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Conservation Corner: Help the environment and 'turn your key to be idle free'

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Newark’s city council passed an anti-idling law in 2009.

You’re sitting in your car, waiting for a friend, reading email, texting or looking up directions with the engine running. Have you ever thought about the environmental consequences of this? How about the costs you can save everyday by simply turning your car off?

Idling is defined as running a vehicle’s engine when it is not in motion. Most people consider this harmless, but it pollutes the air, is detrimental to human health, wastes money and resources, and contributes to global warming. If we take time to consider how much energy we use and how much pollution we create when we are idling, we might not do it. The Environmental Defense Fund has stated that idling engines waste millions of gallons of fuel each year and releases thousands of tons of pollution into the air. Vehicles that idle 10 minutes everyday waste 29 gallons of fuel in a year. Only 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than turning the engine off and on.

According to the Ohio Quality Development Authority, the average idling car consumes about 0.156 gallons of gas per hour. Americans spend about $13 million per day on unnecessary idling. The average price for fuel in the United States in 2019 was $3.50 per gallon, meaning that one could save enough money to buy $100 worth of groceries by simply turning their key.

On the environmental and human health side, an idling car can emit 20 times more pollution than vehicles traveling at 30 miles per hour. One car idling while dropping off and picking up a child at school each day adds about three pounds of pollution to the air each month. The list of pollutants from automobile exhaust includes nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, including the carcinagen benzene, soot particles, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. An hour of idling releases nearly four pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. According to the American Lung Association the pollution released from idling cars can irritate and damage human lungs, aggravate asthma, impact lung development, and increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. All this pollution can be reduced by turning your engine off when you are not moving. In other words, turn your key.

Cities and states around the country have anti-idling laws. Some allow cars to idle for a limited time while Indiana, Georgia and Idaho have banned idling all together. At the urging of the Conservation Advisory Commission, Newark’s city council passed an anti-idling law on May 26, 2009. The ordinance states “Idling a vehicle’s engine for more than five consecutive minutes in a 60 minute period is prohibited in Newark and is enforced by the City of Newark Police Department.” The law states exceptions for different circumstances, including some weather conditions, but ultimately limits the time.

So, what can you do? Turn off your ignition if you are waiting for more than 10 seconds. Warm up your engine by driving it, not idling. Wait inside a building if it’s too hot or too cold. It is also important to engage your local government by writing and talking to council members about informing the public further. Take the pledge and turn your key to be idle free!

The Conservation Advisory Commission was created in 1977 to advise the city of Newark in the development, management and protection of its natural resources, with appropriate consideration of Newark’s human and economic resources. It meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers. The public is invited to attend and provide input. Commission members provide this monthly column to inform area residents on conservation issues.

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