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Turn the Key, Be Idle Free–Greener Car Practice

By Larraine Roulston:

While preparations for the climate change talks and events get underway in Paris this December, there are a number of things citizens can do to help decrease the use of fossil fuels. By resolving to use our cars less frequently and not idle our engines, we will cut back on greenhouse gases. One statistic revealed that “each day Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline by voluntarily idling their cars.” Vehicles that are not electric or battery powered emit carbon dioxide CO2, a contributor to climate change.

Unfortunately, many of us cannot afford an electric car — at least, not at the present. If choosing a car, purchase one that is fuel-efficient, and keep it properly tuned and serviced to help minimize pollution. With the recent false emissions scandal relating to Volkswagen diesels, all car manufacturers should now be under public scrutiny.

When starting your vehicle during cold weather, there is no need to warm up your engine by idling. BeIdleFreeWhile sitting in an idling car, you are apt to breathe in more of the dirty exhaust leaking in from outside. It is better to warm the engine by easing into your drive and avoid revving. It takes only a few seconds; your car will warm quicker when driven.

Avoid the drive-through at take-out locations. Instead, park your car, and pick up your meal and drink inside. In some cases, it also can be much quicker.

According to the Consumer Energy Center, two minutes of idling uses the same amount of gas as driving one mile. Unfortunately, drivers are usually forced to idle their cars in traffic; but in other situations, it is not necessary. Idling is actually bad for the engine and is one habit that can be broken easily when the environment is at risk. If you are idling for more than 10 seconds, you will be wasting more gas than is used when restarting the engine. In a parking area, you may be waiting for a passenger. While driving on a street, you might need to stop and chat with a friend. A railway crossing could necessitate your simply waiting while sitting behind the wheel. On a highway, a “stop” sign for road repair could result in a delay for several minutes. These are all opportunities for drivers to turn off the engine. In fact, I would like to see road construction crews display a sign indicating the approximate delay time as well as a reminder to “Turn Off Your Engine.”

Idling consumes money as well as fuel. Between 1/5 to 7/10 of a gallon of fuel an hour will be wasted by an idling car. With regard to maintenance costs, you can eventually damage engine components, as idling will leave fuel residues; therefore, over time, restarting your engine will be easier on your pocket book.

Other tips to save on fuel and carbon emissions include slowing down and not going over the speed limit; turning off the air conditioning; having the proper air pressure in your tires; approaching a red light slowly, hoping it will turn green before you have to come to a complete stop; and driving with unnecessary heavy equipment.

When possible, walking, biking and using public transit as well as car pooling are all good alternatives. As important as it is for political decision makers to tackle climate change, so must we be prepared to do our part.


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Larraine authors children’s adventure stories at www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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