Turn it off for Cleaner Air

Back of car
Written by Kay MacDuffee

Anyone notice some really cute, very pointed, graphically illustrated posters around town a couple of months ago?  They could be spotted in store windows, in public meeting places, in restaurant windows or municipal buildings.  They made a loud, clear, viable call to our collective conscience: TURN OFF YOUR VEHICLE!  Or expressed in the negative: Don’t Idle Your Engine!

It all began with EcoCaledon’s Paint a Picture for Clean Air campaign back in April.  (April, when what began as a global Earth Day morphed into Earth Week and finally into Earth Month.) We needed a program to provide a positive reminder to motorists to turn off their engines when idling, to inform them that the Town of Caledon has a by-law that prohibits idling for more than two minutes, and, if there was anyone who still had not heard, to explain why.

Who better than their children?

So EcoCaledon and the Town collaborated to bring schools and businesses together.  The kids would paint the pictures and the merchants would display them. Caledon elementary schools were challenged to be creative and original with their artwork. Businesses were equally challenged to help Caledon make a clean air statement by displaying the messages.  A perfect team.

That emissions from idling vehicles are toxic is not breaking news. Nor is the fact that it constitutes a major source of air pollution. So if it’s such a no-brainer, why do folks continue with this carelessness?  It’s bad for engines, it wastes fuel, and it makes us sick.

We’ve known for years that air pollution increases the risk of asthma, lung infections and lung cancer, and now we are discovering that it is also linked to heart disease, depression, obesity, and brain diseases. Yes, really!

In a study published in the medical journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers assessed the effects of black carbon—a marker of traffic-related air pollution—on cognitive function and the central nervous systems (we are talking about Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s) of male study participants. The scientists found that there was a significant link between air pollution levels and a reduction in cognitive function.

It makes me crazy when I see vehicles in school parking lots, engines running, waiting for precious children, drivers blithely keeping warm in winter or cool in summer.  A few times I have politely challenged this and invited them inside to wait, but that takes chutzpah. To summon the courage I think hard about what’s at stake, and I’ve never been punched out yet.  In fact most people are polite. It’s always about intention.

So let’s make it a challenge for the entire Town of Caledon, not just the students and businesses and municipal folks. It takes a village. Our community cares.  I know it does.  We just need reminding.  Are you on the team?

High five y’all for Clean Air in Caledon!

About the author

Kay MacDuffee

Kathryn (Kay) MacDuffee thinks of herself as a learner/teacher/seeker after truth.  She’s lived in Caledon before it was Caledon. A retired educator and journalist, her brimming energy keeps her active still in both. Her secret? An attitude of gratitude.


  • I was at my dental appointment this morning (Dr. Ehrlich Palgrave) and in the entrance was a very noticeable drawing about “Turn it off”. I thought perhaps it was just a school project. Thanks for the article. I now understand the drawing better.

  • I thought the posters were cute. I had published articles in the past about idling.

    Idling a car or truck is completely unnecessary, very bad for the environment, and really bad for the car too. Also a theft risk and a waste of money.

    Thanks for turning your car off, everyone!