by Jamie Minden
It’s miserably hot as my car trundles into the grocery store parking lot, heat waves rolling off the black asphalt. As I open my door, I am overpowered by an unmistakable smell: gasoline. I notice a woman to my right sitting on her phone. The rumble of her engine and the exhaust wafting through the air tells me that she has been idling for about 10 minutes. “Just wanted to let you know that your car is on!” I smile cheerily, “Oh I know.” she grins, and turns back to her phone.
As we all know, it’s summer, and the temptation to keep our AC on while parked is understandable. But the costs of idling far outweigh the benefits. Two minutes of idling wastes the fuel to go one mile, and one hour of idling uses an entire gallon of gas (Tina). And the cost adds up. But there are more serious side effects. Idling produces 1.6% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions- almost double those produced by iron and steel industries combined (Tina)! This toxic exhaust contributes not only to Climate Change, but affects our children’s health too. According to SpareTheAir.org, one car idling at one school releases 3 pounds of pollution per month! The EPA states that, “Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, (and) acetaldehyde… during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children… Limiting a vehicle’s idling time can dramatically reduce these pollutants and children’s exposure to them” (Schools). So parking down the street instead of letting your car run in the drop off line would be a smart choice. You may have heard that restarting your engine too often wears out the starter but, excessive idling can actually damage your engine, and is discouraged by most car manufacturers (Shannon). So turn your key, help save humanity.
“Idle Free Resources.” Salt Lake City, http://www.slcgov.com/idlefree/resources.
“Schools.” Idle-Free California, http://idlefreecalifornia.org/schools.html.
Shannon, Brescher Shea. “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free.” Energy.gov, 13 April 2010, https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/turn-your-key-be-idle-free.
Tina, Neuhausel. “Turn the Key – Be Idle Free!” Spare the Air, http://sparetheair.org/~/media/files/communications-and-outreach/community-outreach/resource-teams/be-idle-free-presentation_english.pdf?la=en.