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Our Community Focus

Idle Free Pledge

May 01, 2017 12:11PM ● By Supervisor Karen Mitchoff

By Karen Mitchoff

I am in my third year serving on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) Board of Directors. The Air District is tasked with regulating stationary sources of air pollution in the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay.  The board oversees policies and adopts regulations for the control of air pollution within the district. 

One of our recent initiatives has been educating our community on changes we can make that helps improve our air quality. BAAQMD has identified car exhaust as the number one source of poor air quality in the summertime, with negative impacts on public health including aggravated asthma, coughing or difficult breathing, decreased lung function, cardiovascular problems, and chronic bronchitis. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that idling in personal vehicles wastes about 3 billion gallons of fuel and generates about 15 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. U.S. Dept. of Energy states that eliminating the unnecessary idling of personal vehicles would be the same as taking 5 million vehicles off the roads.

The BAAQMD has instituted an Idle Free Pledge. Individuals who take the Idle Free Pledge agree that they will turn off their vehicle's engine when it is parked or not in use, for example when waiting to pick someone up from school, sports practice or the library, sitting at a drive-through or car wash, or checking email and voicemail. The BAAQMD finds that individual drivers can save fuel and reduce their carbon footprint by up to 1,500 pounds of greenhouse gases per year if they go "idle free."

I will be presenting this Idle Free Pledge to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors at our meeting and encouraging my colleagues as well as our county to take this pledge. For individuals who take the Idle Free Pledge, this could lead to a reduction of personal funds spent on gasoline. Because the Idle Free Pledge will also reduce the amount of ozone emitted by vehicles, health care costs associated with the negative health impacts of gasoline emissions could also decrease.

We have an opportunity to realize our climate action plan goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions with one simple change. By doing our part to incorporate this change in habit, we can provide cleaner air for Contra Costa County children and reduce the occurrence of asthma and other health impacts in our community.