Vehicle idling can be harmful, wasteful and largely unnecessary. At many of America's more than 130,000 public schools, collectively, prolonged idling by passenger vehicles occurs as parents drop off and pick up students every school day. The pick up period is when most of this idling occurs as vehicles queue up prior to dismissal for 15 to 30 minutes.
This idling at schools mimics cars waiting in a drive-thru at fast food and coffee outlets, or at a bank, hence, the project name: Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus! We are also making a statement that this harmful and wasteful practice should not occur, especially at schools where the negative impact of toxic tailpipe chemicals from a caravan of idling vehicles not only contributes to climate change and fossil fuel use, it affects children whose lungs are still developing.
SCHOOLS ARE NOT DRIVE-THRUS!© PROJECT
Green Driving America's Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus!© is a funded project with a goal of implementing idle-free schools campaigns with up to three Upper Valley Vermont or New Hampshire participating middle and high schools for the fall of 2023.
Thanks to funding by an anonymous foundation located in the Upper Valley,
THIS PROJECT IS AT NO COST TO THESE SCHOOLS
EDUCATORS: Contact Wayne Michaud, Green Driving America executive director, upon interest in having your school participate in these campaigns: firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-209-0224.
These student-led, eight to ten week campaigns are for middle schools and high schools (grades 6-12): Green Driving America (GDA) works with STEM educators and school environmental and sustainability clubs. Parent clubs/PTOs are welcome and encouraged to join in participation!
WHY IDLE-FREE SCHOOLS CAMPAIGNS?
This project gets to the core of an environmental problem and how to address it without it being a sophisticated, technological solution to reducing transportation GHG emissions. This is a "nuts and bolts" behavioral solution that shows drivers the compelling reasons sitting in a car and idling for 15-30 minutes is a virtually unnecessary practice when the temperature is more than 32 degrees. Simply turn off the key.
THE MATH: based on observations in previously conducted GDA idle-free schools projects, it can be estimated that on average 50 cars wait for 15 minutes or more during dismissal at one school and that 35 of them are idling. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, so 35 cars idling for 15 minutes can burn more than three gallons in one dismissal period. Not a real big deal. But over a 180 day school year, this idling can consume up to 500 gallons of fuel. That can be up to five tons of CO2 emitted. Per school. That's significant, especially since most of this idling is unnecessary. Let us then imagine how much fuel is burned and CO2 emitted by idling vehicles at America's 130,000 schools, annually. Fuel burned: 65,000,000 gallons; CO2 emitted: 650,000 tons. But even more important is to keep in mind the health impact on children.
The U.S. EPA Region 8's Idle-Free Schools Toolkit for a Healthy School Environment states: "Idling vehicles contribute to air pollution and emit air toxins, which are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children. Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of these pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Limiting a vehicle’s idling time can dramatically reduce these pollutants and children’s exposure to them."
IDLING MYTHS: — BUSTED!
IDLING MYTH #1: IT'S BETTER TO IDLE FOR A MINUTE OR TWO THAN SHUTTING OFF AND RESTARTING
FACT: For light-duty gas vehicles such as compacts, sedans, SUVS and pickups, idling for more than ten seconds uses more fuel and emits more CO2 than shutting the engine off and restarting.
IDLING MYTH #2: RESTARTING AN ENGINE UP TO TEN TIMES A DAY WILL SHORTEN THE LIFE OF A STARTER
FACT: Starters are "over-built". They are extremely durable and are designed to last for more than 30,000 starting cycles. The general rule is to not restart an engine more than ten times a day*; during the school dismissal waiting period, shutting off and restarting an engine more than several times is rarely necessary.
*For vehicles not equipped with an auto stop/start system that shuts off an engine at a traffic light, for safety reasons, do not shut off an engine manually while waiting for a traffic light to turn green. However, it is advisable to shut off engines at traffic tie-ups and construction zones, etc.
HOW CAMPAIGNS WORK
THESE ARE FOUR-STEP EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGNS, RUNNING EIGHT TO TEN WEEKS
Step 1: After Labor Day, an initial training session is conducted virtually (such as with Zoom) in the classroom, by a GDA trained college level student from a Vermont or New Hampshire college. An approximately 30-40-minute PowerPoint and videos presentation (see below) shows: what idling means, its impact, touching on alternatives to being driven to school, such as Safe Routes to School, and how a campaign works. Campaign materials are provided, including:
• Downloadable documents below for students and teacher/advisor containing full details of the campaign steps including conducting measuring data collection (Step 2), the school administration roll in the campaign (Step 3) and procedure for the Driver Contact Event (Step 4)
• Provided1 reflective aluminum idle-free zone signs; two per school - installed by the school
• Provided1 idle-free flyer handouts and window cling decal handouts
Step 2: In September, three to five students will conduct three days of data collection unobtrusively2 to determine the number of vehicles waiting during the dismissal period and to determine as best as possible how many are idling and for how long.3 It is imperative that these students begin conducting this measuring at least 15 minutes prior to official dismissal time and continue the process until all vehicles have departed.
