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Students appeal to waiting drivers: Please, no idling

The environmental goal is fewer noxious fumes.

By Elisabeth Dyer, Times Staff Writer
Published February 15, 2008

Coleman Middle School students, from left, Sarah Alspach, 13, Darby Baker, 12, Stewart Beshears, 11, and Meaghan Farrell, 13, work to educate drivers about not idling their cars. The students are a part of the Environmental Improvement Force.
[Chris Zuppa | Times]


In line to pick up their children, parents rolled down their windows Tuesday to take slips of paper from Coleman Middle students.

"Don't idle while you're idle," the slips read, while listing reasons to turn off your engine while waiting.

All but about three drivers turned their cars off, said Stewart Beshears, a Coleman sixth-grader on the board of the PTSA.

The line stretched 57 long, perhaps more than usual because of rain. A handful of students walked the distance as they juggled umbrellas and signs to get the word out.

"I'm a part of the school and I want to make it better for everyone," Stewart said.

Sixth-grader Darby Baker decided she "really wanted to make a difference. If everyone turned off our cars, we'd save 3.8-million gallons of gas," she said, reciting a figure from her poster.

Coleman has been on the forefront of the green movement in local schools. It was the first in Hillsborough to get curbside recycling pickup this year after a group of concerned parents formed the Environmental Improvement Force.

The group has expanded to 30 district schools, said chairwoman Leslie Farrell. Her children attend Coleman and Dale Mabry Elementary and she had noticed the fumes during pickup.

Momentum for the anti-idling campaign came from Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena, after the force was presented with a commendation.

"Kids totally get this," Saul-Sena said. "Kids are protective of their world."

She wants to get the word out about the carbon footstep of a car. She hopes the word will spread to other schools including Berkeley, where her kids attend. She says parents often arrive an hour early and sit idling in Hummers and SUVs.

At Coleman, some parents arrive at 3:30 p.m. and wait 45 minutes. Among them is Clara Ravirez, who picks up a daughter at Mabry and drives to Coleman for sixth-grader Carolina. "I'm always in the front of the line," she said. She often finds shade under a tree and puts her window down, she said. She hates to think of the last kid to be picked up, waiting in car fumes until the end of the line.

In mild weather, principal Michael Hoskinson suggests parents turn off their engines and roll down their windows.

But it can get hot. So Hoskinson invites parents to come into the library and help stock books. The air conditioning works, he said.

Next year he's ordering recycled copy paper. The school churns through about 1.1-million pages a year. It costs a bit more, he said, but is better for the environment.

"Every little bit helps," he said.

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at or 226-3321.

Turn off the engine

The exhaust produced by engine idling contains a mix of small particles and chemicals classified as hazardous air pollutants including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Health: Breathing exhaust fumes increases the risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, asthma, and allergies. This affects children more, as they breathe 50 percent more air and have lungs that are still developing.

Money: An idling engine gets 0 miles to the gallon. You save gas by turning the engine off and restarting it again if you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds.

Environment: Car emissions contribute to air pollution that causes haze, or smog and reacts with other substances in the air to form acids which fall to the earth as rain, snow, or dry particles.

Source: American Cancer Society and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


[Last modified February 14, 2008, 22:37:26]

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