Do your friends sit in their cars with the engines on while waiting for their kids to get out of school? Okay, maybe you’ve even done it yourself once or twice. Do you ever get into your car, turn it on, then check your phone or eat a sandwich? What about when you go to the drive-through window at Walgreens or In-and-Out Burger? Do you leave your car on or do you turn it off? By turning engines off instead of idling, drivers can reduce air pollution that causes health problems, save money and gas, and do their part to mitigate climate change!
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitoring at schools during afternoon pickup reveals “hot spots” of elevated air toxics. This poor air quality increases respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis, and heightens the risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer. Motor vehicle engine exhaust from engines affects children and the elderly much more severely than healthy adults. Because children’s lungs are still developing, they are particularly vulnerable with exposure potential leading to permanent lung damage. Reducing idling would help improve our community’s health.
In Fall 2017, GreenTown presented the issue to the Los Altos Environmental Commission. GreenTown and the Commission then conducted surveys at public spaces and schools to record the extent of vehicle idling. The survey results were quantified in a report to the Environmental Commission in April 2018 and later distributed to City staff and school administrations. You can view the full report here. Based on the survey data, vehicle idling at schools and commercial and civic areas was estimated to contribute more than 94 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. Reducing idling would not only help the City meet its climate action goals but also would reduce the concentration of toxins in the air we breathe, which are hazardous to human health.
The impacts of efforts to raise awareness about the impacts of vehicle idling are evident: