Brattleboro joins effort to stop idling engines

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(Host) The town of Brattleboro is the latest Vermont community to join a statewide effort to shut down idling engines, especially near schools.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(The sound of engines running.)

(Keese) This is the sound of family cars – dozens of them – idling their engines outside a Brattleboro school. For countless children around the state and around the country, it’s a familiar, end-of-school day sound.

Paul Cameron wants it to stop.

(Cameron) “I just think the average person isn’t aware of how much damage idling can cause to our air, to our environment, to the greenhouse gas emissions, to our health and also how expensive it is – how much gas it wastes.”

(Keese) Cameron is the director of Brattleboro Climate protection. It’s part of a network of communities trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a local level.

The Brattleboro group recently received a grant from the Vermont Department of Health to educate the public about idling engines.

Cameron says local schools are a logical place to start, because idling engines are particularly harmful to children.

(Cameron) “Asthma rates are soaring. Other health problems related to dirty air are on the increase and children’s lungs are more vulnerable to dirty air than adults because they breathe faster and their lungs are still developing. And so we’re really working on trying to clean the air around our schools in Brattleboro.”

(Keese) Brattleboro isn’t the first area in the state to tackle this problem. A few years ago Burlington’s Alliance for Climate Action initiated a similar project.

Nearly all the schools in Chittenden County agreed to adopt no-idling policies for waiting school buses. The alliance also handed out brochures to students and families. They put up signs too.

(Sachs) “They’re the size of a no-parking sign and they’re red and white lettering, and it says turn off your engine for our health and there’s a big cross through an image which is a car with smoke coming out of it and a stick person holding his arms in front of his mouth.”

(Keese) Debra Sachs heads the Burlington alliance. She says schools in other counties have taken the initiative as well.

Cameron says the Brattleboro group plans to start with Brattleboro Union High School, where a committee has already been formed.

He’s expecting people will be impressed with the EPA statistics. He says an idling vehicle emits twenty times more pollution than one traveling at thirty-two miles an hour, and that idling a vehicle for more than ten seconds uses more gas than restarting the engine.

(Cameron) “So I think it’s a simple thing that people can do every day, and you add up all the cars that idle and it really makes a huge difference, if we can make a dent in this we’re making a huge difference in our air quality.”

(Keese) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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