We’ve all seen the signs around town – at schools, in the library parking lot– urging us not to idle our cars, advising us that young lungs are at work.
We’ve all seen the signs around town – at schools, in the library parking lot– urging us not to idle our cars, advising us that young lungs are at work. The case for eliminating idling whenever possible is very straightforward when it comes to the health of our community, especially our kids. Driving, which we need to do, and idling, which we don’t, both emit the same noxious pollutants that have been linked to numerous serious chronic respiratory and coronary illnesses. Knowing only this, why would anyone idle their car except when stopped at a traffic signal?
Not as well understood is what an easy win this is for us when it comes to being “green”. Sometimes reversing, or even just slowing the advance of, detrimental climate change can seem like a hopeless endeavor at the individual level. But here is a ray of sunshine. Here is one very small thing that we can each do to make a huge collective difference; and it doesn’t represent a very big sacrifice to any one of us.
OK, so we all know that summer is a breeze. The real test is winter. We’re the first to admit how hard it is to put this into practice on a cold winter morning, starting with putting our children into ice-cold cars to take them to school. But, did you know that a vehicle engine (and with it the heating system) warms up twice as quickly when you’re driving instead of idling? Although those few minutes aren’t pleasant, coats, scarves, gloves, and hats got us through them just fine last winter. Be warmed by the knowledge that those ten minutes of idling you avoided mean one pound (or even two for large engines) less of carbon dioxide on your conscience.
How about when you drop someone off to do a quick errand while you wait in the car? Or sit in the car in the pick-up line at school or at the train station? Here, the case against idling is even easier to make, because it includes both the environmental and direct health risks. The noxious exhaust fumes, with all of their concomitant risks, leak directly into the enclosed car cabin that you are sitting in. Need we say more?
Contrary to popular belief, restarting your car does not burn more fuel than leaving it idling. Some studies suggest that idling for as few as ten seconds wastes more gas than the restart. Additionally, the catalytic converter can stay warm for up to 15 minutes while the car is off, which means that no excess emissions are released on start-up.
There are concrete ways we can improve our environment that are very difficult to adopt – like take fewer planes, drastically reduce our automobile use, or move into smaller homes – so we should all seize on such an easy one as idling!
— Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee