Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - Sending a Message to Polluters

Have you seen someone driving a car that is pouring smoke from the exhaust, or throwing trash from their car, and wanted to tell them how they are hurting the environment? 

Yesterday afternoon, on my drive home from work, I observed a car ahead of me that was billowing a huge cloud of noxious smoke.   (GASP!)  This was on a busy six-lane city street, and other cars were either staying far behind this car, or going around it as quickly as possible.  I moved over a lane, to not be directly behind the smoking car, and slowed down a little to increase the distance between us.  As the car turned right at the next intersection, I was able to note the license plate number, and later reported it online.

The state of Texas has two programs that can be used to send a message to polluters and litterers: theTexas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Smoking Vehicle Program, and the Texas Department of Transportation Report a Litterer program.   Since these are based on anonymous reports, neither of these programs result in enforcement activities, but instead encourage citizens to act in an environmentally responsible manner.

Upon observing a smoking vehicle, one can make note of the following information: Texas license plate number, date and time observed, city and location observed, and submit the information to TCEQ online, by mail, fax, or phone. TCEQ mails a notification letter to the registered owner of the vehicle. The letter notifies the owner that their vehicle was reported to be observed emitting excessive visible exhaust emissions. It also encourages them to make repairs, if needed. It also informs vehicle owners that law enforcement authorities  observing smoking vehicles on Texas roadways may issue citations for up to $350. Since the program started, the TCEQ has sent more than 160,000 letters to smoking vehicle owners. Thousands have replied saying they fixed their cars!  Repairs have ranged from minor adjustments to major engine repairs.

Upon observing litter exiting a vehicle, intentionally or accidentally, one can note the following information:  license plate number, make and color of vehicle, date and time, location, who tossed the litter and what was tossed, and submit the information online. TxDOT compares the information to the vehicle registration database and sends the litterer a "Don't Mess with Texas" litterbag along with a letter reminding them to keep their trash off of our roads.

A quick search online showed me that most states have similar programs.  If you are interested in sending a message to polluters, there are probably versions of these programs in your area.


Anonymous said...

Arkansas has a similar program on reporting litter - Keep Arkansas Beautiful. I have often wanted to call and report friends of mine who don't think twice about throwing out trash...even after I mentioned that I wish they wouldn't. Good for you for reporting!

Vern said...

Kate, good for you for discouraging friends from littering! Your good example may win them over yet.