As I write this, I am faced with a dilemma. I live in a wide roofed, split entry house surrounded on three sides by mature, sun reaching oaks, maples and American Beech trees.
Every fall, each leaf-bearing tree has its own rhythm of retreat. The maples caste off thick and firm yellow, red and orange leaves, whereas the oak leaves turn russet and curl at the edges while the abundant American Beech thin out to a papery beige with the feel of tissue.
October winds funnel down the forested back hill casting bowers of leaves up and onto the roof, across the back patio, along the driveway. Caste-off leaves on land are no problem. We rake. We pile the leaves onto a tarp and drag them to a kind neighbor’s compost pile. The flight-born leaves settle into gutters; they require helpers with good balance and sturdy ladders to scoop out the debris.
On the first day of frigid temperatures, the roof cleaners arrived. It’s my practice to greet helpers, to ascertain the job. I exited the side door to encounter their high paneled truck with the engine on, idling in the driveway. The cab was empty; two men were already at work on the roof.
My dilemma was immediate. Do I yell up to them on the roof? Do I shout out the effects of idling, that 10 minutes of an exhaust’s idling pours one pound of carbon dioxide— a harmful greenhouse gas—into our atmosphere?
In the two minutes it took to climb the steps, I chickened out. I had been waiting for the roofer to send these men since late July to seal the seam of a glass roof panel. Today’s gig was to complete that additional task. I was grateful these men had come. It was bitter cold. I understood their need to hunker down in a warm cab after facing a blasting wind at roof’s edge.
Was it my job to educate these men about idling? I came away thinking if I were to speak to anyone, it needed to be the owner. His truck was in violation of the Massachusetts Anti-Idling Law, which limits unnecessary engine idling to five minutes. I had no timer on that day but surmise the idling lasted for at least fifteen minutes, maybe more.
I’m not a comfortable whistle blower. I’ve met the owner. He may have no awareness of the law. According to WCAP, The Wakefield Climate Action Project, the anti-idling law is rarely enforced or publicized on the local level. They suggest I send an e-mail to email@example.com to show support. Following that, they recommend I tell town officials that I promote the enforcement of the anti-idling law by sending e-mails and attending town meetings. This sounds do-able and right to me.
Thus far, 19 states have enacted anti-idling laws. I am grateful to be reminded how a simple turn of the ignition key can make a difference, how one simple step can contribute to our planet’s sustainability, how writing this post might inspire others.