It began with a pet peeve and some serious evaluation. Oh, that drive-thru line-up with its length of vehicles and thick haze of exhaust. Oh, the strong smell of exhaust as you and your child walk beside a parked car, its engine running and the driver nowhere in sight. What’s the point of unnecessary idling?
Honestly, I don’t get it.
Is it really all that imperative to leave the car running while you dash into the liquor store, the corner store, the post office and the library or waiting for your child in front of their school? Is it healthy for you, your children, your vehicle or your community? These types of questions arise when I see (or do) these sorts of things. I can’t help but wonder – I’m a curious girl. And this curious girl looks into things.
Not to get all statistics crazy on you, here are some facts I unearthed during my online searching – far more information can be found at the end of this post:
- Idling generates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
- Idling three minutes per day can cost you $32.85 per year,
- Idling wastes fuel and money,
- 10 minutes of idling costs over one quarter of a litre (over 1 cup) in wasted fuel,
- Idling is harmful to your engine and reduces air quality,
- Avoiding idling just three minutes per day, over the year, Canadians would collectively save 630 million litres of fuel and 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,
- A poorly-tuned engine uses up to 15 percent more energy when idling than a well-tuned engine, and
- More than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than is required to restart the engine.
Wow – now that information is eye opening. So, what was I to do, exactly?
Well, the best place to start was examining my idle ways. The main area I truly sucked at was the drive-thru– The Starbucks drive-thru and the bank. Oh there are others, from time to time, but they have been restricted to road trips – where the need for greasy fast food and crappy coffee is at its maximum and really just part of the adventure.
I’ve always been a coffee lover but the addiction really took over when motherhood engulfed me. In that first year, mega lack of sleep and the need to drive my son for naps had me headed to the trusty Starbucks drive-thru almost everyday.
I couldn’t leave my infant in the car while I waited in line for my grande non-fat half-sweet almond latte. I couldn’t possibly go without my frothy caffeine induced treat. What was this sleep starved (likely shouldn’t be driving) momma to do?
Enter the drive-thru – problem solved. I’m hooked up and the dude catches some much-needed z’s. That was back in Victoria where such a thing (and need) existed. Now, the closest coffee drive-thru fix is Campbell River (heading North) or Parksville (heading South) – but I don’t partake these days.
I’m smitten with one local coffee house and prefer to get my brew local. Besides, we’ve outgrown the need for movement-provoked sleep and the bank drive-thru swept in to take its place.
So, what else is there besides idling away in a drive-thru line-up for my java fix and money? Well, I was in the habit of starting the engine prematurely (um, so it could warm up) while I fiddled with radio stations, smeared on some lip-gloss, handed back snacks, checked the to-do-list and/or slapped on my seat belt.
I drove absolutely everywhere.
Upon, landing ourselves in the Comox Valley we lived in Royston (almost Union Bay) where the nearest basic amenities were pretty much all stationed in Courtenay. I just didn’t have the gumption to bike into town back then – really never even crossed my mind – so away I drove. While I made sure to make only one daily trip, that one trip happened almost seven days a week.
That certainly included more than three minutes of idling per day between starting the engine earlier than needed, idling in the bank drive-thru and waiting in traffic. [Gasp] I haven’t done any math so I have no idea how much gas use, engine stress or emissions that caused – but I’m guessing a fair amount. [Perhaps I should quietly slink away now] That was then. [Hey, there’s a pattern forming with these stories of mine!]
Now – nestled snugly in Cumberland – I’m within walking distance to amenities. I also bike into Courtenay. It’s amazing what a reliable bike and some ambition can do. I confess that this is nowhere near a comprehensive list – But this is what I’m currently doing to eliminate idling from my life and reduce vehicle emissions:
-Turn on vehicle ONLY when I’m ready to drive,
-Stay parked in Cumberland when running local errands – why drive when you can walk or bike?
-Ignore the drive-thru – zero fast food (beneficial on all levels) & enter the above-mentioned bank and corporate coffee company on foot only,
-ALWAYS carpool to social functions – book club, girl’s night etc.,
-Turn off engine when waiting for passengers, chatting to friends or loading gear – kid, outdoor, camera etc.,
- Maintain the engine regularly (well, the spouse is the mechanic),
-Cram driving errands together into three days per week – this mixes two days of preschool and one business meeting with everything domestic, and
-Hassle the spouse about his idling issues – I’m not always popular!
Other ways to eliminate idling and reduce emissions would be – taking public transportation, cycling for groceries, social functions and coffee time, investing in a low emissions vehicle and ditching the two car family notion if only one is needed. Educating others and getting involved in community-based anti-idling campaigns (schools, local business etc.) – or starting one – would be supreme acts of green.
Sure, sitting in traffic and other greenhouse gas contributors could likely cause more harm than idling for three minutes. But it’s all about the big picture and idle-reduction is a small step towards a greener future.
A small step is far greater than no step at all. What types of things are you doing to eliminate vehicle emissions? What would you like to do? What do you see yourself doing?
All photos and content © B. Clempson.