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 spanning EIGHT TO TEN WEEKS with California participating elementary, middle, and high schools, for the 2023-2024 school year.
THIS IS A FUNDED PROJECT; IT IS AT NO COST TO 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.
HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVELS (grades 6-12): Green Driving America works with science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers, and school environmental clubs and green teams, in student-led campaigns.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LEVEL (grade 5; other grades can be discussed): Green Driving America works with teachers and parents* to engage school staff and students in the campaigns.
*parent clubs/PTOs are 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 under 75-80 degrees (this is six months or more a school year). Simply turn off the key.
THE MATH: based on observations in previously conducted Green Driving America 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 600 gallons of fuel. That can be up to six 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. California is roughly one-tenth of this impact. 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."
AND CALIFORNIA WANTS THIS EDUCATION CARRIED OUT!
In 2016, the California state assembly passed the resolution ACR-160 to "...encourage motorists not to idle their motor vehicles near places where children congregate."
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
SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL INTEGRATION
In the interest of encouraging alternatives to the CO2 emissions and air pollution impacts of vehicular traffic—both on school grounds and commuting to school—the Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus project encourages schools participating in our campaigns to integrate a Safe Routes to School program: a movement that aims to make it safer and easier for students to walk and bike to school.
SCHOOL CAMPAIGNS 2022-2023
*Amount of fuel consumed based on passenger vehicle — car/SUV/pickup truck — idling consumption of 0.43 gal/hr.
**Amount of CO2 emitted based on one gallon of fuel consumed equaling 20 pounds of CO2 emitted (gasoline - 19.64 pounds; diesel - 22.38 pounds)
EAGLE PEAK MIDDLE SCHOOL - Ukiah, CA - Ukiah Unified School District
Leaders/teachers: Shalyn Alton, 6th grade science
MODIFIED CAMPAIGN: Step 2: Initial measuring for three days; Step 3: School Science Night in February
(in lieu of driver contact event); no final measuring will be conducted; School will support campaign depending
on impact of idling
Step 1: introductory session conducted: 11/28/22 and 11/29/22
Step 2: initial data collection conducted for four days at school afternoon dismissal on 12/2, 12/5, 12/6, 12/7
Average temperature: 50.5 degrees
Total vehicles observed: 114; total vehicles idling: ? (?%); total minutes of idling: 748 = 12.46 hours
Amount of fuel consumed*: 5.74 gal/four days / 1.44 gal/per day average
Amount of fuel consumed annually (est.) - based on 175 day school year: 252 gal
Amount of CO2 emissions annually (est.) - based on 175 day school year: 4,987.5 lbs**
Eagle Peak Middle School Lab Report NOTE: Teacher measuring observations: Teams of students collected data in
designated, separate zones; however, it is suspected that their data overlapped. Since data collection on the number of
cars idling and not idling was inconsistently recorded, those numbers were not included in the Lab Report.
Step 3: School Science Night, 3/7/23: GDA provided idle-free literature and window cling decals were distributed. Two
sixth grade students, Andre and Meredith, from Ms. Alton’s class, opted to do projects at this event based on the class
idle-free campaign. They displayed their findings which focused on how much CO2 was released by idling vehicles and
how much fuel was wasted by doing so. They also gave oral presentations to a standing room only crowd at this event.
FINAL SCHOOL DETERMINATION: This campaign was intended to be a modified one with no final data collection: more
educational than results oriented. Ms. Alton was excellent in motivating students in understanding the issue of unnecessary
idling and the conducting of a detailed initial data analysis. The school installed the two provided idle-free zone signs in
February. The school does intend to support the campaign, but the principal felt, with a new dropoff/pickup location
planned for the next school year, that school newsletter coverage about concerns with idling should wait until then.
CARLMONT HIGH SCHOOL - Belmont, CA - Sequoia Union High School District
Carlmont Green Team club - Advisor: Jarrod Harrison; Leader: Aran O'Sullivan, senior, Co-President of club
Step 1: introductory session conducted 10/10/22
Step 2: initial data collection conducted for three days at school afternoon dismissal on 11/18, 11/21, 11/22
Average temperature: 63 degrees
Total vehicles observed: 28; total vehicles idling: 25 (89%); total hours of idling: 2.1
Amount of fuel consumed*: .903 gal/three days / .301 gal/per day average
Amount of fuel consumed annually (est.) - based on 175 day school year: 52.67 gal
Amount of CO2 emissions annually (est.) - based on 175 day school year: 1,053 lbs**
Step 3: school supports idle-free campaign: School Principal message to the school community, 2/13/23
Step 5: final data collection conducted for three days at school afternoon dismissal on 5/31, 6/1, 6/2
Average temperature: 62 degrees FINAL DATA COLLECTION DETAILS
Total vehicles observed: 100; total vehicles idling: 19 (19%); total hours of idling: 1.86
Amount of fuel consumed*: .8 gal/three days / .266 gal/per day average
Amount of fuel consumed annually (est.) - based on 175 day school year: 46.55 gal
Amount of CO2 emissions annually (est.) - based on 175 day school year: 931 lbs**
BEFORE & AFTER IDLING DIFFERENCE: 78.5% REDUCTION (relative to the number of vehicles observed and gallons
of fuel consumed - initial vs final measuring)
COMMENTS: Three pick up areas monitored. For initial data collection, the low number of vehicles observed can be attributed to measuring
during Thanksgiving week. If initial data collection matched the 100 vehicles in final data collection, the annual difference in gas
consumed would be 188 gallons; in CO2 emitted it would be 3.763 lbs. (1.88 tons).
School administration had not installed two provided idle-free zone signs by the end of the school year (June 9, 2023).
HOW CAMPAIGNS WORK
THESE ARE FOUR-STEP EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGNS, RUNNING EIGHT TO TEN WEEKS
Step 1: In late summer/early fall school semester or late winter/early spring school semester, an initial training session is conducted in the classroom either virtually (such as with Zoom) by Green Driving America, or in-person by the teacher An approximately 45-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: Following Step 1, three to five students (student-led from grade six and up; staff/parent-led below grade six) 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/staff/parents 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 provided idle-free zone signs in strategic areas.
TRAINING SESSION PRESENTATION DETAILS (Step 1)
For elementary, middle, and high school educators in California:
Below are video images (advancing in 12 seconds each) of the full, animated Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus© slide presentation for our idle-free schools campaigns initial training sessions (in its current developed form) that will be given, along with three or more videos. NOTE: most slides include 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.
MATERIALS FOR CAMPAIGN (Steps 2, 3, & 4)
FOR CAMPAIGNERS, TEACHER/ADVISOR, and SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION:
Downloadable documents in WORD or PDF
STEP 2: INITIAL 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:
Green Driving America 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)
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 Green Driving America Inc. past idle-free schools 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, depending on their grade, 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: Green Driving America 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.
Green Driving America's previous organization names were Idle-Free California and when located in Vermont: Idle-Free VT. In the 2017-18 school year, Idle-Free California implemented a two-school pilot project: Sacramento County Idle-Free Schools. In two school years from 2014-16, Idle-Free VT implemented Vermont Idle-Free Schools at 11 schools.
These projects combined to reduce idling at participating schools by nearly 50 percent overall.
SCHOOLS: RUN YOUR OWN IDLE-FREE CAMPAIGNS
Green Driving America'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.