My role as an activist in the environmental movement is quite focused on idling. Focused and personal. It began more than 4 years ago when we went to war for a second time in the Middle East over oil. And it became ever more aggravating for me to watch fellow NYers, mindless at the wheel, idling their engines and wasting gas… or oil as I saw it. Besides, I felt it was disgraceful on many fronts. Bad Air, health issues, wasted money.
One evening, I became particularly fed up with a stretch limo parked in front of my apartment house, idling, as his customers were inside a nearby restaurant. It was spring, at night and around 50 degrees outside. I knocked on the window. The limo driver and I had a 10 minute discussion. Ultimately, I convinced him to shut off his engine.
This first success gave me courage. For the next six months I would follow the same procedure on my way to and from work and on the weekends. I found myself becoming more and more successful. One evening, I asked someone who appeared to be a limo driver to shut off his engine. It was an undercover policeman. I backed off but the officer said…
“Did you know there is a law against it? Fines too? But I’m not sure how much the fines are?”
That was a true catalyst for me. I had actually been enforcing a law, as a vigilante, so to speak, not even knowing it. I did extensive research and worked with the State EPA to learn more about the law and fines.
Once I had a clear handle on the law and fines, I had cards printed. This describes the law on one side and penalties on the other.
This gave me more confidence… but with this tool in hand, I wanted to keep tabs on how successful, statistically, I would become. So I created an excel spread sheet
In my encounters, I always start of my conversation by saying,
“Excuse me for bothering you… but are you aware that it’s against the law to idle your car engine in NYC for more then 3 minutes?”
No matter what happens in-between, in the end I always give them a mild command.
“Then it would be great if you could shut off your engine. Better environment, you save money and you’re a good citizen obeying the law.”