In the last hour, biking to a meeting and back, through a high school, I saw 12 cars idling away, the drivers mostly texting on their phones, waiting for something. I get it. It’s hot. It’s easy to ignore that your car is on, I get it. But there’s real consequences. ~ ed.
Every Friday I treat myself to pizza at my favorite spot in Denver.
I get my usual Sicilian, the middle piece, a cheese slice, and four rainbow cookies. Because I get there on the earlier side of lunch, at 11:30 a.m., there are usually parking spots open in the section closest to the front door.
On this particular Friday I was meeting my love and was there earlier than usual with time to kill. It was so hot out that I decided to park farther away in a shady spot to hang for a bit before it was time to meet him inside the pizzeria. I drove around the parking lot looking for a spot near the trees and eventually found one in the back corner on the end.
As I pulled in, I noticed in the car parked to my right, that there was a man sitting in the driver’s seat. The large, silvery SUV had tinted windows light enough that I could see his silhouette. He didn’t look up at me. It appeared he was engrossed in whatever was in his lap. I’m guessing that he was looking at his phone, because that seems to be the device of choice. The temperature outside was 101 degrees (as indicated on my car’s thermometer), but even so I rolled down the windows and turned my car off.
I knew I’d be sweating, sitting there reading my book, but I didn’t want to keep the air conditioner on while my car idled—even though I could have.
Then, I heard a sound come from his car. It wasn’t loud. It sounded like a generator kicking on and off. It would whir and then hum, whir and then hum. I became upset once I realized it was the fan trying to keep the engine cool. I felt myself judging him for keeping his car on, idling while parked as he mindlessly looked at whatever was so important that it couldn’t wait until he was back in his office or somewhere inside.
He could have been parked for only a few minutes, but it didn’t matter to me, I had already charged him as guilty for polluting our environment by senselessly keeping his car running while parked.
I gave him the evil eye as he continued to keep his head lowered. Maybe he thought if I didn’t see him, his “crime” would go unnoticed. I’m not a car expert, not even close, but I do know keeping a car idling is not good for the engine and wastes gas.
More importantly, I know that there are negative consequences of an idling car to our environment. The Environmental Defense Fund, one of the world’s largest non-profit environmental organizations, states that millions of cars and trucks idle needlessly, sometimes for hours. An idling car can release as much pollution as a moving car! These pollutants have been linked to serious human illnesses, including asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and cancer.
For every 10 minutes our engine is off, we can prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released (carbon dioxide is the primary contributor to global warming).
An EDF report shows that In New York City alone, idling cars and trucks produce 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. To offset this amount of pollution, we would need to plant an area the size of Manhattan with trees every single year!
I’m not an environmental activist, but I do what I can to help make our world a little less sucky. I chose to sit in my hot car instead of go inside the pizzeria where it would have been nice and cool. I wanted to stay where I was.
If I sit in my car while it idles, I feel guilty. It feels wrong to me. Am I better than the guy in the SUV? No, not at all. In this instance, I think I just took the time to be more mindful.
Author: Sarah Shin
Apprentice Editor: Sarah Gilbert; Editor: Toby Israel