineers: Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. Neither was a very good president, because they were faced with political, economic and (in Carter’s case) international problems that were not engineering problems. Those kinds of problems constitute most of a politician’s job description.

      What would be really useful would be a politician who can understand and appreciate engineers, economists and mathematicians, and even better, explain their ideas to non-mathematical types. Such people are quite rare, it would seem.

      Reply
  • Bee November 1, 2015, 8:25 pm

    Gosh that ATM drive through thing is such an eye sore! I can’t say I’ve seen any here in Australia, but the drive through fast foods and coffees are bad enough (laziness and expensive $3.50 lattes combined!)

    Reply
    • Donna November 3, 2015, 6:05 pm

      And the drive through liquor shops. Never understood those!

      Reply
  • Matt Sharp November 1, 2015, 9:00 pm

    Great post.

    I used to work in the suburbs of Calgary, Alberta, prior to embracing a much higher level of frugality (unfortunately I was a car clown at the time, commuting 30 kilometres a day round trip). What amazed me was how the drive-through culture killed rational thinking. There was a starbucks across the street that was frequented by the staff,which I admit in my pre-frugal days I also enjoyed a good deal.

    However, that the Starbucks had a drive-through resulted in a bizarre consequence. Rather than go out the front door of the building and walk across the street (a distance which Google maps tells me is 220 metres and required walking out the front door), a plurality of people whom I worked with would go the surface parking lot, get in their cars, and drive across the street to the drive-through, effectively doubling the distance of the trip, adding several minutes, and wasting capital and fuel.

    What makes this whole thing even more bizarre is that I worked for an accounting firm — people responsible for measuring profit and loss all day. One would think that they would take better care of their own cash outflow.

    I left the firm a year and a half ago for a position downtown. Have not driven to work, or for anything but trips, since.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 7, 2015, 9:24 am

      Thanks Matt – absolutely the perfect example for this article.

      While many people have been pointing out the edge cases (disabled people benefiting from drive-throughs and people including me occasionally occupying an economy seat on an international flight), the thing I was trying to address is the trillions of tons of low-hanging fruit: fucking driving across the street for a coffee, and the mental attitudes and urban design principles that make this possible.

      I suggest that we could still occasionally visit other countries and help empower our mobility-impaired people while SIMULTANEOUSLY cutting our resource consumption by 75%.

      Reply
      • Mark November 15, 2015, 9:12 pm

        Something that mystifies me a LOT more … I work with people, lots of people, that drive across the street to pick up a coffee once or twice a day. The mystifying thing is that this company provides free coffee to all the employees at this site. Weird, ain’t it?

        Reply
        • marietka November 26, 2015, 9:17 pm

          People in your workplace obviously need more to do, because that is just ridiculous!

          Reply
  • Chad Carson November 1, 2015, 9:21 pm

    Ha, Ha. Great post. Aside from the interesting topic at hand, the added comments like “instead of just sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool” had me rolling.

    I use the Atlanta Airport often, and I love that walk way. It’s sort of become a ritual for me to counteract the pain of getting crammed into a plane with my 6’3″ frame for hours.

    You mentioned city planners, and that’s a really important point. Getting involved in your local comprehensive planning process and attending planning commission and city council meetings is one of the most practical ways to influence public policy. Good luck competing with lobbyists in the state or federal government, but on a local level a small group of dedicated people can really make a difference.

    Part of my own added free time from applying MMM financial principles has been spent doing just that. We started a local non-profit to champion a new greenway system in our small, southern college town of Clemson, SC. So few people in our age group have time to spearhead this kind of stuff, but it turns out MANY are excited and willing to support it once a few people take it on.

    We’re attending a city council meeting tomorrow night where I hope they’ll vote to fund our proposed feasibility study for a trail system!

    Reply
    • Francisco November 8, 2015, 12:47 pm

      Hey Chad,

      I am a Clemson student, can you tell me more about such greenway system?

      Reply
  • snowcanyon November 1, 2015, 9:23 pm

    A fabulous post on the insanity of the 21st century American landscape.

    But my eternally optimistic MMM! I think you are overestimating the ability of the average human. You, oh wise and lucky one, dealt with fellow engineers at work, an intelligent and able, if eccentric, crew. I deal professionally with (shudder) THE PUBLIC. The average human is functioning at maximum capacity just going to his or her minimum wage job and trying to figure out how to use birth control. Remember that half of all pregnancies are still, in the age of the IUD and Implanon, unintended. Push the button? Stop idling? It would be too much. The house of cards would come crashing down.

    Which is why you engineers are so important. The issue will only be solved when (and I think the human factors types some of the most important of all engineers) the car automatically turns off instead of idling. When it’s easier, cheaper, and mindless. We must approach the problem as if we are dealing with chimpanzees. Because genetically that’s 98% of what makes a human. Some, of course, more than others.

    But care more in a functional way? Take responsibility? Naive, my dear MMM. Not, sadly, going to happen.

    Reply
    • Lucas November 2, 2015, 1:58 pm

      It will happen. It’s a change in culture. It’ll happen faster if efficiency becomes more convenient. Hybrid cars turn their engines off automatically when idling, which is a good sign and example of where we’re headed.

