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Earth Friendly: Idle Free Jamboree

Feb. 23, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 22, 2012 at 8:23 p.m.


By Marie Lester

Is there one little thing you can think of that can put a smile on your face? Just that little something that sneaks up on you to make your day a little better?

For me, this is when I am waiting in the drive-thru line, and I notice that all the cars around me are silent. Engines off. Not idling. Wow! This only happens occasionally - while I'm cashing a check or waiting for my monster double chocolate milkshake. This makes me smile.

Air pollution is a problem throughout the world - and the Victoria area is no exception.

The Victoria area is near non-attainment for ozone pollution. Near non-attainment means we are very close to exceeding the level the Environmental Protection Agency has set on ozone levels. Ozone is the primary component of smog.

It is three oxygen molecules bound together to form O3. Depending on where it is in the atmosphere, ozone affects life on Earth in either good or bad ways.

The ozone layer is the good stuff - it protects us from the sun's harmful UV rays. Ozone at ground level, where we can breathe it, is not so good - it can harm our lungs and cause respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema. I like to remember the difference between the two by saying "good up high, bad nearby."

Ground level ozone is formed when chemicals in the air (specifically nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds, for you science lovers) react in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground-level or "bad" ozone. One of the main source of these chemicals in Victoria is the cars and trucks that we drive.

There are several ways you can reduce the emissions your vehicle puts out. These are keeping your vehicle maintained, checking your tire pressure regularly, driving less and not idling your engine. The city of Victoria offers programs and incentives that help people do these things and encourage folks to protect air quality.

The Blue Sky Initiative is one of these programs. Blue Sky combats the villainous ground level ozone by asking drivers to make a pledge to turn off their car if they will be waiting in line for more than one minute.

You can make the pledge to turn off your engine at schools, banks, pharmacies, restaurants and any other place with a drive-thru at victoriabluesky.org. Many organizations have jumped on board with the Blue Sky program.

Victoria schools have "No Idle Zone" street signs posted and a no-idling policy in place for their bus drivers. Sonic has offered coupons to customers who turn their engines off while they dine.

To celebrate clean air and learn more about how to prevent that nasty ground level ozone, join the city of Victoria and Keep Victoria Beautiful at an Idle Free Jamboree on May 12, at Riverside Park.

There will be plenty of good clean fun, including soap box races, food, entertainment and an eco-car show. The Idle Free Jamboree Youth Soap Box races, promoting air quality, begin at 10 a.m. on McCright Drive, adjacent to the Rose Garden.

Soap box derby teams representing schools in the Victoria ISD are participating in the races. To find out if your child's school is participating, contact Environmental Services at 361-485-3230 or email environmentalservices@victoriatx.org. The youth soapbox races and all educational activities are free.

Later that afternoon, Keep Victoria Beautiful will conduct a soap box derby for adults at 1 p.m. Cost to participate in the race is $150 per team and entry fees benefit Keep Victoria Beautiful. To register for the adult races, please contact Keep Victoria Beautiful at 361-571-0582 or email ed@keepvictoriabeautiful .org. The entire event is open to the public.

Next time you're waiting in line for that double chocolate milkshake (which also makes me smile), remember to turn your engine off while you wait and enjoy the fresh air around you. Not to mention, who wants to choke on exhaust when you really want to take a deep breath and savor those mouth watering aromas from the deep fryers?

Marie Lester is the environmental programs coordinator for the city of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her with topic ideas, inspiration, questions and comments at cmlester@victoriatx.org.

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