Idling Cars Are Bad For The Environment, Bad For Kids
As each of my nieces and nephews were about to make their debut on this planet I watched my sisters and brother-in-laws baby-proof their homes. They bought the newest educational toys and environmentally friendly baby lotions. They spent hours researching schools and various extra-curricular activities, and talked endlessly about the future of their babies.
They were preparing for the best possible future for their kids. Of course, there were things beyond their control, which caused restless nights and moments of helplessness when they realized they wouldn’t be able to protect their children from everything.
Air pollution contributes to 200,000 premature deaths each year in the United States. The good news is that regulations like the Clean Air Act of 1963 have controlled pollutants in our air and levied penalties on polluters. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act has avoided more than 160,000 premature deaths, prevented 13 million lost workdays and kept kids healthy. The Act has prevented some 3.2 million school days that would have otherwise been lost to respiratory illness.
The Act also allowed individual states to implement stricter standards than federal levels. In the 1960’s, California was battling a debilitating smog problem and the state passed laws to address the issue. President Trump is now challenging the standard that our neighbors to the west have set.
In September, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, proposed the Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act in response to Trump’s executive order repealing President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. While the proposal addresses several environmental policies that Trump has been working to dismantle, it directly addresses the president’s effort to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which allows The Golden State to enforce emission standards indefinitely.
Kids and elderly most at risk
While the battles ensue in Washington, each of us can make changes in our own communities to combat air pollution and help our children breathe cleaner air. Case in point: School pick-up and drop-off zones. Think about it. As parents and other caregivers drop off and pick up their children at school, the longer cars idle the more pollutants emit.
Idling vehicles emit nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds. When mixed with sunlight, ozone is produced. Exposure to ozone over time leads to asthma attacks, increased respiratory infections and decreased lung function. The American Lung Association also links this to a higher risk of heart attacks. Children, the elderly and those who suffer from lung disease are most impacted and at risk.
Enter Park Hill’s own Liz Rutledge, founder of Sustainable Three. Her company works to teach mindfulness about ourselves, community and planet. Specifically she has been working with area schools to make dropping off students more efficient and reduce the exposure of pollutants to still-developing lungs.
At Park Hill Elementary, Principal Ken Burdette reports between 50 to 70 cars pass through every day. As other schools have, Park Hill has installed a “Kiss and Go” zone. The zones have reduced the idling cars to generally less than 30 seconds. In addition, school bus drivers turn off the ignition when they wait for their charges.
At McAuliffe International School, 8th grader Harper Hargrove and 7th grader Madeleine Senger are working with Rutledge and with school leaders to install a similar program. Hargrove and Senger recently detailed their efforts to the Greater Park Hill News. The students say that currently at McAuliffe lines of cars sometimes idle for as long as 10-15 minutes outside the school while caregivers are waiting for students.
“At my old school Park Hill, there was a Kiss and Go that helped solve most of the problem of idling their cars,” Hargrove said.
The students hope installing a Kiss and Go at McAuliffe will result in similar success. They plan to install signs and notify parents and students via the school newsletter “We are going to try and find volunteers to help monitor the Kiss and Go,” she said.
Ideally, Denver Public Schools will implement a district-wide policy requiring minimal idling at all schools in the state’s largest district.
22 gallons every year
Beyond the school grounds, it is estimated that individual Americans waste 22 gallons of gasoline each year while their cars are idling. This equates to 13 million tons of CO2 annually being spewed into our atmosphere.
The City of Fort Collins has launched two separate campaigns to educate the public on the problem. The city notes that unnecessary vehicle idling isn’t good for our air, wallets, or cars. In order to reduce emissions, city officials there recommend the following:
1. Turn off your ignition if you’re waiting more than 30 seconds (other sources recommend 10 seconds).
2. Stop idling while the train is passing.
3. Stop idling at school drop-off zones.
4. Park and go inside instead of using drive-thru lanes.
5. Warm up your engine by driving slowly, not by idling.
Each of us can ensure a healthy future for our children, and for our planet. We can commit to reducing our driving and stopping our idling. Reach out to the schools in your neighborhood and ask them to become no-idling zone – if they aren’t already. Contact your school board member and ask for a district-wide policy.
Let’s give our kids the best possible future for their health and their planet.
Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017, and is currently the Statewide Co-Chair of the Climate Reality Project for the 100% Committed Campaign.
Painting The Town Green
Use It Up, Give It Away. When All Else Fails, Recycle
By Mark Kuhl
For the GPHN
Colorado joined a paint stewardship program in July, 2015 to provide a convenient way for all residents to recycle paint.
If you can’t think of someone who might be able to reuse your paint (friends, family, or local organizations) go to www.paintcare.org to find a convenient collection center where you can drop off latex paint, oil based paints, and stains for free. (The site also includes ideas for cool projects to use up that last bit of paint in the can.)
The closest collection center to Park Hill is Sherwin Williams at 5225 Leetsdale Dr. If you like your colors and want to hang on to paint for a long time, check out the Paint Care website for unique use and storage tips to keep paint fresh.
Check out handy tips for recycling household items every month in these pages. Mark Kuhl is an environmental advocate who lives in Park Hill with his wife Nina and their two teenage daughters.