      The answer to changing the culture is at bottom of this post:

      “When you live by this example, you automatically pass the values to everyone around you. Whether you notice or not, people are watching you and they will follow.”

      …specially if you’re living from a position of strength. Most people want to be strong, healthy, rich and happy. If you live that, they’ll get curious and open to your way of life.

      Let me add cultural change is an exponential process (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32), which the human brain is not good at predicting or grasping. We’re better/quicker at understanding linear processes (1, 2, 3, A, B, C). MMM is creating a lot of “weak-ties” within the culture with his blog’s readership. Those weak ties are what allow culture change (the change of individual habits and thought patterns) at large. It may look like a real uphill battle now, only because it’s nearly impossible to grasp or predict future exponential change with so many synergies concerned.

      Reply
      • Laurie C November 5, 2015, 3:07 pm

        This is really cool, Lucas. I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but I was wondering where I could learn more about these “weak ties” and cultural change. Thanks.

        Reply
        • Greg December 19, 2016, 6:54 pm

          Not sure if you’ll see this Laurie C, but there’s this really cool thing out now called the internet. You simply type the thing you want to learn more about into a search engine (e.g. Google) and *bam*… the thing you want to learn more about appears magically on the screen in front of you!

          Reply
  • Gordon November 1, 2015, 11:04 pm

    MMM,

    I live and feel the exact same opinions and viewpoint as you. I also live in your native CO. It is terrifying to me to see folks who live such a rich and prosperous life develop habits that could one day cause the downfall of all of it. Every day I see people poison the very same landscape that they escape to and enjoy on weekends. The car clown culture in CO is disgusting. You would think a place with such great wilderness and beauty would inspire the public and most importantly the government to act in a manner much more gracious and conscious of the environment. Every time I see a brand new Subaru I cry a little inside because I know that this person just bought a 25k+ bag of debt in order to “reach” the mountains and “fit” the cultures. The justification is usually that they need it because of the weather.

    I’m not sure what the solution to our problems are. I am generally in agreement with both you and Snowcanyon. However, It needs to be stated that not everybody is functionally able to go about a very dreary self imposed rat race of a life without their iv drip of technology and convenience. It goes without saying that most folks should be able to but the fact of the matter is they are not. Something in this country is broken. If we are going to approach the problem from a totalitarian socialist perspective something else will break. We need a new hybrid government. One based on technology, with science and citizens on social media playing a key roll. Small support groups like this one and Strongtowns are great but those are tools to foster and submit ideas. We need important people again. Those who’s names last and end up on the Wikipedias of the future. Any ideas?

    Reply
  • Robert Walker November 1, 2015, 11:04 pm

    I would love to visit your city but have not yet. So I can only tell you about mine.
    Across from city hall we have a building called Metroplan. They actually consider urban planning and what is best for our town and those around it. Any city which asks can get forecasts and suggestions.
    Next year in May for three days NUSA will happen in Memphis. People from neighborhood associations will gather to talk about improving cities. We are planning a bus load of delegates since it is close. Come along. A local group planning an urban canoe path in our city had a booth at the State Fair telling anyone who stopped about it.

    There are setbacks. Our city staff are on board for Complete Streets. They presented a plan to change one mile from four lanes to two single lanes and a really wide bike path along our river trail. They were shouted down by the mob who hope to lane hop to get to the front of the line to sit at the traffic light.

    My point is that local participation in groups and link ups with others can go a long way. There really is government help. Your city staff did a lot to make your parks and trails happen.

    Reply
    • Laurie C November 5, 2015, 3:15 pm

      I second this, Robert. The community where I live outside Chicago has very strong community organizations and a fairly aware board of trustees that is moving forward with bike lanes, a village-wide composting program, zero waste school and hospital lunchrooms, and there is talk of imposing a small fee on our electricity bills to create a village-owned solar program on the tops of schools and other public buildings. I’m pretty active within this community, and you generally see the same faces at all the events (which makes it fun). But if just a few more dozen residents got involved, we could take this village from great to amazing. Community groups thrive when everyone does just a little bit.

      Reply
  • Mark November 2, 2015, 12:04 am

    People are just lazy. While living in Rhode Island I saw this idling car/SUV problem most days at the bus stop. The overweight mother’s would sit in there idling vehicles waiting for the school bus. I would walk down to the bus stop, enjoying the weather, view and exercising. They would idle for 20 minutes yakking on the phone. Then they would complain about being tired and the need for exercise. Get outside.

    Reply
  • bayrider November 2, 2015, 12:37 am

    Who goes to the bank at all anymore? Since I got the Republic Moto G (thanks!) I started depositing any checks I receive via the Wells Fargo app. If I need cash I can get it at the supermarket. That’s ultimate convenience and efficiency.

    I did go to Walmart today to buy the usual items there that are 30% cheaper than in other stores. They also have a receipt scanning app that checks competitors prices and refunds any difference to a bluebird account. I always have a hard time not feeling superior to all the obese clowns in there buying poisonous garbage while I am all trim and discriminating in my food choices. I have long believed that most people are unconscious idiots but we should all strive to be more compassionate and understanding, don’t you think?

