"Driving is Exhausting" Reminds Drivers to Stop Idling
For parents who drive their children to and from CHCCS schools, keep an eye out for new signs in the drop-off zones. “Driving is Exhausting” signs will stay up for two weeks as part of a No Idling campaign, spearheaded in large part by the energetic and exuberant Green Team at Phillips Middle School (PMS).
The student-led campaign hopes to build awareness about the links between transportation, climate change and health. The goal is broad and ambitious -- to inspire the community to walk, bike and ride the bus as often as possible. Drivers are encouraged to turn off their engines when they are waiting for more than 10 seconds, thereby pledging to protect the air quality as students come out to meet their rides. Yard signs have been posted on all school campuses until November 8.
Students from area high schools have pitched in to support the Green Team from PMS. “Kids are breathing in the car exhaust because it’s being released at their level, and this can cause asthma,” said Maleehah Ward, a freshman at East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS). “Not only that, but the pollutants are the exact same as the ones that are contributing to climate change.”
“Kids of all ages care a lot about climate change, but we don’t usually feel like we can do that much about it,” said Shelby Swanson, a junior at ECHHS. “The ‘Driving is Exhausting’ campaign is designed to help students take action together through our daily transportation decisions.”
Green Team students are analyzing air quality to test for harmful particles during pick-up times in their car circle. With an air quality testing device from the Chapel Hill Public Library, they are collecting samples and then will work with Clean Air Carolina to analyze their data.
Hazel Grine, an eighth grade student at PMS, said, “I always ride the city bus or bike to school because it makes a difference. It keeps cars off our streets and away from our school. And when we all act together, the impact of these decisions starts to multiply. To me, that’s really exciting and very important.”
The Commission for the Environment, a citizen advisory board that reports to the Board of Orange County Commissioners, has distributed more permanent signs to all public school car circles throughout the county, with the message, “Turn Off Your Engine-- Kids Breathe Here.”
“It is so exciting to see students taking action on this,” said Brenna Bouma, Orange County Sustainability Coordinator. “At the request of the Orange County Commissioners, I’ve been working with the Commission for the Environment and the schools on reducing vehicle idling, and now that students are focusing their energies on the issue, it is really taking off.”
“The fact that this campaign is coming up from the students shows that if we lay a groundwork of caring for our environment, our students will rise up, demand change and be part of the change,” said CHCCS Sustainability Director, Dan Schnitzer. “It is our responsibility as educators and adults to be responsive to the needs of students, and I hope that the drivers that make up this community will show their responsiveness by increasing walking and biking to school, bus use and carpooling in addition to not idling.”
To learn more about the campaign, visit Driving is Exhausting. Students have created Facebook and Instagram accounts for the campaign, too, in hopes that their peers, parents and local drivers will learn and share together.