Saturday, February 20, 2010

Everybody’s Getting On Board!!!

The last two decades have seen an uprising in environmental awareness as well as actions designed to improve our global climates.

Twenty years ago, whispers could heard across the morning breakfast table, speaking of things like pesticides and ozone layers. Ten years ago those whispers became alarm bells tolling the times for significant change. Now, positive actions can be witnessed in almost every aspect of our lives.

Elementary schools now have ‘green’ teams in every grade as they strive to reach higher and higher levels of environmental status. Almost every person I see in the markets and grocery stores carry reusable cloth bags instead of plastic. More and more people are gathering at environmental conferences to learn more and share more positive ideas with their communities. Even employers of large passenger fleets (like my employer – Murphy Bus Lines) are making changes to decrease waste and increase efficiency!

Over the last two months I have been involved in two environmental workshops through Murphy Bus Lines. The goals have been quite simple: 1) to decrease the amount of green house gases (GHG) that are produced by buses and 2) improve the quality of life for all living beings! Fairly positive goals if I do say so… and I do!!!!

When I was first being trained as a bus driver I was instructed to – upon first entering my bus – start the engine. While the engine was running I completed my ‘circle check’ – checking tire pressure, operating lights and signals, etc. When my inspection was complete it was time to hit the road.

I would arrive at the bus yard to the sounds of many engines idling and lots of lights flashing… it was rather noisy. Now I almost feel like I’m entering a place of sanctuary, as the bus yard sits in silence. This was the result of one of the environmental workshops that Murphy instigated. We no longer engage our engines until all ‘circle check’ procedures have been completed. Simply, we turn the engine key to ‘auxiliary’ instead of turning the motor on. All the lights, fans, heaters, windshield wipers are still operational and can be checked during our inspection.

For every litre of diesel fuel burned by a school bus, 2.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide are produced. Every fifteen minutes of idling uses one litre of fuel. With these new ‘green circle check’ policies now in place each bus in NOT idling for almost forty five minutes a week. That means that each bus is now saving between 2-3 litres of fuel each week. With over four hundred buses in its fleet, Murphy is now NOT consuming over 1000 litres of fuel each week and NOT polluting close to 3000 kilograms of carbon dioxide… each week – or did I already say that!!!!

The second environmental workshop that I attended took these ideas another step forward…

We didn’t really learn anything shocking or new about how to drive our buses more efficiently. The classes were more like reviews about things that we already knew but with a focus on the positive environmental results by following safety guidelines more closely.

We re-examined situations like starting and stopping our buses. We were encouraged to simply begin our excelaration more gently – not stomping on the gas pedal when the light turns green, but gradually applying our foot to the pedal. By looking ahead we can determine whether an upcoming light may change from green to red so that we can ‘coast’ the bus up to the stop line instead of slamming on our brakes.

We talked about tire pressure and how that affects that amount of diesel that is needed to run a bus.

We talked about courtesy on the roads and allowing other more aggressive drivers to have the right of way in situations where we might be ‘battling’ them. Battles see drivers accelerating more aggressively and using their brakes more frequently, both using more fuel in the process.

We talked about cruising speeds and learned about studies that have determined that buses travelling on highways or freeways should not travel above 80 kilometers/hour. Each kilometer above 80 uses more fuel, costing more money.

I was most surprised when we talked about healthy diets and how this affects all drivers’ attitudes and our ability to react more efficiently. I was surprised in a good way. Few people seem to realize that a healthy diets affects every aspect of our lives on this Earth.

We talked about a lot of things and I think everyone felt rather positive by the end of the whole thing!!!

All of these positive actions, combined with our new ‘green circle check’ are estimated to be able to save the company up to $256, 000 dollars a year!!! Incredible! I wonder if that means that I’ll soon be getting a raise???

And it’s not just Murphy Bus Lines getting involved with these programs. Last month 1, 200 bus drivers in just Lambton and Middlesex counties took part. As Richard Donaldson (executive director of the Ontario School Bus Association) says, “We are pleased to see operators taking a proactive approach to help reduce the pressures of global warming. Our goal is to train school bus fleets right across the province.”

There are over 18, 000 buses on the roads in Ontario each day. If one company of 400 drivers is able to save $256, 000 dollars a year, then all of Ontario could very well be saving over 11.5 million dollars a year! I can think of a lot of great uses for that money, like more education, tree planting, more education, river cleaning, more education, and possibly more education!!!

Imagine if all of Canada’s provinces ‘got on board’ with these new programs. Imagine if the United States followed suit. Imagine if every country around the world followed these positive initiatives!!!!

The future that we are so quickly building will be determined by the actions of each person now living. Let us continue to build on positive examples such as this and let us continue to evolve into the frame of consciousness that we are destined for!


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