Wilton will see ‘No Idling’ campaigns

(Flickr: Mike Mozart)

(Flickr: Mike Mozart)

At its meeting on July 6, the Board of Selectmen unanimously signed a resolution presented by Peg Koellmer, president of Wilton Go Green, that “supports the adoption of a strong anti-idling policy by government agencies, schools, businesses and other organizations.”

The board’s approval was an official recognition of a pre-existing Connecticut statute, Section 22a-174-18, that prohibits vehicles from idling for periods longer than three minutes.

Because the state can only enforce the law on school buses, several nearby municipalities have attempted to reduce idling by educating other drivers on the road.

Ridgefield, for example, has put up signs; the first selectman signed a pledge, and the town has implemented an awareness campaign.

Wilton will now join Ridgefield, Norwalk, Norwich, Bethlehem and Stamford in their efforts to reduce idling and spread awareness.

Eve Silverman, board member with Wilton Go Green, is heading the campaign.

“Some of the research,” said Silverman, “is now showing that as many as a third of Connecticut children have some form of asthma or respiratory illness.

“The toxic pollutants that come from our vehicles idling, particularly in school zones, no doubt are contributors to that.”

She said most idling takes place at schools in the various pick-up lines, but she has seen it all over town.

“You see it everywhere: people leaving their cars on to run into a pharmacy and pick up a prescription, or dashing into the supermarket to buy one item,” Silverman said.

According to Silverman, anti-idling in Wilton has beginnings that date back 10 years, to a Cider Mill School third-grade project started by her son, Alex Scaperotta, another board member on Wilton Go Green and rising senior at Wilton High School.

For his project, Scaperotta created “Little People, Big Changes” (LPBC) with the help of a classmate. LPBC is now an ongoing organization for green initiatives that began as an anti-idling awareness campaign.

Their slogan was, “If you’re stopped for more than 10 (seconds), turn it off and on again!”

Reasoning

The resolution listed the following reasons for supporting the policy:

  • “Idling pollutes the air and harms health. Idling tailpipes emit more than 20 times more pollution than one traveling at 30 miles per hour. Diesel engines emit more than 40 hazardous air pollutants.
  • Pollution from idling contributes to global warming.
  • Idling wastes fuel and money. Idling in the U.S. accounts for 3.8 million gallons of wasted fuel every day.
  • Idling is not good for your car. Your car needs only 30 seconds to warm up, even in cold weather.”

The proposal

The resolution proposed the following methods of implementing the policy:

  • “Signage would be erected at key locations to remind people to turn off their engines (where possible, signs would be added to existing posts).
  • Pledge signing would take place at various locations, manned and organized by youth-based organizations.
  • Awareness campaigns will be conducted at schools in cooperation with the ‘Green Leaf’ and ‘Little People, Big Changes’ programs. Additionally, a comprehensive marketing campaign will be coordinated by Go Green through local and social media.
  • Labor and materials will be provided by Wilton Go Green at no cost to the town.”

What’s been done

Since the resolution was signed nearly two months ago, Wilton Go Green has been at work planning to implement the outlined efforts.

“This fall, residents are going to see signs all over Wilton, reminding them of the law,” Silverman said.

“The idea with all of this,” added Koellmer, “is to make as little impact on the Earth as we can, so we’ll be double-hanging them on other signs where possible.”

Signs hung about school grounds will be funded by the state. Wilton Go Green will fund all other signage.

Wilton Go Green is planning a “no idling week,” in which students will patrol the parent pick-up lines at schools and remind them to turn off their cars while they wait for their children to be dismissed.

“We’ll have them wear T-shirts that say ‘no idling’ as they patrol,” said Koellmer.

Wilton Go Green is also planning to collaborate with the Connecticut Green LEAF Schools program to implement some educational programming within the school system. The Green LEAF program is a partnership of state organizations, environmental and educational groups that aims to help schools become more environmentally efficient. Wilton High School and Middlebrook School are Green LEAF schools.

Wilton Schools, the Wilton Library and the Wilton YMCA have already pledged their support of the policy.

“Kevin Smith (superintendent of Wilton Schools) is very, very supportive,” Koellmer said.

It should be noted that there are obvious situations in which drivers may not be moving, but nevertheless should not turn off their engines, like when in traffic, or in extreme temperatures, for the safety of occupants.

“That said,” cautioned Silverman, “if it’s not too cold, try to use a blanket instead of heating your car, or open your windows instead of using AC on hot days.”


Information: WiltonGoGreen.org, LittlePeopleBigChanges.org, EasternCT.edu/SustainEnergy/Connecticut-Green-LEAF.

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