RESOURCE: Vermont Idle-Free Schools

Making a difference in the Vermont School Community by...

reducing greenhouse gas emissions

conserving energy
protecting student health

saving $$$ annually

complying with Vermont no-idling laws
raising student & adult awareness

Vermont Idle-Free Schools is a resource to run a long-term, student-led study and campaign at your school. Thanks to funding by the High Meadows Fund and the Vermont Community Foundation, Idle-Free VT implemented these projects at Vermont schools from 2013-2016. As shown in the Idle-Free Schools Campaign Archives page, these campaigns proved effective, reducing idling overall by around 40%. Although Wayne Michaud, Idle-Free VT director, departed Vermont in 2016, any Vermont school can conduct these efforts with the complete resource on this page.

Why idle-free schools campaigns?


The problems: There are idling “hot spots” at many schools, for instance when parents pick up students in afternoon pick up areas. According to David Grass, PhD, Environmental Health Surveillance Chief of the Vermont Department of Health, "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."


A University of Vermont Transportation Research Center 2014 passenger vehicle idling study estimates that Vermonter's idle their vehicles on a discretionary basis (while not in traffic) for 9.6 million hours annually, emitting 36,500 metric tons of CO2e and consuming more than 4 million gallons of fuel.


The solution: Improve health and lessen vehicle emissions in the school environment led by school science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers, and school environmental clubs by showing students how to conduct idle-free studies/campaigns.


Students participating in these long-term, student-led studies and campaigns will learn organizational, analytical and communication skills, and will take pride in making a positive difference in their community. Parents and other drivers avoiding idling at schools will protect students, in particular, from respiratory diseases like asthma - children breathe at a significantly faster rate than adults, plus their lower height makes them more vulnerable to toxic exhaust chemicals from ground level tailpipe emissions. Drivers of light-duty vehicles refraining from unnecessary idling can save hundreds of dollars annually in avoiding needless fuel use and engine wear. And Vermont's prohibited idling of motor vehicles law limits the idling of all vehicles to five minutes in any 60-minute period.


These measuring campaigns are designed for all middle and high schools*, regardless of whether or not a supervisory union or school district has an official no-idling guideline such as a policy, procedure, handbook rule. If a school does not have a guideline, findings from the study can lead to one, but that is optional. If a school does have one, a study can determine the effectiveness of the guideline.


Five step process and timeline during school year


Step 1: in fall, conduct initial training session in the classroom, including showing U.S. EPA Idle-Free Schools Toolkit for a Healthy School Environment video (see below).

Step 2**: in fall no later than November, participating students begin conducting unobtrusive initial data collection of idling vehicles 20 minutes prior to official dismissal, utilizing note-taking and timing devices for four to five-days.

OPTIONAL: supplemental data collection utilizing a school's CO2 gas sensor and compatible interface

Step 3: school announces support for idle-free campaign in school community, taking steps that include installing new no idling signs, notice in school newsletter and on website, and optionally letter and pledge to parents and delivery companies. See "For school administrators" below for support resources.

Step 4: in mid to late Mar., students conduct two-three day driver contact event, reaching out to idling drivers with information handout and idle-free window decal, asking them to take no-idling pledge. Students create and display idle-free posters and banners for the event. For safety purposes it is highly recommended that students, who will be walking amongst cars in pick up areas, wear safety vests.

Step 5**: in spring no later than mid May, students repeat Step 2, this time as final data collection of idling to evaluate effects of their educational efforts.

Recommended: schools without district no-idling guideline (board approved policy, administrative procedure, or handbook rule) adopt one, based on study findings.


NOTE: a truncated three-step version of the Idle-Free Schools campaign can be implemented, basically by eliminating the data collection steps (Steps 2 and 5 above). This non-measuring campaign will span approximately one month in the school year, commencing with the Step 1 initial training session (skipping over the data collection portion in the U.S. EPA training video), Step 3, and culminating with Step 4: the two-three day driver contact event.


*Elementary schools may also participate in the campaigns with staff leading data collections and driver contact event

**For a true dataset, plan for these steps to be conducted in similar temperature ranges

Idle-Free Schools Campaign Toolkit


Teachers at each participating school can download the campaign toolkit and campaign handout materials in the left column below.

Optional but strongly suggested: schools install two 12"x18" or 15"x21" reflective aluminum no-idling signs (ordering information below).

For teachers and campaigners:

How to conduct observations/measuring

Observation/measuring form

Analyzing the data

How to conduct driver contact event

Suggested script for driver contact event

Driver contact event flyer handouts

• Driver contact event "turn your key - be idle free" window cling decals. These may be available for ordering at a discount (over commercial) from Tammie Bostick-Cooper of Utah Clean Cities Idle Free

U.S. EPA Idle-Free Schools VIDEO

downloads as a .wmv file

Shown during Step 1: initial training session

No-idling signs for non-profit entities -- like the one pictured that includes Vermont's statutory language -- can be ordered from the  Vermont Correctional Industries (VCI) Sign Shop: toll free 866-729-8715, local 802-334-8994


For-profit entities can order signs from a commercial printer.

Ordering No Idling Signs