Sustainable Blog

10 Reasons to Turn Off an Idling Car

Save money, gas, and more with the turn of a key

Woman turning key in ignition of car

Ocupop

It happens, we know. You’re picking up a friend, waiting for a food order, or just trying to warm up your car on cold morning — and you leave it running for a little while. It’s easy to let those minutes tick by, but getting into the habit of turning your car off when you’ll be idle for more than 10 seconds can make a big difference. Here’s why:

1. It saves gas: If you idle for 5 minutes warming up your car in the morning, 3 minutes at the bank drive-thru, and 4 minutes listening to the end of an NPR story in your driveway, you’ve burned enough gas to drive 24 miles.

2. It saves money: Americans spend a whopping $13 million every day on unnecessary idling. (That’s 3.8 million gallons of fuel, wasted!) Also, idling is actually illegal in some states, and violators can pay steep fines if caught.

3. It saves the planet: For every 10 minutes of idling you cut from your life, you’ll save one pound of carbon dioxide — a harmful greenhouse gas — from being released into the atmosphere.

4. It makes us healthier: Idling is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer. Kids are especially vulnerable because they inhale more air per pound of body weight, and lots of idling happens near schools.

5. It makes us smarter: Breathing exhaust fumes can damage brain cells and may be linked to autism. A study in New York City showed that kids with a high exposure to combustion engine byproducts had lower IQs by age 5.

6. It’s good for your engine: Idling can damage engine components. According to the California Energy Commission, “Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.” And did you know that today’s cars warm up more efficiently when they’re driving than sitting in a driveway? They do.

7. It’s quieter: Noise is pollution, too.

8. It’s contagious: Turning off the car sets a good example for your kids and other passengers, and gives a chance for you to educate them about the dangers of idling.

9. It doesn’t stink: Do you enjoy breathing in exhaust fumes? Yuck.

10. It’s easy: Just turn the key when you’ll be stopped for more than 10 seconds. That’s all there is to it.

Sustainable America is committed to helping the United States reduce its oil consumption by 50% by 2035. Big changes like more electric vehicles and smarter traffic technology are necessary to getting there, but conservation measures like hypermiling, ecodriving, and curbing idling are all important ways individuals can do their part on a daily basis. Be part of the solution by taking our pledge to Turn It Off when you’ll be idle for more than 10 seconds. You can even order a bumper sticker so you can help spread the anti-idling message in your community.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.