Week 21: Idle Talk
by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action
Whoever invented the drive-thru? Back in the day when we started commuting longer distances, someone came up with the bright idea that it would be better to sit in your car while someone handed you a hot beverage, rather than tax yourself by walking a few feet to collect said hot beverage from inside an establishment. After all, most of us are busy and important. We can’t be bothered with trivial things like parking our cars, then walking, especially whilst holding a cup, and returning to our vehicles. It’s almost inhuman. I realize that the convenience of drive-thrus is often hard to resist. Especially if you have a carful of children who require buckling in and unbuckling, and rebuckling. It’s time-consuming. But, if you haven’t already, then consider this. All the while you are standing in line waiting, you are now sitting in line waiting. And, I’ll bet that you and all the other vehicles waiting are idling. That’s where the problem begins. Idling is terrible for the environment. It contributes to air pollution, with high levels of criteria air contaminants (CACs) like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and high levels of carbon dioxide. Since these emissions are invisible, it’s hard to get a grasp on their true effect. If you want a disturbingly visual understanding of what these emissions look like, take a look at this video, which shows the carbon emissions from your tailpipe as chunks of charcoal. Mountains of carbon over the course of a year. On average, Canadians idle their car between 5 and 10 minutes per day. Did you know that if every car idled for only three minutes less per day, it would reduce our CO2 emissions by 1.4 million tons annually? That’s the equivalent of saving 630 million litres of fuel, and taking 320,000 cars off the road for the entire year.
It’s even worse for diesel vehicles. The University of Waterloo found that diesel buses lose four to eight litres of fuel per day to idling - up to 2,000 litres per year. That equals 10,000 kg of gHgs per bus, per year. Calculate that out at a reasonable $1 per litre, and it’ll cost $2,000 to idle each bus. That’s a lot of bang for your eco-buck. You can’t really help idling at stop lights, but you can stop idling other places.
Challenge 21: Skip the Drive Thru!
Do not use a drive thru this week - take your own travel mug and go inside. One week (good), one month (better), never again (best). Drive Thru restaurants result in increased waste, but more importantly, cause an increase in pollution from idling cars. The same goes for waiting in your car. We wait. A lot. While you’re waiting, turn off your engine. A good guideline is that after 10 seconds, it is better to turn off the engine on a gas car than to continue idling. Technology is looking into automatic shut-off vehicles, which turn off the car after a certain amount of time. Many municipalities around the world have anti-idling bylaws, varying from 10-60 seconds of wait time before requiring you to turn off that engine. But, we can do it ourselves, if we’re conscious of the damage we’re causing while we’re idling. So the next time you’re driving to the city and think to yourself, “I could really go for a Timmy’s right now”, take a few minutes to park your car, walk inside, and grab that hot cuppa (in a travel mug!) instead of waiting in line at the drive thru. Do the planet a favour. Turn off your vehicle! Yours in sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.