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A few days ago, I received the tragic news that a childhood friend of mine who suffered from depression had taken his own life. We had only been in touch a few times as adults. As kids we were close friends and neighbors, spending a tremendous amount of time together, until he moved away when we were 10 years old.
As I work through the grief of this horrible news, I found myself reading his LinkedIn page where he included a list of his interests. It struck me how so many of our interests overlapped and that these things have to do with nature, animals, and the outdoors. He even included on this list “saving the environment.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we were both interested in a lot of the same things. I think it is because during our formative years we shared so many of the same experiences. And I think this is indicative of why it is so important that we get children outside and let them have experiences that lead them to feel a love of nature, the outdoors, animals, and mother earth. My friend and I spent countless hours playing outside. We collected bugs, played wiffle ball and soccer, brought his pet turtle for walks, and went sledding on the hill in his yard. In fact, it dawned on me that we never watched TV and I had to wrack my brain to remember where they even had a TV set at his house.
I write today in my friend’s memory to say, let’s get those kids outside more to enjoy some free play and to help them develop a connection to nature. A connection that gets them interested enough in saving the environment to try to save it.
When I was a kid everyone walked to their bus stop for school. But it’s a different world today, where children require more supervision, and I see cars sitting at corners all over town during school pick up and drop off hours. What’s upsetting to me is how many parents are leaving their cars running while they wait at the bus stop.
Idling cars is a waste of fuel and is a contributor to air pollution. I couldn’t say it any better than the Department of Energy (DOE) which states on their website, “When you make an effort to turn off your vehicle, you’re on track to doing something better for yourself, your wallet, your environment, and your community.” Six billion gallons of fuel are wasted every year by idling according to the DOE. And air pollution causes a variety of serious health problems. That’s why at least 10 states and our Capital have laws against idling.
Anti-idling campaigns around the U.S. have created idling-free zones around our schools so that you no longer see school buses idling in front of schools like they used to when I was a kid. This is great news, but the collective negative impact of cars idling at bus stops is a new problem. Do I think parents are choosing to idle out of indifference about the health of their children and the environment? No. I think most people idling at bus stops don’t think about it at all. I think they are simply not aware of the problems associated with idling.
So, please help spread the word that parents should turn off their car engines at the bus stop. Why not step outside of the car to wait in warm weather. Look for the shade of a nearby tree. When it’s cold outside, dress warm in the car. By the time the car heats up in winter, the bus will be there anyway. My friend Ann-Marie, who does think about idling, told me she keeps a blanket in the car to keep warm at the bus stop in winter. What a great idea! Pass it on!