“Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free” for Our Kids this School Year

By Vicki Bennett, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

The sights and smells of back-to-school are here: new pencils and paper, first-day clothes, and the hint of fall in the air. It’s an exciting time for many kids, parents, and teachers as we enter another year and get back into the school day routine.

And with the return of that familiar routine, we’d like to encourage you to be Idle Free. Whether dropping off the kids or running errands around town, one thing we can all do to improve air quality is to “Turn the Key and Be Idle Free.”

It’s easy. If you’re stopped for more than ten seconds, turn the engine off.

This simple act can make a tremendous difference for our air quality — and our kids’ health.

Vehicle exhaust makes up over half of the air pollution in Utah, and unnecessary idling of cars and buses contribute a significant amount of emissions released into the air each day.

Children’s developing lungs take in 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults. This means they’re more susceptible to respiratory problems like asthma than adults.

To make matters worse, idling vehicles put out more pollution than moving vehicles because engines are designed to operate most efficiently when warm. Idling also generates hot spots of pollution—something we don’t want to create in exactly the places our children spend most of their day.

This September, Salt Lake City is proud to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Utah’s Idle-Free Declaration. Salt Lake City was also the second city in Utah to adopt an Idle-Free Ordinance, passed in 2011.

The ordinance prohibits unnecessary vehicle idling over two minutes within city limits.

Though idling may seem like a minor action in moving towards cleaner air, small and incremental changes in individual actions do make a collective difference. That’s something we can all get behind this school year!

Back-to-school season offers us all the opportunity to start or cement healthy habits. Join with me in committing to be Idle-Free. You can visit our Idle Free Ordinance website for resources on how to spread the word at your child’s school or whenever you see a vehicle idling unnecessarily. To learn more about the health effects of idling, visit DEQ’s Anti-Idle webpage

I am the Sustainability Director for Salt Lake City, working with both city agencies and the public to create a more livable community. I hold a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California at San Diego and an Executive MBA from the University of Utah. I have over 30 years of experience, with an emphasis on sustainability planning, climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy policy, food security, waste diversion, and environmental management. I’ve led Salt Lake City’s award-winning Salt Lake City Green sustainability program for 16 years, which has integrated sustainability throughout the city and governmental operations. My background includes working in industry, consulting, and government. I am a founding member of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and I also founded and lead the Western Adaptation Alliance, a group of western cities working together on climate planning.