    You are far too dismissive on vehicles. This is America dammit and there are so many sweet road trips and awesome places to go I have given thanks all my life for my personal mobility. Your points about location are valid, I swore never to commute or live in suburbs again when I left Wash DC in 1987 and I made good on that. But I have always required vehicles that I suit my lifestyle. I have lived in SF and walked to work but I also needed an SUV to haul my windsurf gear etc. Now living in the country and the driving is pure pleasure without any traffic to speak of. I have an 2004 F150, our most versatile vehicle by far, for instance I just hauled several loads of firewood home that I cut and split by hand, etc. 170 lbs of 2 dogs needs some space, horses need hay etc. If you don’t commute with it it’s perfectly sensible. My wife has driven her BMW Z4 since 2004, I was driving it top down recently out here in the country and thought of MMM’s probable disapproval and had a good laugh, maybe you have never experienced a ride that can explode all your senses to the max? It’s not the most sensible thing to spend that kind of money but on the other hand it’s a crime to spend your entire life in some shitbox.

    Here’s something to consider, for decades I never spent money on fancy cars, my compromise was to buy a high end motorcycle every so often, you get mind bending, adrenaline pumping performance, some Italian artistry or German engineering for a reasonable price, great mileage and still get yer ya ya’s on. My current ride is a 1995 BMW R1100 GS purchased used for $6k, gets 45 mpg, costs very little to maintain and I do almost all errands on it. It will easily last the rest of my life and it’s still a thrill every time I get on it.

    Reply
    • Nate November 2, 2015, 7:02 am

      The problem isn’t the existence of cars, or that people take road trips, or use large cars when they need large cars. Its that we use them everywhere, even when not appropriate, and built infrastructure that encourages car travel even when it doesn’t make sense.

      Reply
    • emmegebene November 2, 2015, 9:17 am

      +1 re: mobile banking. It’s great to be able to deposit checks yourself from anywhere, including home.

      Reply
    • Aaron November 4, 2015, 9:04 am

      Not sure if your post is a joke. Everything you describe is in line with MMM and what he has expressed in the past. In this very article he says: “So the succesful oil services businessman who likes 16MPG pick-em-up trucks might still decide to buy one, but maybe he’d also throw down 3 grand for a used Honda Insight so he could enjoy 75MPG travel whenever he’s not hauling something.”

      So the Honda Insight is for when he’s NOT HAULING SOMETHING. The 16 MPG truck is for when he is hauling something. Your $6k 45 mpg BMW is your equivalent to the Honda Insight. Your F-150 is your pickup truck for hauling stuff. You even go so far as to say that for decades you used an even more efficient means of transportation (a motorcycle). Apparently up until you were financially stable enough and able to buy a used, fuel-efficient, car.

      Congrats, you fit in exactly with what MMM is suggesting.

      Reply
  • Jeremy in Australia November 2, 2015, 2:04 am

    To encourage people to be more efficient, how about replacing income tax with a land tax? This encourages more efficient use of each square foot of land. For more information refer to the Henry George Foundation or http://www.prosper.org.au.

    Reply
    • ickabug November 2, 2015, 2:01 pm

      Not sure that’s such a good idea. I already pay quite a land tax. My property is on a mountain. Part of it has an easement that precludes any use of the land whatsoever. I can’t even cut a tree down for firewood. This is to preserve the natural look of the mountains for the residents of the town. It is also to prevent erosion and encourage water filtration. These are all great benefits for the town. So essentially I own half of my property and the community owns the rest. I pay taxes on all the property though.

      Now transfer that idea on to the people who own hundreds of acres of pasture land or woodland and only use a small portion of it. Not quite sure it would go over so well.

      Reply
      • Anemone November 3, 2015, 3:09 pm

        That’s one reason why people lobby for a land tax in the first place. In a large part of the world, a few rich people own a lot of land they’re not using, that other people could be using to support themselves and contribute to society. It would discourage people from hogging land they’re not using. (I don’t know what to say about the easement. Obviously that sort of thing would have to be taken into account.)
        The documentary that this site is about also proposes using land taxes, but to help eliminate global poverty: http://theendofpoverty.com/

        Reply
  • MelD November 2, 2015, 2:49 am

    We don’t have drive-thru banks. Only *American* fast-food outlets have drive-thrus.
    It is illegal to leave your engine running if you are standing. We switch off the engine at red lights and railway crossings, this is what is taught when you get your driving licence.
    We also have people who are disabled in various ways or have injuries. They manage just fine.
    Guess that’s why I’m staying in Europe. Even if it’s not perfect.
    Your blog is very entertaining for a European – we get lots of exercise shaking our heads in wonder.

    Reply
    • Salivanth November 2, 2015, 5:43 pm

      Sadly not true; Australia has drive-throughs as well. We even have drive-through liquor stores :/

      Reply
    • Kirk Gibson November 2, 2015, 6:48 pm

      Technically incorrect. The Ubach-Palenberg McDonald’s in Germany absolutely has a drive through. Thank you.

      Reply
  • Jayadeep P November 2, 2015, 3:02 am

    If everyone in the world lived like an American, we may need 7-8 planets. I think without taking the human out of the equation, there is no survival for the planet, or they(Americans:)) may already have damaged enough. Science and engineering will damage the planet all over the world especially in corrupt countries among the developing countries. This is well captured by the following quote:

    “If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”
    — Jonas Salk, Biologist

    Reply
  • Sir Exodus November 2, 2015, 4:02 am

    Right on MMM. I feel a similar angst for the use of elevators in any building under five floors. I fully support the use of elevators for the handicapped, but all others who take an elevator just one floor need to be punched in the face. I’d support tax breaks for any businesses that installed key card readers in elevators, and only provided the key cards to the elderly, handicapped or to move heavy items. Otherwise, if everyone took the stairs we’d be much healthier and help reduce our collective carbon footprint.

