to protect kids' health!

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 at least 15 minutes.


This idling at schools mimics cars waiting in a drive-thru at fast food and coffee outlets, or at a bank. Schools are not drive-thrus! That's the name of our project. It's 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 affects children whose lungs are still developing.


Green Driving America's Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus!© is a $16,000 funded project that will implement a total of 15 idle-free schools campaigns for the 2021-22 school year in Northern California: approximately ten in Bay Area counties and approximately five in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties (additional Northern California counties can be considered), with participating middle and elementary schools. The goal of the project is to reduce idling at these schools by up to 50 percent.1

EDUCATORS: Contact Wayne Michaud, Green Driving America executive director, upon interest in having your school participate in these campaigns: or 916-209-0224.

MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL (grades 6-8): Green Driving America will work with science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers in student-led campaigns.


ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LEVEL (grade 5; other grades can be discussed): Green Driving America will work with teachers to engage school staff and students in the campaigns.


NOTE: Parents/parent clubs/PTOs are encouraged to join in participation!


FIRST, LET'S DO SOME 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 3.28 gallons in one dismissal period. Not a real big deal. But multiplying that by a 180 day school year comes to 590 gallons of fuel*. That's nearly 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: 76,700,000 gallons; CO2 emitted: 767,000 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."




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."


*These figures can fluctuate downward by up to 25 percent depending on factors such as outdoor temperature ranges of California's coastal areas vs inland areas, and percentages of no idling low- to zero-emission vehicles which are higher in the Bay Area than most other Northern California areas.


These campaigns are offered in two levels of commitment: long-term efforts and short-term efforts.



Spans a four to five month period


Step 1: In fall or early winter, initial training session conducted virtually (video conference such as with Zoom) in classroom, by trained college level intern. Approximately 45-minute PowerPoint and videos presentations (see below): what idling means, its impact, touching on alternatives to being driven to school, such as Safe Routes to School, and how the campaign works. Campaign materials include:

• Green Driving America (GDA) teacher's toolkit pdf containing details, documents, and forms for all campaign steps

• GDA pdf color information handout for driver contact event (Step 4; printed at school's expense)

• GDA provided anti-idling window cling decal handouts - delivered or shipped

• GDA provided aluminum idle-free zone signs - delivered or shipped; up to two per school (installed at school's expense)


Step 22: Following initial training session, middle school students unobtrusively conduct three or four-days (four days recommended) of initial data collection of idling vehicles during afternoon dismissal, utilizing note-taking and timing devices. For 5th grade elementary, staff will closely assist students.

NOTE: It is imperative that participating students (or staff) begin their observations at least 20 minutes prior to official dismissal.

OPTIONAL: supplemental data collection utilizing a school's CO2 or CO gas sensor, or other emissions analyzer and compatible interface.


Step 3: Following initial study, school announces support for idle-free campaign in school community, including a notice in school newsletter and website, and optionally letter and pledge to parents and delivery companies. GDA will provide schools pdf containing support resources.

Schools install one to two GDA provided idle-free zone signs in strategic areas. Sign templates


Step 4: In mid to late winter, middle school students conduct two-day driver contact event. Campaigners create idle-free posters to display at event. All drivers, whether idling or not3, are offered the information handouts and anti-idling window cling decals. For drivers who are idling, ask them to read the handout and consider turning their engine off.  For 5th grade elementary, staff will lead, with students in a learning observation role.

SUGGESTION: ahead of event, seek TV, radio, print and/or social media coverage by working with unified school district's communications office.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: for safety purposes, students, who will be walking amongst cars in pick up areas, should wear safety vests.


Step 52: In early spring, Step 2 is repeated. The difference between before and after data collection is then calculated to determine a difference in the amount of idling and the effects of student/staff educational efforts.


1School buses are not included in these campaigns as California regulates the idling of school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles at or near schools; passenger vehicles are not regulated.

2To determine a true data set, it is important to conduct initial and final data collections in similar temperature ranges.

3Thank drivers who are not idling. Additionally, try to identify cleaner vehicles that seldom idle (full hybrids like a Toyota Prius) or do not idle at all (electric vehicles such as a Tesla, Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf) and thank these drivers as well.



No measuring study, but full educational value of long-term effort - spans a six to eight week period


Step 1: anytime before late winter, initial training session, same as long-term effort, minus information on measured study.


Step 2: following initial training session, school fully carries out support for idle-free schools campaign as in Step 3 above.


Step 3:  approximately two weeks after Step 2 is completed, driver contact event occurs as in Step 4 above.



NOTE: Each school's campaign will be updated on this website as it progresses.


For California Bay Area (nine counties) and Central Valley (Sacramento and San Joaquin counties) middle school and elementary 5th grade educators:


Below are still images of the full, animated Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus! MIDDLE SCHOOL LONG-TERM CAMPAIGN slide presentation for our idle-free schools campaigns initial training sessions (in its current developed form) that will be given, along with four videos. PowerPoints will be tailored for middle school short-term campaigns and for elementary school campaigns. NOTE: most slides include notes that the presenter will use to elaborate upon.


NOTE: The full, animated PowerPoints that will be shown are copyrighted and the property of Green Driving America Inc., and may not be used or recorded without permission. The videos are open source and may be freely used.


WHY AN IDLE-FREE SCHOOLS PROJECT? The goal to mitigate idling on school grounds is a real win-win! The benefits:

• Most importantly, 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

school community

• 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 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.


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.