No More Idling

Drawing of car with large smoke cloud coming out of exhaust with red line drawn through it

By Wayne Michaud.

As a member of Sacramento Friends Meeting’s Eco-Spirituality Committee and as executive director of a non-profit that advocates for and educates about transportation efficiency, I would like to reach out to Friends on an issue I have been passionate about for 15 years: vehicle idling. 

Until we complete the decades-long transition from vehicles that burn fossil fuels to those that emit zero tailpipe toxins, we can do something that will make a difference: be idle-free for our health and planet. Specifically, we can avoid discretionary vehicle idling—idling when parked. 

This harmful and wasteful practice is a common occurrence as drivers sit browsing on phones, during prolonged stationary warm-ups, or waiting for school dismissals. Not only is this practice largely unnecessary, but discretionary idling contributes to climate change, can have a negative impact on health, such as exacerbating asthma, and it gets us nowhere while costing $60 to $250 extra in fuel annually. 

Did you know that…

  • Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and causes more pollution than turning the engine off and restarting?
  • For every two minutes of idling, the same amount of fuel is burned as traveling one mile?
  • Idling is bad for engines, causing carbon soot build-up on engine parts and necessitating more frequent oil changes?
  • Catalytic converters are basically nonfunctional during prolonged
stationary warm-ups and don’t reduce tailpipe toxins until the vehicle is driven?
  • Idling, collectively, in California contributes about three million tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere per year?

So, what can we do besides minimizing idling? Advocate for: 

  • Your state or province’s Air Resources Board to implement a low-cost anti-idling educational campaign and to install anti-idling signage in strategic locations,
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles to educate about idling,
  • Secure funding for research on discretionary idling in the state.
Technological solutions to transportation emissions are so critical, and California is leading the way, but we shouldn’t overlook behavioral solutions like idle reduction. Let’s stop this big idling emissions leak, for our health and for the planet!

Wayne Michaud is executive director of Green Driving America Inc., a Sacramento County-based non-profit organization.