Step 3: Soon following step 2, the school announces support for the idle-free campaign in the school community, including a notice in a school newsletter and website, and a letter and pledge form to parents. The school installs two GDA provided 15" x 21" idle-free zone signs in strategic areas.
PUBLICIZING CAMPAIGN: ahead of the event, GDA or the school will work with the school administration or unified school district's communications office in seeking TV, radio, print and/or social media coverage.
TRAINING SESSION PRESENTATION DETAILS (Step 1)
For middle and high school educators in the Upper Valley:
Below are video images (advancing in 12 seconds each) of the Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus! slide presentation for our Upper Valley idle-free schools campaigns initial training sessions that will be given, along with two or more videos. NOTE: most slides include presenter notes that the presenter will use to elaborate upon.
NOTE: The full, animated Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus! PowerPoint that will be shown is copyrighted and the property of Green Driving America Inc. It may not be used or recorded without permission. The other videos below are open source and may be freely used.
OPTIONAL VIDEO: "Gasoline, Gasoline (The World's Aflame)"
MATERIALS FOR CAMPAIGN (Steps 2, 3, & 4)
FOR CAMPAIGNERS, TEACHER/ADVISOR, and SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION:
Downloadable documents in WORD or PDF
STEP 2: OBSERVATIONS AND MEASURING for campaigners and teacher/advisor
• Conducting observations/measuring (WORD)
• Observation/measuring form (WORD)
• Analyzing the data (WORD)
• Format for calculating data (WORD)
STEP 3: SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION:
GDA will work with school administration to provide two Idle Free Zone signs that the school will have installed. School administration will take action in the school community with the following documents
• Announce idle-free campaign (WORD)
• Letter to parents (WORD)
• Pledge form for parents (WORD)
STEP 4: DRIVER CONTACT EVENT
• How to conduct driver contact event (WORD)
• Suggested script for driver contact event (WORD)
NOTE: 35 anti-idling window cling decal handouts and 50 8.5"x11" flyer handouts shipped to participating schools
SUSTAINING THE EFFORT IN FOLLOWING SCHOOL YEARS: SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION
THE DIFFERENCE THESE CAMPAIGNS MAKE
WHY AN IDLE-FREE SCHOOLS PROJECT? The goal to mitigate idling on school grounds is a real win-win! The benefits:
• Based on GDA past idle-free schools measured campaigns, idling has been reduced by nearly 50 percent
• People's health—particularly of students—is protected
• Carbon emissions and energy consumption is reduced
• Motorists learn about saving money in needless fuel use, engine wear, and maintenance
• Students learn organizational, analytical and communication skills as they perform data analysis, are empowered by showing drivers the significant benefits in shutting off engines when parked, and take pride in making a positive difference in their
• Motorists, learning of the benefits, potentially apply them beyond schools
SUSTAINING THESE EFFORTS IN PROCEEDING YEARS: GDA provides participating schools a written guideline to help sustain these efforts. Schools or school districts in proceeding years are strongly encouraged to reinforce the message of idle free zone signs to remind the school community about the benefits in idle reduction several times each year, and to consider adopting policies, procedures, or handbook rules that limit idling on school grounds.
For the 2022-2023 school year, GDA is implementing a funded Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus! project in Northern California, working with a middle and high school to implement measured campaigns.
In the 2017-18 school year, when the organization was called Idle-Free California, a two-school pilot project, Sacramento County Idle-Free Schools, was implemented.
And from 2014-16, when the organization was located in Vermont and called Idle-Free VT, we implemented Vermont Idle-Free Schools funded measured campaigns at 11 schools.
These projects combined have reduced idling at participating schools by nearly 50 percent overall.
SCHOOLS: RUN YOUR OWN IDLE-FREE CAMPAIGNS
GDA's basic guideline for their idle-free schools campaigns comes from the U.S. EPA Region 8 Idle-Free Schools Toolkit for a Healthy School Environment. For schools interested in implementing their own campaigns, this is a complete resource to do so.