Rising star environmental advocates, Addy Kopp, Ezri Rohatgi and Mia Ravishankar were sixth graders at Loyola, concerned about the environment and wanted to do something about it. Out of this concern they formed a club called Nature and Conservation for Kids (NACK).
Now, at Blach in 7th grade, they recently addressed both the Los Altos School District Board (LASD) and the Los Altos City Council to ask for help to protect the health of students by reducing health harming toxics from unnecessary vehicle idling.
Addy told the School Board and Council that vehicle exhaust contains toxins that can cause heart and lung diseases (especially asthma) and cancer.
Children breathe faster than adults so are especially susceptible to these toxins. One recent study showed that between 2010 and 2015, about four million children in 194 countries developed asthma each year due to exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution the main pollutant from vehicle exhaust. As for C02, if everyone in the U.S. stopped idling for five minutes a day it would be equivalent to taking five hundred thousand cars off the road and saving 1.6 Million tons of CO2.
Mia described how idling wastes a lot of gas and money. In fact, in California vehicles idling while parked emit roughly three million tons of carbon dioxide a year and burn roughly 300 million gallons of fuel. At $3.50 per gallon that’s over $1 billion and a lot of wasted money. And newer cars do not need to idle. She said the EPA found “hot spots” of toxins around schools at pick up time and discussed a program that the EPA developed to help schools reduce idling. Los Altos High School implemented much of the program last year and found idling was reduced 80%.
Ezri said that while the full program implementation would be great, it is a considerable effort. Consequently, they proposed a mini-campaign that they believe will be effective with minimal effort. They asked for signs and communications. The signs should be installed where parents tend to idle while waiting for their students, namely pick-up areas, parking lots, and public streets leading to the pick-up areas. Ezri also asked City Council to install signs on Main and State Streets and in City parking lots. She said, “This would help not only children visiting public areas but people of all ages. Think of diners sitting at a sidewalk cafe, coffee drinkers at Peet’s, Starbucks or Redberry, and children eating at TinPot or Baskin and Robbins ice cream while cars spew pollutants right beside them. This can seriously impact people’s health.” Communications to educate Los Altos residents about idling through normal channels such as school administration and City newsletters would also be helpful.
The LASD School Board put anti-idling on the Oct 28th agenda and NACK was there to present a solution to make it easy for the district to implement a mini-campaign. They provided the district a sign design, sample newsletters along with letters to parents. The School Board directed the Superintendent to pursue implementation of their plan. The City already has a supply of signs from an initial installation last year and GreenTown is offering to pay for additional signs as well as the signs for the LASD.
NACK was well received by both the School Board and City Council. In fact, the audience members at the City Council and School Board meetings applauded them upon completion of their talk.