    Reply
    • Eldred June 7, 2016, 10:09 am

      Unfortunately, you sometimes have buildings like the one I work in. It’s a 3 story building, but the stairwell doors on the second and third floors are locked for security. So you can go DOWNstairs from any floor, but you have to take the elevator back up. That ticks me off because at my last job I worked at a fairly long building. When I needed to go to the restroom, I’d walk to the other wing, use the restroom, then walk up to the second floor and back across to our wing, then back to the first floor. Doing that several times a day certainly didn’t *hurt*. I can’t take the stairs here, dammit.
      I also ran into a weird situation when I was in Reno in April. I stayed at the Silver Legacy on the 16th floor. I decided to walk down the stairs one day just to get some exercise. I got stopped by security. The stairs were only to be used for emergencies. Sheesh…

      Reply
  • Daniel November 2, 2015, 4:06 am

    MMM, you may be interested to know that we are starting to get these strange beasts reappear in the UK:

    http://www.cityam.com/226977/you-want-fries-metro-bank-opens-drive-thru-branch

    Apparently the owner of the bank is an American businessman, which explains everything.

    Reply
  • Jim McG November 2, 2015, 4:13 am

    Atlanta airport is mindboggling for us Europeans flying into it. I’ve used it a few times and never walked between terminals as I assumed it was impossible to do it. I never saw the signs giving me the option. One of the strangest thing about America, outside of the big cities, seems to be the lack of anyone walking anywhere. In Orlando, International Drive looks odd because it’s full of Europeans wandering the sidewalks trying to work out how to enter restaurants without being run over. We seem to be going the same way though. While the climate change debate has quietened down a bit here in the UK, we have a massive challenge with the National Health Service and our growing levels of obesity. Walking more would address an element of both, but we’re not encouraging it. Perhaps more social engineering is the way forward.

    Reply
  • Philippa Waterman November 2, 2015, 5:14 am

    Great article as always (with the exception of the dog one, of course…… :-) ). The problem starts with democracy. It seems the majority of Americans are happy to vote for politicians who don’t believe in the science of climate change.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/17/climate-change-denial-scepticism-republicans-congress

    This means that grassroots movements are incredibly important. Your blog, and others like it, are really important – they help to shine a spotlight on unthinking behaviour that is damaging ourselves (physically, mentally and financially) and the earth. People can make the difference, but we need to shake up the political system by not voting for idiots.

    Reply
    • Joe Average November 3, 2015, 3:18 pm

      I think due to other ideological factors the anti-GW politicians will look so old fashioned in another generation that they won’t have a chance of getting elected. Their conservative supporters are slowly shrinking in numbers too. Either they will have to adapt their ideology or adopt another portion of US voter society to get enough votes.

      I heard one conservative Presidential candidate say something along those lines the other day – admitting one of those topics that they typically rail against wasn’t something he worried all that much about anyhow. It was subtle.

      Reply
  • doug November 2, 2015, 6:25 am

    You give me hope that there are still good people out there. both in your own writing and in the comments. I would really like to see your plan come to be. if not in my own lifetime, at least in my children’s. If you could work out a moustachian ballot for the presidential race, I would definitely vote for it, though it may not be the most popular. thanks for taking the time to give the world your insights, I hope we can start making changes like this in the near future.

    Reply
  • Coral November 2, 2015, 7:08 am

    I’m wondering about some logistics here… You say you want fewer people living out in the suburbs, which sounds to me like more and more people moving deeper and deeper into the heart of the cities. That sounds to me like more high-rise apartments and much, MUCH fewer actual houses. And, in a situation like that, how would you propose that so many people even GET to the great outdoors? I currently live in Washington, D.C., and spending four hours a day walking around a “concrete jungle” isn’t quite as idyllic as your suburban Colorado area sounds.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 2, 2015, 10:54 am

      I live downtown too, but in a smaller city of around 100,000 people which has bought up the land surrounding it, so it remains open for public use and some leased agriculture. I think this is a pretty good model for the human-scale civilization since you don’t need a car here and all amenities are in town. And we can still increase density and accommodate more people just by tearing down a few more drive-thrus :-)

      Reply
      • Drew November 5, 2015, 11:50 am

        Great post! I’m wondering if you follow Strong Towns or Granola Shotgun? If not, I think you should, as they really espouse similar sentiments and ideas to this post about walkable/bike-able communities with dense main streets.

        Reply
    • Gerard November 2, 2015, 11:17 am

      If you increase the population density, you can afford to have outdoors closer to where people live, rather than 40 more miles of houses before you get there. That’s one thing that really struck me in Europe, especially in Spain for some reason: a small town would have a couple of high-ish-rise apartment buildings near the train station, there’d be a high street of stores, then the train would pull out and after a few blocks of houses you’d be in the serious farm/forest countryside.
      And now that I think of it, Vancouver is kind of like that, but on a much bigger scale… depending on which direction you head.

