Monday, January 21, 2013

Taking Aim at Idling

The Climate Crusader is talking about turning off your car more.

I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is a city on the sea. It's connected to some other parts of the province by a ferry system. I take the ferry every so often, usually when I'm headed someplace nearby for a quick getaway. It's a lovely way to travel with children, because while you're on the boat the kids can get out of the car and play in the indoor play area, or head out to the deck to laugh in the wind that blows over the ocean.

If you take a ferry locally, you'll be greeted with many signs and announcements advising you not to leave your car idling. This is because leaving your car idling is bad for the earth. It releases carbon dioxide and other gases and pollutants. It burns fuel, which as we all know is pretty expensive. And for modern vehicles, it's entirely unnecessary. In fact, drivers are routinely advised to warm up their cars by driving them, not idling, even in winter. It takes only a few seconds for a car to be ready to go.

In fact, in Switzerland, drivers are required to turn off their engines at red lights. It turns out that if your car will be off for at least 10 seconds, you're saving gas by stopping and starting it again, rather than leaving it running. Apparently, the Swiss have an indicator to let you know when the light is about to turn green so that you can start again. We don't have that here in North America, but there are still a lot of times and places that most drivers can stop idling.

My car, affectionately nicknamed the silver bullet
My car is idle, but not idling
Many cities, states, provinces and countries have no idling laws in order to reduce greenhouse gas and pollution. These laws encourage you to turn off your car pretty much any time that you'll be stopped for more than a few seconds. My own community has such a law, and it has raised my awareness.

If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said that I don't spend much time sitting in an idling car. However, as I've become more aware, I've noticed more and more situations when I leave my own car on unnecessarily. For instance, on the rare occasion that I drive my daughter to school, I often leave my car idling while I help her out without thinking. I have also found myself idling while I wait in drive-thru line-ups, while I wait to pick someone up, at train crossings, and after I turn my car on but before I start driving someplace, as I get organized.

Of course, it's going to take more than cutting out idling to battle climate change. But every little bit helps - and if you can save some money while you save the planet, even better.

Do you make an effort to avoid leaving your car idling? Have you noticed times when you leave it idling, as your awareness grows?


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I know this sounds dumb -- but I would feel weird turning my car off at an intersection, in case I needed to take some sort of sudden action. Not sure what that would be, esp. if I had a car in front of and behind me. I am going to make an extra effort to turn off my car only RIGHT before I leave and as soon as I stop from now on though. Sometimes I let it run while I'm listening to the radio -- but I can turn off the engine and still listen so no need for that!

Elizabeth said...

We have 4 drawbridges (only go up May-October) and multiple train crossings. I can leave home, have to wait for train, then get to river, wait for bridge, then again wait for same train farther on. Always best to add in 10 extra minutes of drive time. I can see that some people idle the whole time they are waiting for these stops. Either to stay warm in winter or cool in summer.

Amber Strocel said...

@Betsy - I wouldn't turn off my car at an intersection in North America. We don't have the same signalling that they do in Switzerland. But at railroad crossings, in drive-thrus and so on, it's a different story.


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