Schools are at the center of the key aspects of unnecessary vehicle idling. They represent both the challenges in dealing with it and the opportunities of eliminating it. On the one hand, the transportation network of school buses and other vehicles that serve the school environment presents the challenge of the need to protect the citizens of the school, particularly its students. Drivers must be made aware that idling on the school premises is a harmful practice. On the other hand, schools present a tremendous opportunity to educate future motorists--before acquiring misinformed habits--to avoid unnecessary idling. Such an example is Idle-Free VT's Idle-Free from the Start, an educational effort aimed at students and new drivers.
(Pictured at right: Browns River Middle School, Jericho - no idling poster contest winning entry, 2011).
“Exhaust from idling vehicles is a common asthma trigger at schools. By limiting exposure to tailpipe emissions, schools can help reduce their students’ risk of developing asthma and decrease the severity of symptoms among students who already have the disease.”
David Grass, PhD
Environmental Health Surveillance Chief
Vermont Department of Health
While the process of eliminating unnecessary idling is one with baby steps taken, a bigger step occurred when the 2007 Vermont legislature passed Act 48 - an act relating to the idling of motor vehicle engines on school grounds, now known as Vermont's school bus idling rule. Governor Jim Douglas signed this bill into law in May, 2007. In short, while level of compliance cannot be confirmed, this is the potential windfall from this law: for 2012, Vermont's 1,547 (DMV 2012 registrations) school buses no longer idle when Vermont's more than 90,000 students board or exit buses at school. Most important of all, this is having a significantly positive impact on the health of students. But there's more. On an annual basis, depending on compliance of the rule, these 1,547 school buses, by not idling unnecessarily (based on five minutes idling avoidance daily), are saving up to 11,000 gallons of fuel. At $2.35 a gallon for diesel (2016 cost), that translates into up to $27,000 saved every year by Vermont taxpayers. Plus, 11,000 gallons avoided translates into 122 tons of CO2 emissions reductions annually. Improved air quality and health, energy savings, money savings, emissions that cause climate change avoided add up to a big win-win.
ATTENTION PRINCIPALS: Issuing reminders to reduce idling at schools
Regardless of whether or not your school has a policy, procedure, or handbook rule to limit idling, please consider issuing reminders to reduce idling in the school newsletter, website, etc. It is suggested this be done semi-annually. THIS is a suggested template.
ATTENTION TEACHERS: School no-idling campaign toolkits, curricula and efforts
Sustainable America TURN IT OFF - VEHICLE IDLING AT SCHOOLS Air monitoring at schools typically finds elevated levels of toxins during pick-up times. The source — exhaust from idling vehicles — is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and even cancer. Children are especially at risk because their lungs are still developing and they inhale more air per pound of body weight. Do your part to keep your kids and their classmates healthy: If you'll be waiting more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. This simple step can dramatically reduce children's exposure to pollutants, save a little money, and help the environment. Ready to clear the air? Take our pledge to Turn It Off.
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) children's book: Casey's Clean Air Week. As part of Connecticut's anti-idling outreach and educational efforts, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), along with the University of Connecticut Healthy Environments for Children Initiative, has developed a children’s book on air quality, titled Casey's Clean Air Week. The purpose of this book is to teach young children (approximately 4 to 7 years old) about the importance of clean air to protect both human health and the environment. The book advises children and adults of simple steps they can take to help prevent or reduce air pollution when using cars.
U.S. EPA Idle Free Schools Toolkit for a Healthy School Environment includes all of the information needed to run an effective idling reduction campaign at a school in order to reduce student exposure to toxic vehicle exhaust. It also provides the resources to make this a student-run science or community involvement project, providing students with the opportunity to learn how to run a public service campaign while expanding their science and math skills. This is the model utilized in the Idle-Free VT Vermont Idle-Free Schools project idle-free campaigns.
ACE Alliance for Climate Education is a Colorado-based organization whose mission is to educate young people on the science of climate change and empower them to take action. Their Idle Free Campaign contains all the steps and resources necessary to implement a school project.
In 2008, when the Vermont school bus idling rule became effective, the State issued metal signs to schools to be posted in parking lots and pick up areas asking drivers to turn off engines. These signs have become faded over time and it is strongly suggested they be replaced. Schools or supervisory unions can order new signs from the State, such as the template to the right (click or tap on it) stating that no idling is the law (as of May 2014) and includes statutory language. It is suggested signs be ordered in a size of 15" x 21".
Ordering No Idling Signs