      Reply
      • Missy B November 3, 2015, 4:09 pm

        I live in Vancouver, in a dense neighborhood — the West End — that borders the forest that is Stanley Park. In the last block before the park, all the roads come to an abrupt end, and the trees start. It’s a great model — space that might have been broken into little individual fenced fiefdoms is instead intact as an ecosystem and shared communally.
        We’re pretty sprawly in places, but the thanks to the limitations created by our geography we have a head start on a better design.

        Reply
        • vancouverite November 8, 2015, 7:02 pm

          And if you leave the Amtrak station at Terminal Ave at 5.30am, you can be at the visitor centre in Yosemite (or one of 4 different campsites) by 1.20pm the next day. All for $150US.

          Reply
    • Marcia November 2, 2015, 12:35 pm

      DC has a great subway system and some really great bike paths too. I used to live in the area. B&O? C&O? I took many a bike ride on the bike path that headed west, and also the one that went to Mt. Vernon. I enjoyed running along them at lunch in the Crystal City area.

      Unless the city has changed drastically in the last decade or two, there are pockets of “outdoors” in DC to be enjoyed. Even just walking on the Mall is nice, if it the middle of the city.

      Reply
  • CaveDweller November 2, 2015, 7:18 am

    Reminds me of one slightly inebriated time in college when I was walking late at night with some friends near campus, and we stumbled upon the throbbing, neon Mecca of a Taco Bell, glowing in the hazy, humid night. It was surrounded by a moat of a parking lot, it’s windows fogged and steam exuding from it’s various rooftop vents due to the constant grilling of it’s salt-and-sour-cream-ridden unspeciated flesh. My gluttonous friends and I decided that there was nothing we wanted more at that moment than to fill our bellies with the synthesized, polyunsaturated flavors of that hedonistic poison factory.

    Alas, although the restaurant was still open for business, and spewing out little plastic trashbags of “food” at an alarming clip, they were only willing to accommodate trafficked clientele. That is to say the drive-thru was open, but the lobby was not. Meanwhile, there was an idling, slow-moving procession of Jeeps and Hyundais snaking around the building, each driver forced to contemplate their actions as their mouths watered and the window inched painfully closer. My friends and I tapped on a window, dollar bills in hand, and practically begged for an allotment of shredded lettuce soaked in nasty meat juices. But we were callously denied because we lacked the prerequisite automobile for such transactions. We were forced to walk home and forage around mini-fridges and vending machines instead, and quite possibly down an entirely different branch of the evolutionary pathway.

    Reply
    • Zac November 2, 2015, 9:58 am

      I would read anything you write, Cavedweller, so long as you write it like this. 10/10

      Reply
      • Lucas November 2, 2015, 2:05 pm

        +1

        “We were forced to walk home and forage around mini-fridges and vending machines instead, and quite possibly down an entirely different branch of the evolutionary pathway.”

        ROFLMAO!

        Reply
    • FL Jo November 20, 2015, 9:41 pm

      I met someone once who had a similar tale. He actually hailed a cab in order to use the drive thru.

      Reply
  • Chris November 2, 2015, 7:23 am

    This post seems like the perfect opportunity to respond with a Thank You. Here goes…

    When I started reading your blog I was a true clown. I had a family of clowns in fact. I had a 40 minute (each way) car commute to work. My daughter’s school was a 20 minute drive, and everything we did seemed to necessitate an annoyingly long trip in the car. Doctors Appointments, trips to various stores, etc… We had somewhat valid excuses. For instance, when we first bought our home it was 2 miles from my work and a couple blocks from the neighborhood elementary and middle schools. (I’d like to say this was intentional, but we really just liked the house and neighborhood. We didn’t value the proximity.) The schools, however, became off-limits after our first daughter was diagnosed with autism, and I got a higher paying job on another side of town. I justified the expensive commute with the increase in pay. These were just excuses. We could have moved at any time, but we didn’t.

    Now for the thank you.

    Earlier this year we moved to a new city. When we looked for a home I would not bend on my location requirements. Now, we walk our daughter to school, I often bike to work (only 3 miles each way). And we are shockingly close to everything. Parks, playgrounds, Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, the library, and any other store imaginable are all within biking distance, and although we still drive to many of them, I’m slowly convincing my family to bike to these places more often. (Big problem is that nothing puts my 16 month old daughter to sleep like a ride in the child bike seat. As she gets older she’ll be able to take longer trips.)

    When I describe this to people they love to comment on how lucky I am. They have no idea that they could make the same decisions. They are right though. I was lucky when I stumbled on your blog and it punched me in the face and provided disturbingly obvious solutions to my car misery.

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Jennifer in Vermont November 4, 2015, 2:12 pm

      Chris – Wondering where you moved from and to? We’re in Vermont, struggling with the same issues of needing to get away from driving. I’d love a chance to email chat and figure out how to make this happen! Trying desperately to motivate teens away from consumer culture and into badassity.

