Idle No More

I have witnessed this many times: It’s a beautiful, sunny, warm day and I’m waiting in my car for one of my kids to come out of school/sport/activity. I turn off my car and roll down the windows. What I hear around me is always shocking: the sound of car engines.

So many parents let their car run while picking up their children. This is a very bad habit that I suppose is culturally acceptable; to sit in your car while it’s running. If each of us were to stop this habit, the quality of our air would greatly improve. 

Every minute your car is idling, it is detrimental to the engine, it’s detrimental to the earth, and it wastes gasoline (and money). It is estimated that in the United States, approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline are wasted daily by Americans voluntarily idling their car. Voluntary idling is when your car is on while not being driven. For example, leaving your car on in the driveway is voluntary idling; waiting for a light to turn green is not.

Voluntarily idling your car greatly increases the amount of exhaust in our air. Exhaust contains many harmful pollutants linked to asthma, lung diseases, heart disease, cancer and other health problems.

Think about one place that lots of people voluntarily idle their cars: schools! While parents and caregivers pick-up/drop-off their children at school, they usually leave their car running. With so many idling cars around, the air quality around the school is low, and children are breathing that in. Moreover, sitting in an idling car releases more dirty air into the car cabin, which is what you end up breathing.  

Other examples of times in which cars sit idle are: people pulling over to talk on cell phones, leaving crowded sporting events or concerts, leaving the car running at valet stands, and running the car to warm it up for a few minutes.

What can you do? If you are going to be waiting more than 10 seconds, turn off your car! Idling for 10 seconds wastes more energy than restarting the engine. You also do not need to warm up your engine in the winter; today’s engines do not need to warm up. The best way to warm it up is to avoid excess engine revving after you start it; the engine warms twice a quickly while driving than idling. 

You may have heard that frequent restarts of a car’s engine are hard on the engine and battery. This is no longer true. Idling is actually more detrimental to the engine because it is causing it to operate longer than necessary. 

For every 10 minutes you have your car turned off, you will prevent one pound of carbon monoxide from entering the environment. Carbon dioxide is the main contributor to global warming. It is estimated that on average, people voluntarily idle their cars for 5-10 minutes a day. Five minutes of idling burns between a half and a whole cup of gasoline. This can add up to as much as 10 to 20 gallons of gasoline over the course of a year! So, not only is avoiding idling better for the environment, it saves you money!

Please try to become mindful of the times in which your car is idle, and start to turn it off during those times. Becoming aware of these habits is the first step to breaking them! You’re probably thinking that you, one person, will not help much – however this small action, when taken cumulatively, can prevent a large amount of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air.

If you are picking up your child at school and notice parents idling, please make sure you let the principal know. Most schools have “No Idle Zone” signs up and sometimes parents need a friendly reminder to turn their engines off.

Read More on The Green Report
Volume 10, Issue 16, Posted 8:49 AM, 08.21.2018