Thoughtful Parenting: Parents can help teach children to give a hoot | SteamboatToday.com
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Thoughtful Parenting: Parents can help teach children to give a hoot

Parents have been learning about “Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute!” from friendly, feathered educator Woodsy Owl since 1971.

Today, Woodsy’s pollution prevention lessons include teaching drivers to “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free.”

The wise owl knows that preventing air pollution can be as easy as giving a hoot to avoid any unnecessary vehicle idling. The local Spare the Air campaign has been helping to educate about this topic since 2012, so here are a few Spare the Air tips to remember.



  • Vehicle exhaust is full of toxins and pollutants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Idle-Free Schools Toolkit, idling vehicles emit air toxins or pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health issues. Monitoring at schools during afternoon pick up times has shown elevated levels of chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Diesel exhaust contains both very small particles and 40 chemicals that are classified as “hazardous air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. 
  • Children are more susceptible to air pollution. Children’s lungs are still developing, and young children have faster breathing rates.
  • Don’t use the excuse “I’ll only be here a minute.” One minute of idling produces more carbon monoxide than three packs of cigarettes.
  • Idling takes twice as long to warm up engines as driving. Mechanics and car companies agree that excessive idling is hard on a vehicle’s engine because it is not working at peak operating temperatures. Modern engines need no more than 30 seconds of idling before driving gently. Even on the coldest winter days, a modern vehicle takes less than 5 minutes to warm the engine if the car is moving.
  • Always turn off the engine before raising the hatch. If a SUV is running when the tailgate is up, the exhaust comes into the vehicle.
  • Be a good law-abiding example. Leaving an unattended vehicle idling is illegal in Colorado.
  • Idling wastes money. An idling engine delivers zero miles per gallon, and 10 seconds of idling wastes more fuel that restarting. Idling for just five minutes per day can waste one to two tanks of gas a year. According to the Sustainable America campaign I Turn it Off, 3.8 million gallons of fuel is wasted by idling in the U.S. every day.

Woodsy Owl encourages everyone to “never be a dirty bird,” and local parents and drivers can help by teaching children they too value breathing clean air. Find resources at yvsc.org/programs/spare-the-air.

Suzie Romig serves as the energy outreach director for nonprofit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.


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