      Reply
  • Dean November 2, 2015, 7:36 am

    One thing that can also be done is to at least allow, if not encourage, more efficient forms of living. Boulder is working on preventing the growth of any urban density in the name of forcing up prices on suburban single family homes. Relaxing zoning so that there’s at least the option of walkable development is the first step to getting more walkable neighborhoods. The Boulder proposal is discussed at the Atlantic’s spin-off site here:

    http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/10/they-are-coming-for-our-neighborhoods/408994/

    Reply
  • zhelud November 2, 2015, 7:37 am

    There was a great article in the Washington Post this weekend written by a guy who decided to live as trash-free as possible- the headline was “All my trash for a year fit into two plastic bags.” (It’s a good article, the author is not preachy at all.)
    The funny/sad thing is that almost all of the comments were from people who were freaking out that he had given up on toilet paper- completely ignoring all of the other ways he was reducing his waste stream.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/10/29/all-my-trash-for-a-year-fit-into-two-plastic-bags-heres-how-i-did-it/

    Reply
    • Laurie C November 2, 2015, 8:32 am

      Have you ever checked out Bea Johnson and her blog Zero Waste Home? She reduced her family of four’s trash to a quart jar per YEAR. She is absolutely amazing, because she lives a beautiful, minimal life focused on experiences over things. And she is very MMM–they reduced their family’s living expenses by 40%. I don’t read too many blogs, but she and Mr Money Mustache are my climate change heroes.

      http://www.zerowastehome

      She also has a detailed book by the same name that traces her learning process and has tips galore so you can do the same thing. Now that my town has a food co-op, I can shop the bulk food aisle with my own containers. That, with my backyard compost heap, has helped me reduce my family’s trash output tremendously–although I’m not yet down to a quart jar per year.

      Reply
  • Chris November 2, 2015, 7:47 am

    MMM – Do you know of any culture’s where they do give a ….? American’s are notorious for their laziness but I’m wondering if there is a culture where people aren’t always traveling the path of least resistance?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 2, 2015, 10:51 am

      Funny you should ask – it happens that rich countries come in a wide giving-a-shit spectrum. By most measures, we in the US are near the bottom (maybe Saudia Arabia/UAE are arguably worse in environmentalism), then you move up to countries like Denmark near the top.

      But some countries accomplish it through heavy regulation, which isn’t all that fun for impatient individualists like me. I’m wondering if it is possible to combine light rules with a culture that actually cares, thus getting the benefit of both systems?

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque November 2, 2015, 11:17 am

        The issue with “light rules” is that we’d be relying on everyone to care *and* know the most efficient practices.
        Engineering types, like you and I, are willing to spend the time to figure out, for example, that any stop light longer than 5 seconds makes turning the car off the efficient choice. Most people don’t care and the few who might care wouldn’t know.
        Make a rule, though, and we not only get compliance but disseminate the information to those who care.

        Reply
        • anonymouse November 4, 2015, 1:43 pm

          You don’t have to count on people to know things, you just have to make sure that the consequences of inefficiency are swift and obvious. Sometimes that means more regulations, to make sure those pesky externalities like pollution are internalized quickly. Sometimes that means fewer regulations so that, for example, people who can’t affor d to buy houses aren’t given government incentives to borrow money for 30 years to try to do it anyway. As people figure out what does and doesn’t work, hopefully the ideas will spread relatively quickly: after all, the culture change to driving everywhere has taken well under a century.

          Reply
      • Alternate Priorities November 2, 2015, 5:41 pm

        I’ve visited a number of countries and Switzerland jumped to mind first. I spent a couple of weeks there and the culture seems to have a longer time scale than here in the US. Everywhere I went was engineered to eloquent long term solutions instead of just optimizing for minimum expense and maximum convenience. The other thing I noticed is that people seemed inclined to take care of their country and that actually allowed more freedom for things like camp fires on the river bank. When people clean up after themselves there is less need to ban activities.

        Reply
      • jjbintl November 12, 2015, 10:28 am

        Switzerland is the country you are looking for. I lived there for the last 9 years and in addition to regulation, the Swiss people actually do give-a-shit about their country. They voted to not create any additional parking spaces (including parking lots) in Zurich, unless they were underground. The city engineer is proud to piss off drivers in favor of pedestrians. Here is a NYT article about it from a few years ago:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/science/earth/27traffic.html?_r=0
        Having said that I have never seen so many Ferrari’s in one city as in Zurich….

        Reply
      • UKTG November 17, 2015, 5:50 am

        Chris/MMM One country that both of you may find interesting to research is Bhutan, they measure their GDP in terms of the populations happiness and is as close to the mustachian model I have seen on a national level.

        Reply
  • Karen November 2, 2015, 8:02 am

    I had similar thoughts when I first saw the drive through added to my local bank. Nonetheless, I tried it because it was pouring rain and I figured it would keep me dry.

    When I pulled up in my small car, the ABM was placed much higher for the convenience of truck and SUV owners (likely the target market for this convenience). However, I couldn’t reach the machine to insert my card (I’m not very tall and have shorter arms). Unfortunately a gust of wind caught the card as I was reaching out my window and I dropped it. I couldn’t open the door to get out and pick up the card since I was pulled up close to the ABM. I pulled forward so I could open the door, but the SUV behind me pulled up and parked over my card. I had to ask them to move back so I could get it. So I got wet from the rain anyways.

    I’ve never used the drive through again. For me it is so much better just to walk-in – which I don’t even really do anymore because I can do just about everything online and get cash back on my debit at point of sale so trips to the bank are basically no longer required.

