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Turn Your Key — Be Idle Free

By Larraine Roulston:

In spite of scientific warnings about increasing climate disruptions, we still see people idling their cars. Many cabbies keep their motors running at airports, parents idle cars as they wait for their children, and others sit in parking lots while spewing exhaust as they text.

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. Fortunately, today’s car manufacturers are under pressure to produce electric vehicles that will meet stricter pollution limits. If purchasing a car before electric ones are within your financial means, then purchase an automobile that is fuel-efficient, and keep it properly tuned and serviced to help minimize pollution.

Upon turning the key or pushing the start button, it is better to warm the engine by easing into your drive and avoid revving the engine. It takes only a few seconds and your car will warm quicker when driven. If you idle longer than 10 seconds, you will waste more gas than would have been used to restart the engine. Idling can damage engine components eventually, as it will leave fuel residues; therefore, over time, restarting your engine will be easier on your maintenance pocket book.

Unfortunately, drivers are usually forced to idle their cars in traffic, but in other situations, it is not necessary. According to the Consumer Energy Center, two minutes of idling uses the same amount of gas as driving one mile.Idling is actually detrimental to the engine and is one habit that should be broken when the environment is at risk.

The following situations will give idlers cause to rethink this habit and to observe opportunities to turn off their engines:

  • Waiting for a passenger
  • Stopping on a street to chat
  • Sitting at railway crossing
  • Waiting for the “stop” sign to be turned to “slow” during highway road construction — While sitting in a line of idling cars, you are apt to breathe more of the dirty exhaust leaking in from outside. Perhaps there could be signs posted indicating the wait time and an anti-idling message.
  • Avoiding drive-thru fast food takeout services — Rather, park your car and order inside, which in some cases may be quicker.
  • Idling your car while you dash into a store, or warming it in your driveway makes it an easy target for a thief to steal.
  • Creating anti-idling posters for school parking areas

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

Traffic in big cities is becoming more congested. With today’s technology, whenever feasible, each office manager should allow staff to work from home. When possible, walking, biking and using public transit and car pooling are all viable alternatives to driving independently. By resolving to use our cars less frequently and not to idle the engines, we will all do our part to reduce greenhouse gases.


Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. Visit  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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