What can one individual do? One small but impactful change… is to drive “idle-free”

As kids head back to school

Turn your key & be idle-free

By Della Wilkinson

The Glebe Community Association’s Environment Committee plans to visit Glebe schools during the first few weeks of school to promote our anti-idling message: turn your key & be idle-free for a greener Glebe.

This summer, many Glebe residents learned another new meteorological term when the strongest derecho storm in a century hit Ontario and Quebec. A derecho is a long-lived, fast-moving thunderstorm that causes widespread wind damage. The May storm system was fed by a heat dome over the eastern United States. Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a broadcast alert for a severe thunderstorm, yet this violent weather event still left an extraordinary path of destruction in its wake, killing 10 people and leaving roughly 900,000 homes and businesses without power in Ontario and Quebec. Several Ottawa neighbourhoods were significantly impacted with damage to homes and trees. Climate projections point to a warmer atmosphere moving northward, which means Canadians can expect to see more adverse weather in the future.

What can one individual do? One small but impactful change that gas vehicle owners can make is to drive “idle-free,” which will lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, help improve air quality and save you money. Many readers might think “my behaviour will have no impact,” but I would like to convince you that it will make a difference to you, your family, your neighbours and your community, especially our elementary school students.

Let’s consider how idling impacts greenhouse gas emissions. When fuel is burned in a combustion engine, one carbon atom combines with two oxygen atoms from the air to produce carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Simply put, the more fuel you use‚ the more CO2 you produce.

“An average vehicle with a 3-litre engine idling for 10 minutes burns 300 millilitres (over 1 cup) of fuel and this produces 690 grams of CO2,” according to the idling FAQ on the Natural Resources Canada website.

Let’s consider what this means in relation to the air quality around Mutchmor, Corpus Christi and First Avenue schools when parents idle while dropping off or picking up their children. Assuming a party balloon approximates to a sphere, 690 grams of CO2 is equivalent to 80 eight-inch party balloons. Often cars are idling during school drop-off and pick-up for anywhere from one to five minutes.

Two minutes of idling produces 73.6 litres of CO2, visualized as 17 balloons! And idling for five minutes produces 184 litres, visualized as 42 balloons filled with CO2!

Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and although it mixes with air as it is exhausted, it will tend to sink to the sidewalk, meaning that children whose lungs are developing are exposed to the CO2. Even a single minute of idling can impact our young people as they walk to and from school.

Everyone is complaining about the cost of gasoline, which at the time of writing costs $1.80 a litre. When your car is idling, you are getting zero miles per gallon, the worst fuel efficiency possible.

When the GCA Environment Committee visits local schools with our anti-idling message, you just might spot a car festooned with balloons to illustrate the effects of idling. Let’s commit to “turn your key & be idle-free.”

Della Wilkinson is chair of the Glebe Community Association Environment Committee.

source: Natural Resources Canada

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