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Idle free campaign kicks off to reduce vehicle emissions

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Jan. 13, 2020 at 5:27 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Canyons School District, city officials, Utah lawmakers, parents, and clean air advocacy organizations marked the start of Draper’s Idle Free Week on Monday with a special challenge called “Do Your Part.”

Tailpipe emissions are the most significant contributor to the Wasatch Front’s air pollution problem, so people — and parents especially — are encouraged to go “idle free” as they run errands, grab takeout, or pick up or drop off children at schools.

Research shows that schools are hot spots for excessive air pollution because of the amount of vehicle traffic concentrated in large numbers at particular times of the day.

When children arrived Monday for classes at Willow Springs Elementary, they likely noticed a new visitor — the #CLAIREtheAirMonitor.

The monitor will be on campus all week monitoring the air outside the school as Canyons District works with Draper and other partners to determine how much of a difference one school community can make by volunteering to power down cars while waiting in line to drop students at school or pick them up in the afternoon.

“Besides educating children, we feel we have a moral responsibility to safeguard their health,” says Canyons Superintendent James Briscoe. “It’s up to all of us to do our part, and it will take all of us, considering the growth projected for Utah in the coming years.”

This multi-pronged campaign, which includes the Utah Clean Air Partnership, is hoping to spread the idle free message as school gets back into full swing after the holiday season.

“In our efforts to clear the air, we’ve learned there are no perfect answers but there are practical solutions, and being idle free is one of them,” said Thom Carter, executive director of UCAIR.

Carter added that idling a car for two minutes burns the same amount of gasoline as driving one mile.

For those skeptics who aren’t sold on the benefits of being idle free in terms of health and lowering emissions, Carter said there are financial reasons to turn off an idling vehicle as well.

“As a nation, we waste 3 billion gallons of fuel idling a year, which amounts to $7 billion.”

And for those parents worried about keeping the vehicle warm for themselves or their child, Carter said a hat, gloves and blanket can fix that issue.

“Your car will maintain its heat while off with a little help,” he said. “It sounds like it should be complicated or a big thing, but it is a simple as wearing a hat or keeping a blanket in the car.”

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