School Bus Pollution: What You Can Do
Most of us likely have vivid memories of taking the school bus to school. Those brown vinyl seats, the jostling, squeaky ride, and the sharp smell of exhaust will likely be burned into our memories forever. And, this doesn’t change with each new generation that climbs into the bright yellow buses each morning.
Many school districts use their buses until they start falling apart. And really, this is just good business sense, especially now, since so many districts are strapped for cash. However, there’s one problem with using these old buses for so long: they’re big polluters.
Let me start by saying that this not a post meant to trash school buses. Environmental-wise, the average school bus keeps 40-50 cars off the road. This reduces traffic, reduces greenhouse gasses, and saves parents an enormous amount of time and stress. However, the fact is that most old buses are fairly big polluters. And, our kids breathe this in every morning, and every afternoon. After all, I sure remember the smell of exhaust every time I climbed on the bus.
According to the Daily Green, pollution from the bus’s exhaust can easily enter the cabin. Kids on the bus often breathe in four times more pollution than the driver following the bus does. As you can imagine, when parents learn this they often freak, and with good reason. Kids, especially those with asthma, should not be breathing in this much pollution.
So, what can you do to reduce school bus pollution?
1. Make Noise
If your school’s buses were built before 1998, then it’s likely they could use an upgrade. In an ideal world, all buses would have been built after 2007; this is the year a new law went into effect requiring closed crank cases and advanced emissions controls on buses. Buses built after this year produce much less pollution than older buses.
If your kids are riding around in old buses, then spread the word to other parents, and the PTA. Make noise about the issue. Remember: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
If your district can’t afford new buses, or won’t pay for them, then campaign for them to at least close the bus’s crankcase, which will greatly cut down on the bus’s pollution.
2. Ask for Money
When Congress passed the Clean School Bus Act, it appropriated money to help school districts pay for upgrades to their buses. Ask your principal and school board if they’ve asked for any of this money.
3. Stop the Idling
Auto experts say it’s far better for the environment for vehicles to turn off their engines if they’ll be idling for longer than ten seconds. School buses emit a lot of pollution when they idle, especially when they idle in school parking lots.
Band together with other parents and ask your school board to pass a “no idling” rule for buses who are stationary for longer than 30 seconds or a minute, especially when they’re loading and unloading children in a school zone.
Although school buses pollute, they’re still far more efficient, and better for the environment, than each parent driving their kids to school individually. The best thing you can do for your kids to take action and try to get positive change implemented to reduce this pollution.