Nearly four million gallons of fuel are wasted in the US every day as a result of vehicle idling in front of stores, banks, post offices, soccer fields, etc. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 16A, it is stipulated that “No person shall cause, suffer, allow, or permit the unnecessary operation of the engine of a motor vehicle while said vehicle is stopped for a foreseeable period of time if excess of five (5) minutes.” While the Massachusetts anti-idling law exists to improve public health, protect the environment, and enhance quality of life, it remains widely unknown and ignored in the Commonwealth. Idling cars puts all of us at a heightened risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and it affects most strongly those communities and neighborhoods that experience much industrial traffic, or that are located in inner-city areas where public transportation relies on diesel-powered buses. These are often the same neighborhoods inhabited by disadvantaged populations.
First Parish decided to join other communities and religious organizations to help bring awareness to this important law. Several towns and cities in Massachusetts have held anti-idling campaigns, including Wakefield Climate Action Project, Rockport, Sustainable Belmont, Concord, Boxford, Boston, Cambridge, and Wellesley. By working to raise consciousness in Medfield and, eventually, in surrounding towns about the many good reasons for the law’s existence, we have seeked to draw attention to how unnecessary idling in Massachusetts jeopardizes public health, in bucolic suburbs as well as in more thickly settled and less privileged communities. This work stems from the 7th principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
A town-wide anti-idling coalition was formed that consists of churches, schools, town management, and civic groups. We believed we could not work alone on this and needed a buy-in from as many groups as possible. The coalition includes:
- First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Medfield
- Church of the Advent Medfield (Episcopal)
- United Church of Christ (UCC) Medfield (Congregational)
- First Baptist Church Medfield
- St. Edward the Confessor Church Medfield (Catholic)
- Medfield Police Department
- Medfield School Committee
- Medfield Energy Committee
- Medfield Board of Health
- Medfield Board of Selectmen
- Medfield Green
- Medfield Garden Club
An anti-idling flyer was created using ideas from other towns plus using the kit provided by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. It has distributed at Medfield Day every year since 2015. It was also distributed to the library, schools, and all the churches as well as to the congregants of First Parish.
The Medfield Police designed and ordered ten permanent anti-idling signs which were erected at schools, two each at five schools. The funds for the signs came from the town’s budget. A second batch of signs were ordered and twelve permanent anti-idling signs were erected by curbs in front of various locations (e.g., Town Hall, Library, etc.). Again, the funds for the signs came from the town’s budget. We understand there will be more signs erected.
A half-hour interview regarding Anti-Idling Awareness was conducted at the Medfield TV station, airing multiple times in December 2015. Three members of the Green Sanctuary Committee participated. The segment is posted on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=MTSTbkb3xsk.
We connected with a Medfield High School science teacher, Mike Cowell, who was doing climate change awareness activities. He ran a contest encouraging students to design anti-idling posters. We gave awards from a Medfield business ($10 gift certificates from Juice on Main) to the three best posters. The students also made a video: com/idlingvideo. An article entitled “Medfield Students Join in No Idling Campaign” was published in the Hometown Weekly on March 30, 2016, describing the contest and FPUU’s involvement. See http://www.hometownweekly.net/medfield/medfield-students-join-in-no-idling-campaign/ We combined the winning high school students’ posters into one flyer and had the high school students distribute it to parents idling at the school. This new flyer has been distributed to the churches, starting at Medfield Day in 2016, and handed out to First Parish congregants.
We believe this Anti-Idling Awareness Initiative has had an important influence on the residents of Medfield. Thousands of people became aware of the law. We’ve heard many comments:
“The GS Committee has educated me about anti-idling and I have talked to businesses I frequent about putting up signs. I don’t eat red meat and we recycle.”
“I wasn’t aware of the anti-idling law. It’s a great idea to promote this awareness.”