Idle Free Awareness Month got its start in 2006 as a campaign that was so successful that Governor Gary Herbert made it a yearly focus for the entire month of September. We are now in our 13th year. Idle free awareness stems from the need to cut back on emissions. Made up of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), both are precursor gases for the formation of inversions. Reducing these emissions means that our air is cleaner and healthier for us to breathe. Inversion is created when warm air traps these pollutants in cold air. Utah’s air quality is unique in that our renowned mountain ranges act as a retaining wall in an inversion. As we enter the colder months, Idle Free Awareness Month comes at an ideal time.
Understanding idling timelines and identifying idling hot spots is key so that it’s easy to refrain from idling. The goal is to idle less than 10 seconds at a time. After 10 seconds, as the saying goes, “turn the key to be idle free.” That might seem like a short time, but just 10 seconds of idling uses more gas than turning your car off and back on. Additionally, idling for 2 minutes uses the same amount of gas it takes to drive one mile. As fall rolls in, here are three ways to take action right now to reduce idling and keep our view of the mountains and our air clear.
School Zones: School drop-offs and pick ups often include waiting in the car for kids to get to school and out of school. Reduce idling by turning your car off as you wait. Idling is so common in school areas that even school buses incorporate idle free practices to keep the air cleaner for our kids. To reduce idling while waiting, turn off the car and roll down the windows or get out and wait next to it instead of leaving the car on and idling. If it’s cold out, bring a blanket or hot drink to stay warm while your car is turned off. The same tips can be applied to pick up and drop off for extracurricular activities and sports too.
Grocery pick up: Grocery shopping has had a new look recently, and grocery pick up has increased substantially this year. Waiting for groceries is also another place to be mindful of idle times. Reduce idling and turn the car off while waiting for groceries and while loading. It also benefits the store employee loading your groceries if the vehicle isn’t running while they are loading.
Drive-Thru: Who doesn’t love the convenience of being able to drive-thru and grab a quick meal or the option to drive-thru and pick up medications? Unfortunately, sometimes fast food isn’t so fast, and pick up isn’t as quick as we’d like, so idling happens. If the line is long or you find yourself waiting and not moving, turn the key to reduce emissions being released and save a little on gas.
While out and about, you might see that many schools and businesses are idle-free areas. Many of them have made the decision to encourage idle free behaviors as an organization and many cities have idle free ordinances. Click here to see what areas and businesses care about our air and are idle free.
Join the Movement
Along with Idle Free Awareness Month and personal ways to reduce idling, there are ways to join the movement on a larger scale. Encouraging businesses and organizations to be idle free may be easier than you think. Along with multiple Idle-Free Ordinances in Utah cities, others can contribute to this pledge as an individual or an organization. Utah Clean Cities offers packages, displays/decals and resources to help encourage being idle free. Click the link here to find what you need.
Being Idle Free starts with turning your key, but once you have that down, consider using TravelWise strategies to reduce emissions even more. Try picking active transportation over driving or simply modify your daily habits to include trip chaining when errands need to be run to minimize idling and emissions. When you use TravelWise resources, the guesswork is taken out, and it makes reducing your carbon footprint easy. Click here to become familiar with TravelWise resources.
Pushing a button or turning the key to reduce idling seems so simple, but this small act adds up to big results when it’s a combined effort by all Utahns. Next time you find yourself in a drive-thru, school zone or simply waiting longer than 10 seconds in your running car, turn it off. If you find the chance to walk, put a little bounce in your step. Feel good knowing that you are helping a greater cause helping Utah be idle free.