An idling car releases 1 pound of carbon dioxide emissions for every ten minutes it is running. What does this mean in the wake of high school construction?

By Molly Mitchell, ’20

With the construction of the new high school, parking availability for students has decreased significantly. Weekday mornings, sophomores and juniors arrive at early hours to park close to the school. Sophomore Aidan Vanek said he usually gets to school around 6:55 a.m., parks his car and does homework in the auditorium lobby. What would be the environmental consequences if Vanek instead idled his car until a few minutes before 8:05 a.m.?

The Environmental Defense Fund reports that for every ten minutes a car is idled, one pound of carbon dioxide as exhaust is released into the atmosphere. So Vanek would release around seven pounds of carbon dioxide if he chose to idle his car. According to junior Andrea Orazen, who parks on Northwest Boulevard at 6:40 a.m., many students keep their cars running while parked through the morning.

“I do think it can create [environmental] issues because there are so many kids sitting in their [idling] cars for almost an hour,” Orazen said.

A common misconception for cars is that restarting them burns more fuel than leaving them idled. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds in an idled car, you should turn off the ignition. So as parking decreases and students idle in their cars, Upper Arlington may see increases in the amount of carbon dioxide released.

Arlingtonian interviews Environmental Science teacher Beth Bailey on atmosphere concerns

Q: The Environmental Defense Fund reported that an idling car produces a pound of carbon dioxide every 10 minutes that it is idled. Based on your background in environmental science, what concerns would increased idling of cars pose on the environment of UA?

A: Carbon dioxide is a big concern because it is a greenhouse [gas], but it is not the only emission in car exhaust. Other examples of chemicals include forms for nitrogen oxides, which can contribute to climate change, but also to other problems like acid deposition and photochemical smog. Fine particulate matter and VOCs could be present which can contribute to smog as well.

Q: What solutions do you see to this problem?

A: Turn off your car! It’s spring, get moving, go take a short walk with your friends instead of sitting in the car. It will wake you up, help our air quality and save you money.

Q: How important, in your opinion, is addressing this environmental issue?

A: Local air quality issues and global climate change are important issues that we are facing as a society. I think sometimes people have the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Just because we can’t see all the chemicals coming from the cars and we don’t have immediate bad results from our actions, it doesn’t mean that our daily choices don’t matter.