Sustainable America Blog

5 Anti-Idling Heroes

Photo Credit: Design By Zouny via Compfight cc

The reduction of U.S. oil consumption is a critical part of Sustainable America’s mission. Eliminating unnecessary idling by cars in the U.S. is absolutely a part of that mission, and we’re not alone! Individuals, cities, businesses, and organizations across the country have been taking initiative to eliminate unnecessary idling in their communities. Allow us to introduce you to five anti-idling heroes that are helping spread awareness about the cause. (You can be an anti-idling hero too by taking our “I Turn It Off” pledge to stop idling.)

Reed Schultz and American Idle Less

After observing unnecessary idling around town, Connecticut high school senior Reed Schultz did some research about local air quality. He was shocked to learn that the American Lung Association had graded the air quality in Fairfield County where he lives with an “F” for the amount of ozone in the air and a “C” for the amount of particulate matter. Two major products of the gases that come put of tailpipes include ozone and particle pollution, and according to the American Lung Association, both are associated with a host of health hazards including increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma attacks. This information spurred Schultz to action. He created an anti-idling initiative, called American IdleLess, which includes a website and a PSA that provide the public with information about the harm idling can do (including waste, pollution, and money loss), and how to be part of the solution by idling less often. Schultz and American Idle Less have the support of both U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. Schultz told New Canaan News that, with the help of Blumenthal, the PSA recently aired on CBS during “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Schultz’s goal is to eliminate unnecessary idling and to improve the air quality in Fairfield County. With American Idle Less, and some new friends and admirers in high places, we have every reason to believe he’ll do just that.

George Pakenham, The Verdant Vigilante

George Pakenham’s mission to get New York anti-idling laws enforced started one night when he “became particularly fed up” with a limousine parked in front of his apartment idling while its patrons ate inside a nearby restaurant. It was a pleasant spring night, so Pakenham knocked on the driver’s window. Pakenham and the driver had a 10-minute discussion in which Pakenham ultimately convinced the driver to shut off his engine. That small success led Packenham to approach more drivers (some with friendlier reactions than others), and he soon learned that New York has anti-idling laws on the books which are simply not enforced. He now walks the streets of New York City approaching idling drivers, always politely, giving them cards with the law on one side and penalties on the other. Pakenham’s Verdant Vigilante website provides links, video, and facts and urges readers to petition Mayor Bloomberg to enforce the existing engine-idling law in New York. What started as a personal quality of life issue for Pakenham has become a crusade to improve air quality, save money, and decrease our nation’s dependance on foreign oil. He even produced a documentary, Idle Threat: Man on Emission about his experience. You can purchase a copy and organize community screenings through The Video Project (search for “Idle Threat” from the homepage).

Wayne Michaud, Idle-Free VT

Even though Wayne Michaud personally avoided idling when parked for decades, he never gave it real thought until he witnessed a vehicle idling excessively at a local trash disposal/recycling drop-off facility in 2006. “I reported this incident to the head of the facility, and to my utter surprise, they instituted a no-idlng policy for all their drop-off centers, complete with no-idling signs,” Michaud wrote in an email. With this initial success came the motivation to research the issue of vehicle idling, and Idle-Free VT was born. “I was amazed to learn of the benefits of just avoiding idling, whether during vehicle warm-ups or while parked in town: saving fuel, avoiding engine wear, improving health, conserving energy, and lessening carbon emissions.”

Today, Idle-Free VT has a long list of successes, the most recent of which is the new Vermont state law S150. When asked about the progress he has made with Idle-Free VT, Michaud added that he has “worked with the American Lung Association in coordinating a fleet idling reduction program, given presentations in driver education classes for future motorists, and in collaborative efforts, two state anti-idling laws have been enacted. Finally, since becoming a 501c3 tax exempt organization, this year Idle-Free VT has been awarded a grant by the Vermont Dept. of Health to continue the idling reduction education of fleet operators. We have made a difference, but I still see vehicles idling unnecessarily every day. Our work continues!”

UPS

UPS has been an absolute leader in the work to curb unnecessary idling, not to mention fuel-efficiency in general. The company’s commitment to the cause is evident everywhere from the information about idling on their corporate website, to the anti-idling policy for their delivery fleet, to their fuel-efficient route-optimization, to their work with Earth Day Network and The Clean Air Campaign. According to a UPS press release, “UPS drivers adhere to a no-idling policy to help reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions. UPS has cut the amount of time delivery vehicles idle by 24 minutes per driver per day – a fuel savings of $188 per driver in one year.” For UPS, reducing idling is a smart win-win situation. Not only are there fantastic environmental benefits for the communities UPS serves, but the company itself saves a great deal of money on gas by instituting these practices.

By providing a grant to The Clean Air Campaign for the Clean Air Schools No-Idling program, UPS is helping schools in Georgia “reduce pollution from idling buses and cars that negatively affect a child’s healthy lung growth and development.” The program provides anti-idling solutions for schools, including signage for school grounds and educational materials for bus drivers, parents, and students – all at no cost to the school. Learn how to get your school’s No-Idling program started here.

U.S. Schools

In addition to the hundreds of schools that have started No-Idling programs with the help of The Clean Air Campaign and UPS, many schools across the country have been starting their own programs to curb idling, save money, and improve air quality in their communities. Children’s lungs are particularly susceptible to air pollution, making school anti-idling programs especially important. One such school is The Lawrence School in Brookline, Massachusetts. As a part if their anti-idling campaign, they handed out facts to drivers outlining the advantages of turning your car off to curb idling. For example, the average U.S. driver is estimated to idle 7.5 minutes per day. On average, those minutes amount to about 23 gallons or $85 per year wasted on idling. As the school’s anti-idling fact sheet details, most idling is just a force of habit. Waiting for someone in your car, checking your voice mail while parked, and waiting in line at a bank drive-through window can all be done comfortably and more efficiently with your engine turned off.

Sustainable America supports all the anti-idling all-stars out there. Our goal is to cut U.S. oil usage by 50% by the year 2030, and eliminating unnecessary idling can have a noticeable impact on our oil consumption as a nation. Check out our Turn It Off campaign for more information and to take our pledge to turn off your car when you’ll be idle for longer than 10 seconds.

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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.


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