JDHS drive-up becomes idle-free zone

Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2011

Environmentally conscious students at Juneau-Douglas High School have successfully implemented a project to urge drivers to stop idling their cars at the school.

Lia Domke and Laurel Stark, JDHS students and leaders of the Juneau chapter of Alaska Youth of Environmental Action, said their student club selects a conservation project each year. This year, they decided to tackle the issue of parents idling their vehicles while waiting to pick up their student.

Domke said there are two main reasons why they decided to focus on the issue: the impact on student health and the impact on the driver’s wallet.

The club, which has 12 members at JDHS, researched the effects, and found that idling for five minutes wastes about a half a cup of gas and if car is less than 15 years old, 10 seconds of idling wastes more gas than it takes to turn it on, Stark said.

Domke said it’s actually a myth that car engines need to warm up for a significant amount of time in the winter. She said if a car is less than 15 years old, it’s actually worse for the engine to sit and idle.

“We’re trying to educate people how to use their cars effectively and appropriately,” she said.

Stark said with their calculations, the average U.S. family wastes $75 in gas a year from idling — and that’s with national average gas prices and usages.

Some of their information came from the New Mexico Environmental Department, while other information came from Environmental Wind Health Incorporated and other sources.

Domke said health effects are just as concerning because of what’s in exhaust. Some of what’s in car exhaust includes carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide (bad for people with asthma), benzine (a known carcinogen) and formaldehyde (harmful to immune systems and the skin), Stark said.

The teens felt it was important to address the issue at JDHS because it’s so close to Harborview Elementary, Montessori and Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School. They hope to take on the other schools next year.

“So we thought this would help because it helps the environment globally and helps the health of kids locally,” Stark said.

Domke said there hasn’t been any public comment so far to the “no idling zone” signs posted at the parking lot/turn about at the high school, but the pair noticed a car that would normally be idling was off.

“It’s great to see some people are following the signs,” Stark said.

The group took the issue to the school board this year, and was referred to the JDHS Site Council. The council approved the student resolution and principal Ryan Alsup supported the effort. The city had the signs printed.

Domke said that Gastineau Elementary already asks drivers to turn off their engines when waiting for students, also for air quality.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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