Studying global warming has its own sweet reward |

Studying global warming has its own sweet reward

City of Aspen environmental health specialists are placing these placards on vehicles they see idling around town. Its part of the citys anti-global-warming Canary Initiative. Aspen Times photo.

There’s nothing like a chocolate-chip cookie to motivate a person to help save the world.The city of Aspen is using a free cookie at Paradise Bakery to try to get people to learn more about global warming, look at how their own lifestyle affects it and, hopefully, take action.The city launched a program this week called Idling Isn’t Cool. It targets people who let their cars idle while they run an errand or warm it up in cold weather. A small, laminated placard with a picture of Earth sweating from heat will be placed on windshields of idling cards by environmental health specialists while they are walking through town.

“Turning off your engine when you are not driving is one of the easiest things you can do to lessen your contribution to global warming,” the placard reads.It then makes an offer the city environmental health department hopes people cannot refuse. People are directed to use one of several websites to fill out a “carbon calculator” a short list of questions that determines how much carbon a person’s lifestyle habits pump into the air. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that leads to the warming of the atmosphere.When a person brings back the placard and the results of the carbon test to the environmental health department, he or she is given a voucher for a free cookie.”The primary purpose is to inform people about added pollution from idling,” said Dan Richardson, the city’s global warming project manager.

The city created his position earlier this year as part of its Canary Initiative, a program designed to raise awareness about global warming and coordinate the government’s and community’s efforts to reduce carbon production.The placard claims that letting a car idle for 30 seconds is enough to get engine oil circulating. It also states that a city ordinance makes it illegal to idle an engine for five minutes or more.While targeting idling cars is a laudable goal, some people might also find it a touch ironic considering the traffic congestion issues Aspen is facing. A political stalemate has prevented the city from addressing its west entrance and exit issues, which create a traffic jam on Main Street each weekday afternoon during the heart of the summer. It takes up to 50 minutes some days for a vehicle to make it from downtown Aspen to Cemetery Lane in stop-and-go traffic.Richardson acknowledged in an earlier interview that the traffic congestion adds significantly to Aspen’s carbon emissions. But that’s no reason to ignore issues raised by idling vehicles, he said.

“I’m sure there will be some cynics who say, ‘What’s 30 seconds of idling when I’m sitting in my car for 30 minutes getting out of town?'” he said.To calculate personal carbon emissions, go to the city’s website, The site will provide several links to websites with a carbon calculator. Scott Condon’s e-mail is

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