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One Tonne Challenge takes on idling

Unnecessary idling contributes thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases

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By Andrew Mitchell

With gas prices reaching new heights and concern over greenhouse gas emissions building, the driving habits of Canadians have come under closer scrutiny recently.

According to one Natural Resources Canada report, most drivers still think it’s necessary to warm up your car in the winter by leaving the engine to idle in the driveway. However, because of advances in engine technology it’s actually better to warm up your engine by driving slowly.

“It’s more efficient for one thing, you burn a lot less fuel, and fuel residue also doesn’t build up on your engine walls and contaminate your motor oil, which actually extends the life of your engine,” said Marc Zurbuchen, the One-Tonne Challenge Co-ordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Drivers are also still under the false impression that it’s better for your engine and fuel efficiency to leave an engine running while making a quick stop or pickup. However, recent studies have also shown the opposite to be the case.

“Some people feel they are wasting more fuel by turning their motors off, but these days we know that when a stop is over 10 seconds you actually burn more fuel by idling than by turning your car off and restarting,” said Zurbuchen. “The wear and tear on your starter is minimal, and the costs are completely overshadowed by the fuel savings costs over the life of your car.

“Idling is hard on your engine, it’s hard on your pocketbook, and it’s hard on the environment.”

This February, Zurbuchen is launching a Whistler Idle Free campaign. There will be a public education component, permanent signs will be posted in idling “hot spots”, and businesses with vehicles over 5,000 kilograms will be reminded of the municipality’s bylaw restricting idling to five minutes or less.

Zurbuchen will also be taking steps to remind local businesses, such as taxi companies, of the costs and environmental impact of idling.

With the help of volunteers, Zurbuchen is also planning two “intervention days” to hand out educational materials about idling. The first is planned for Whistler’s schools on Feb. 15, and Whistler Secondary students will be helping to spread awareness at the high school. The second intervention is planned for Feb. 18 at various idling hot spots around the village

Although other municipal governments do have idling awareness programs, Whistler’s Idle-Free campaign is a first in Canada.

“A lot of people have misconceptions about idling, or don’t really think about it that much, so this is just to let people know that they can save money and help the environment by doing something really simple, and that’s turning their vehicles off,” said Zurbuchen.

According to Natural Resources Canada, if every light duty vehicle (e.g. personal car, light truck) cut their idling by just five minutes a year, it would save about 1.9 million litres of fuel and prevent more than 4,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

If you would like to volunteer to be part of the intervention team, contact Marc Zurbuchen at 604-935-8456.

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