If you happen to be picking up your son or daughter at Wellesley High School between 1:30 and 3:30pm this week, you may find a student tapping on your car’s window, holding a promotional handout. However, this student is not looking to solicit money from you. In fact, listening to the student’s request could help you save money.
Since Friday, the WHS Green Team has joined forces with numerous other town organizations to support Wellesley Green Schools’ new initiative: “Turn the Key, Be Idle Free!” The program, supported by groups ranging from the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee to Temple Beth Elohim and the Wellesley Free Library, seeks to minimize the idling that takes place across town.
Idling is well-known to have adverse effects on the environment, but it also has an impact on one’s wallet. Idling for more than ten seconds wastes more fuel than the amount needed to restart a car, releasing over 40 harmful pollutants into the atmosphere in the process. As a comparison, idling for only two minutes uses as much gas as is needed to travel one mile, producing 17 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of gas used.
According to Wellesley Green Schools Co-Chair Phyllis Theermann, Wellesley schools seemed the best place to start a no-idling initiative. “Idling is not simply a Wellesley issue or a school car lines concern,” said Theermann. “However, Wellesley Green Schools wanted to start the conversation in its town, in its community, hoping that it would spread like wildfire.”
There are already steep penalties in place for drivers who choose to idle. As outlined in Massachusetts state law (MGL. Chapter 90, 16A), being caught idling for more than five minutes is punishable by a $100 fine for a first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses.
Wellesley Green Schools’ approach to the idling problem takes on a different perspective, however. After creating educational graphics about idling that were distributed throughout the schools and posting signs alerting drivers to idling penalties in school parking lots and car lines, Wellesley Green Schools opted to take on the issue with a positive attitude.
“We then decided it was time to meet with Wellesley Police,” said Theermann. “Police Officer Evan Rosenberg was thoroughly engaged and suggested offering positive reinforcement to those who are not idling, [instead of] handing out fines straight away. We came up with the ‘reverse ticketing’ idea.”
This idea of “reverse ticketing” provided a way for high school students to get involved. Instead of police officers patrolling the high school car line and handing out tickets, passionate students will be the ones “patrolling” among cars parked in front of the school’s main entrance and handing out “thank you for not idling” cards to drivers who are already making decisions sensitive to the environment and their wallet. In the case that a student comes across a driver who opts against turning their engine off, they will politely ask the driver to follow others’ lead and explain the benefits of doing so
More information about the statistics surrounding idling and Wellesley’s approach to the problem can be found at www.wellesleygreenschools.com. In the meantime, keep an eye out for students “patrolling” the high school parking lot this week and remember to “turn the key!”
Matthew Hornung & Olivia Gieger