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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 15-30 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 $16,000 funded project that with a goal of implementing 13 idle-free schools campaigns for school years in 2021 and 2022 in Northern California, with participating elementary, middle, and high schools: grades 5-12.

 

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: info@greendrivingamerica.org or 916-209-0224.

HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVELS (grades 6-12): Green Driving America is working 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 is working 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 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."

 

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."

 

*The difference these campaigns can make in reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions varies according to school location. California coastal areas can realize this full impact. For inland schools, where hot climates can limit the number of school days idling can realistically be reduced, this impact can be up to 25 percent less, which would be a fuel consumption reduction of 443 gallons; CO2 emissions of 4.5 tons, per school. An additional factor is the percentages of no idling low- to zero-emission vehicles which are higher in the Bay Area than most other Northern California areas.

HOW CAMPAIGNS WORK

SHORT-TERM EFFORT: THREE STEP CAMPAIGN

A fully educational campaign spanning a six to eight week period

 

Step 1: Can start anytime up to March. Initial training session conducted virtually (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 campaign works. Campaign materials provided, including:

• Teacher's pdf toolkit containing details and documents for all campaign steps

• Information handout pdf for driver contact event for Step 3 - printed at school's expense

• Provided anti-idling window cling decal handouts - delivered or shipped

• Provided reflective aluminum bilingual idle-free zone signs - delivered or shipped; two per school - installed at school's expense

 

Step 2: 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. School is provided pdf containing support resources. Schools install provided idle-free zone signs in strategic areas.

 

Step 3: Approximately two weeks after Step 2 is completed, a two-day "driver contact event" is conducted. For high schools / middle schools, students will lead. For elementary schools, staff / parents will lead. Ahead of event, campaigners create idle-free posters to display. All drivers, whether idling or not1, offered information handouts and anti-idling window cling decals (high / middle school students practice this "contact" ahead of time with staff / parents). For drivers who are idling, they are asked to read the handout and to consider turning off engine.

PUBLICIZING CAMPAIGN: ahead of event, Green Driving America will work with school administration or unified school district's communications office in seeking TV, radio, print and/or social media coverage.

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

 

OPTIONAL: Schools that possess CO2 or CO gas sensor, or other emissions analyzer, and a compatible interface, are welcome to collect emissions data from vehicles.

 

WHAT ABOUT LONG-TERM MEASURABLE EFFORTS?

 

Measurable campaigns add "before" and "after" student-led data collection steps to determine a difference in before and after idling. Green Driving America has implemented 13 measurable idle-free schools campaigns in the past that have reduced idling by nearly 50 percent (SEE "OUR PREVIOUS IDLE-FREE SCHOOL PROJECTS", BELOW). These campaigns span four to five months in a school year as they must start by November. That is because the two measuring steps must be conducted in similar temperature ranges for a true data set, and that there are two steps in between: schools announcing support for the campaigns and then the driver contact event. For the current school year, there is no longer time to implement long-term, measurable campaigns. But the good news is the short-term campaigns offer drivers the FULL EDUCATIONAL VALUE of the long-term ones.

 

NOTE: School 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.

1Thank 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.

 

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

COVID-19 IMPACT ON CAMPAIGNS

 

It is understood that the fluid situation of Covid-19 and variants can have an impact on in-person schooling. Fortunately, this is unlikely to have any significant impact on short-term idle-free schools campaigns as they have a short implementation window (six to eight weeks) and have greater start-to-end flexibility through the school year.

STEP 1 PRESENTATION DETAILS

For elementary, middle, and high school educators in Northern California:

 

Below are video images (advancing in 12 seconds each) of the full, animated Schools Are Not Drive-Thrus! SHORT-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. 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.

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 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 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.

OUR PREVIOUS IDLE-FREE SCHOOLS PROJECTS

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.

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.