Utahns encouraged to be idle free

by Becky GINOS

SALT LAKE CITY—Utah is famous for its inversions and with winter fast approaching the push is on to go “idle free.”

Last week, the Lt. Governor, representatives from Utah Clean Cities, the legislature and others came together to kick off the 12th Annual Governor’s Declaration for Idle Free in Utah September 2019 and the 2019-2020 winter season.

“As I talk to people from around our state, one of the most frequently discussed issues of concern I hear about is our air quality,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. “These individuals want to help but often feel overwhelmed, or are simply unaware of what they can do. Being idle-free is an easy and effective way we can all help to clean up our air. I am grateful for the strides made by the Idle Free campaign and for their continued efforts to empower everyone to do their part for a healthier environment.”

The grass roots program started when a school classroom was watching a bus idling outside, said Executive Director of Utah Clean Cities Tammie Bostick. “They started a campaign to work with fleets and get the dirty diesels off the road. Bus drivers are trained now not to idle anywhere. That’s a huge win for the air shed.”

Pollution levels are four times higher at school drop offs and pick ups, she said. “Imagine a child in their school parking lot waiting for a bus or to be picked up. Dozens and dozens of vehicles are running their engines creating what we call a hotspot,” said Bostick. “These children are waiting in this emission-filled air and their developing lungs are struggling to breathe. Fact is, idling en mass at the school drop off and pick up zones creates toxic air hotspots just like the one described, on green air days and even worse, it’s multiplied exponentially in the poor air quality days.”

Vehicle exhaust makes up about half of the air pollution in Utah and the particulate matter emitted by idling can cause serious health problems.
Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, has advocated for clean transportation for a long time in the legislature and serves on the Utah Clean Cities Board of Directors. “Speaking from a personal standpoint, the Anti-Idling Campaign has directed me to change my habits as I’ve come to understand the harmful effects of transportation pollution,” he said. “I just never idle, not at the bank and not at the fast-food drive-up. It’s just a good practice and I’m hoping that more Utahns will get in the swing of things. We really can make a difference together.”

“We at Utah Clean Cities have had a long-term relationship with Davis County over the years,” said Bostick. “The commitment to have Idle Free school zones and businesses has been ongoing and we have seen progress in our educational outreach. Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free really is an awareness campaign for everyone who cares about clean air and a common sense habit that we are asking citizens to commit to.”

The Idle Free Education program has grown over the past 12 years. “We’ve seen a change but there’s work to do,” she said. “Just like we are not allowed to throw out trash wherever we stop, we shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the air without a second thought. For every 10 minutes your engine is off, you’ll prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released. It all adds up. Children have the right we all have the right, to have clean air to breathe. It’s not really a personal choice when it affects so many.”