    Reply
  • Julie and Will November 2, 2015, 8:18 am

    All this is so true! This post reminds us of an experience with house guests some years ago. We live in Chicago and had family visiting from LA. While we did drive down (sorry!) to beautiful Millennium Park, we then parked the car and started walking around there to see a bit more of the city. Less than half a block into this leisurely stroll, our 7 year-old nephew asked: “Why are we walking?” The boy wasn’t complaining, not really. He was just mystified at this novel activity of having a bunch of people, outside, walking. His father, with a sense of humor at the situation, responded: “Yes, it doesn’t make any sense, but, you see, people outside of LA think that it’s nice to WALK to places.” We all had a little laugh at that.

    Reply
  • Tetsuya Hondo November 2, 2015, 8:34 am

    “Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.”

    This x 1000.

    We are still in the dark ages when it comes to governmental decision making. Our elected officials, mostly lawyers, only know how to argue, not to reason. But we as citizens allow them to get away with it as the vast majority of us do not understand how to approach something scientifically. Sadly, this includes a lot of the engineers I’ve known too.

    Reply
  • Michal November 2, 2015, 8:41 am

    As I read I was amazed that you have drive through ATMs in America. We have ATMs at petrol stations and in shopping malls. Why would you possibly need to have a drive-through ATM?

    Reply
  • Greg November 2, 2015, 8:43 am

    MMM, great post and I have to say your world-view/lifestyle posts are among my favorite. Outside of my corporate day job as a Graphic Designer I am also a Personal Trainer and vegan lifestyle blogger. I could not agree with you more that so much would change for the better if people just gave a little more of a shit. It would change their bank account, their health, their happiness, and the planet.
    Small actions have huge consequences (good and bad depending on your choice). Deciding to walk instead of ride (cars, trams, escalators, elevators) ADDS UP! As does the lifestyle change of going vegan. Talk about changing the world! Have you seen Conspiracy yet? http://www.cowspiracy.com It’s on Netflix.

    Reply
    • LC November 3, 2015, 9:51 am

      Hey Greg, I was just about to post about Cowspiracy, too! Probably the least efficient lifestyle choice people make, even moreso than driving huge trucks and sitting in drive-thrus, is eating and wearing animal products. Growing huge amounts of crops just to feed to animals that people in turn eat is the epitome of anti-mustachianism and inefficiency. I think most people are really surprised to learn that their meat, dairy, and eggs make up so much of our carbon footprint (some estimates put animal agriculture at around 50% of fossil fuel and other resource usage). The “free-range” movement has actually increased the resources needed for animal agriculture, while not really doing anything significant for animal welfare or human health (but boy, what a successful marketing campaign it has been!)

      But to bring this back to the theme of the article: Eating meat, dairy, and eggs is certainly the status quo, and for many people provides a feeling of comfortable convenience. But certainly it is one of the most, if not the most, inefficient choices people make on a daily basis. If we would briefly consider moving some animal agriculture subsidies over to crops meant for human consumption, not animal feed, the inefficiency of the animal ag industry would come to light and people might realize how silly it is to grow plants, transport the plants, feed the plants to animals, transport the animals, kill the animals, transport the animals again, instead of just eating the damn plants!

      Reply
      • Greg November 3, 2015, 7:30 pm

        LC, Amen, Brother!
        Everyone I tell about the mind blowing waste associated with animal ag is simply astonished. NO ONE realizes it. Good point that eating animals is also completely non-mustachian. To his credit MMM often makes comments about how it makes sense to limit these things – but I am not sure if he realizes the extent of it.
        For me, I am also vegan for health and ethics, so it’s a coming together of an entire worldview, you know? Thanks for chiming in.

        Reply
        • Evan November 4, 2015, 9:04 am

          I love the comments Greg and LC. I was scanning through with disappointment that no one had brought up animal product consumption until I hit your comments.

          I completely agree with the lack of efficiency and massive costs of animal agriculture on our planet. Cowspiracy is great.

          MMM also brought up health care costs and well being. Although exercise might help these problems slightly, diet is the real problem. Diabetes and heart disease, two of the most pervasive, costly, and devastating chronic diseases can be halted and reversed with a whole-foods, plant-based diet, often in a matter of weeks. Check out nutritionfacts.org.

          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/food-as-medicine/

          Add to that the fact that we take food from poor countries and feed it to animals creating over a billion starving people in the world is not exactly what I would call an efficient use of resources. We could feed these people right now with the plant food we produce.

          Not only that, but eating high quality plant foods helps your pocket book. It’s cheap, nutritious, and an easy way to cut your grocery bill.

          I would love to hear MMMs take on plant-based living.

          Reply
          • LC November 5, 2015, 9:45 am

            Right on, Evan! It’s crazy that people are going hungry all around the world when we grow more than enough food to feed everyone.

            Reply
        • LC November 5, 2015, 9:58 am

          I love your phrase “coming together of an entire worldview.” I’m vegan primarily for ethical reasons, but the environmental and health benefits are also extremely important to me so it’s really a win-win-win lifestyle. I feel like the benefits have a domino effect for me, where every aspect of my life just keeps improving ever since I went vegan two years ago. It reminds me of the MMM article where he talks about how riding your bike has an impact on other areas of your life other than just saving gas. Going vegan and riding your bike more both have a way of totally changing your thought patterns about daily life.

