If you happen to be idling your car’s engine on the streets of New York, you may find yourself face to face with George Pakenham, the Verdant Vigilante. The 59 year-old Wall Street mortgage broker is a man on a mission: To stop idling vehicles from polluting the air, causing health issues, and wasting money and precious resources.

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George Pakenham’s crusade to put an end to idling cars started over four years ago, “when we went to war for a second time in the Middle East over oil.” He became aware that countless New Yorkers were leaving their engines on for no good reason. Hisfirst attempt to thwart idling was when he approached a limo driver who had been idling the engine of his stretch limo while waiting for his clients to dine at a restaurant. After a ten minute discussion, the limo driver agreed to shut off his engine. Inspired by this triumph, Pakenham continued approaching idling offenders, including an undercover policeman, who ended up telling George, “Did you know there is a law against it…? Fines too? But I’m not sure how much the fines are?”

With the law on his side, Pakenham set out on a crusade that has resulted in a whopping 1438 encounters. According to him, that is equivalent to raising over $300,000, were he able to fine these idling motorists. Pakenham has kept a log of his encounters and has accumulated some interesting statistics. He estimates that only 25% knew about the no idling law, and about 77% turn off the engine as soon as he tells them about it. Further, in his first year of 823 encounters with people idling their car’s engine, 11% were female and 88% were male.

Idling vehicles are a large contributing factor to greenhouse gas emissions. There is an anti-idling law in New York that is being made more stringent to ensure that vehicles do not idle. As noted above, most people are not even aware that such a law exists. Thankfully, we have good citizens like George Pakenham, the Verdant Vigilante among us, who are happy to pass along the reminder.