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Monday, October 8, 2007

Sidewalk Cafes

How to destroy the planet while dining out

Posted on Mon, Oct 8, 2007 at 6:15 PM

Halifax has pretty miserable winters-- cold, rainy and windy. But, no matter:

City planners are looking to widen the sidewalks on Argyle Street so that the temporary structures that jut out onto the street wouldn't have to go in and come down every year. Add that to proposed bylaw changes and the downtown patios may get the green light to be open year-round.
Crowds of people, of course, are not going to dine on an Argyle Street sidewalk in the freezing rain. Not, in any event, without a tarp above them and blasting outdoor patio heaters sitting next to every table. The patio heaters are already a fixture at the cafes, and are turned on frequently enough through the summer.

So, just as the provincial government is moving (slowly, but still, moving) to impose new standards on building insulation and energy efficiency, the City of Halifax is going to turn around and build dozens of completely un-insulated, un-regulated (energy-wise) street restaurants that are heated by hundreds of patio heaters.

Let me direct said city planners, and anyone else who thinks this is a swell idea, to the wonderfully outraged web site, Patio Heaters are Evil!, which uses the rather simplistic drawing over at the right there (click it to make it larger, or head over to my blog to get a better look) to get across what should be perfectly obvious to everyone.

This article gives an idea of just how wasteful patio heaters are:

A standard 13kg canister of natural gas will warm an area outside of up to 25 sq m for 12 hours, whereas the same canister used in a gas fire could heat the same area indoors for 10 times longer.
I can't say enough about the environmental irresponsibility of expanding the use of patio heaters, but here's Chris Tzaneteas, owner of several Argyle Street businesses, as quoted in the Daily News:

"It's just such a wonderful experience that there's no reason that we can't do a little more of that in North America - make things more environmentally friendly and put life on the street," Tzaneteas said.
No. "Environmentally friendly" means understanding the environmental consequences of our actions.

And let me add: concern for the environment is directly related to one's sense of place. Instead of pretending that we don't have cold, rainy winters, let's instead learn how to dine in the comfortable, and wisely insulated, indoors.

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