          Awesome to see other plant-based folks reading this blog.

          Reply
    • Dave Gladson November 7, 2015, 7:44 am

      I saw Cowspiracy a couple weeks ago, and it pushed me over the edge to try a vegetarian lifestyle. Not quite ready to go all in and try vegan though.

      I was pretty shocked to learn that you can cut a quarter of the carbon footprint of your food just by switching from beef to chicken (reference http://www.shrinkthatfootprint.com )

      Reply
    • Rian November 13, 2015, 12:50 am

      Thank you for sharing this! I found the information in the documentary to be life changing. I would really like to see a response from MMM. Have you seen this documentary and what do you think of it?

      Reply
      • Mel November 16, 2015, 10:50 am

        Another whole foods plant based vegan here. I made the change for health a few years ago, but now I do it for the ethical and environmental reasons as well.

        For those that don’t want to go vegan, just eating less meat and dairy is still a big improvement for yourself, animals, and the planet. (though I suspect you wouldn’t feel the significant health benefits without going at least 80%)

        Reply
  • EL November 2, 2015, 8:43 am

    Yeah I barely use the drive thru at banks, because I enjoy walking and the interaction with people. Even if I’m forced to use a drive thru because it is after hours in the lobby, I will not idle because it is wasteful. It baffles me why people can’t just realize cost effectiveness ideas.

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka November 2, 2015, 9:50 am

    I’m a hardcore free marketeer (like a mouseketeer without the theme park) and believe that a lot of what MMM wants to achieve could easily be done with a few well placed and meaningful tax credits. As much as I truly believe (not) that the average person would happily trade in their go go gluttonous lifestyle for the Walden like spartan utopia MMM yearns for – without true incentives I don’t think the typical person will voluntarily change anything in their lives. Much like Fredo, most of us are too weak and stupid.

    Reply
  • Matt November 2, 2015, 9:55 am

    The majority of people favor the path of least resistance & immediate gratification, whenever possible. Modern technology makes both possible most of the time. You would have to force people to make the changes you’re talking about. A natural or an economic disaster might do it for a while, but they’ll always revert back to what’s convenient – not what’s in their best long-term interests. Unfortunately, technology can bring out the worst in human nature instead of the best.

    Reply
  • 2 wheel $ machine November 2, 2015, 10:07 am

    I never realized how ridiculous and inefficient my comute was until I started riding my bike to work. It’s like riding though the “Matrix”. It is an inefficient system designed for people to live ineffiently. The best way to change this is to live differently, and remember that some of us were just batteries for the sucka system before we woke up.

    Reply
  • Ann November 2, 2015, 10:12 am

    So when can we expect to see you on a ballot?

    Reply
  • Jeannie Miernik November 2, 2015, 10:26 am

    This half-century-deep nonsense calls for a cultural revolution. Our nation is in psychological slavery to the ideals of capitalism. Americans spend so many resources distracting themselves from real life rather than creating and living a life. Keep on blogging, MMM! It’s going to take a big, popular culture shift to wake people up from the stupor they’ve been living in for generations.

    I am so tired of receiving the same look of pity, dismay, horror, and disgust each time some basic schmo from an older generation finds out that I don’t have TV, a large gas-burning vehicle, a McMansion, or a desire to acquire any of these things. Ever. It’s like my existence is some kind of blasphemy against their religion, and they don’t even want to know anything about it.

    I do see the signs that a generational shift is occurring. I think people our age and younger are definitely starting to get it. Our parents and their friends… That’s another story… that can be found on Hoarders: Buried Alive. I just hope things change fast enough that we aren’t all lost in the junkslide.

    Reply
    • Mable November 4, 2015, 9:52 pm

      Nice display of your ageism, Jeannie. For your information, some of us were practicing being gentle on the earth without waiting for your generation to invent the environmental movement.

      Reply
      • renee November 9, 2015, 6:58 pm

        There were not enough of us. And I think that since change takes shape in such a glacial way that because we laid the ground work is why the younger generation (millennials?) is taking up the banner. Go you kids go! Mable, thanks for giving credit to those of us who broke the ice when it was totally uncool, when long hairs were getting beat up and put in jail. When guys had to stuff their hair under their hats in certain company and white bread was still the order of the day. Now brown bread is widely available. It’s just an example. Much, much work need to be done. I suggest let’s not worry about taking credit. Let’s just fall into step beside them and keep working!

        Reply
    • Marcia November 16, 2015, 11:55 am

      I kind of think it’s a phase, and it depends on who you are and where you live. My dad grew up in the depression. He never had, or wanted, a McMansion. His best gift to me was his copy of Walden. My family members have continued that trend.

      I live in So Cal, which has it’s wealthy people and non-wealthy people with their gas guzzling SUVs. Then there are the priuses and the Teslas. There are the people who bring their own grocery bags and got plastic ones banned.

      There are people who live gently, in their 30’s to 80’s, who save water, reuse plastic baggies, grown their own food, don’t have TV.

      I don’t know how old your parents are, but you cannot make a general statement about everyone their age. You are only speaking for your parents and their friends.

      Reply

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