California Idle-Free Schools

For the 2017-18 school year, Idle-Free California Inc. is implementing: Sacramento County Idle-Free Schools, a long term, student-led study and campaign that address the likely issue of prolonged idling of vehicles on school grounds.


Outside of this project, California Idle-Free Schools (CIFS) is a resource for any teacher of any school on implementing an idle-free schools campaign and/or idle-free classroom presentations on their own.


Why an idle-free schools project? The goal to eliminate idling on school grounds (and beyond) is a real win-win. Not only do motorists save money in avoiding needless fuel consumption and engine wear, carbon emissions are reduced, energy is conserved, and, most importantly, our health — particularly of students — is protected.


The EPA 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."


This CIFS resource is comprised of two educational initiatives: Idle-Free Schools campaigns and Idle-Free from the Start classroom presentations.


Idle-Free Schools campaigns


Idle-Free Schools campaigns address the issue of idling “hot spots” at many schools, for instance when parents pick up students in afternoon pick up areas (California regulates the idling of school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles at or near schools; light-duty vehicles are not regulated).


A CIFS project is tailored for middle school* science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers and their students to conduct idle-free campaigns. The presentation resources below include a 40-45 minute PowerPoint and videos explaining what idling is, the benefits in avoiding it, and campaign steps, along with handouts for students and teacher toolkit. These campaigns are offered in two choices: long-term efforts and short-term efforts.


A long-term effort can last most of the school year with a student-led study of unobtrusive data collection for four days in the fall, thereafter schools announce support of an idle-free campaign in the school community, a driver contact event for two days in the winter, and final data collection for four days in the spring. This makes long-term efforts measurable, determining a "before" and "after" difference.


A short-term effort is simpler yet still effective, spanning two to three weeks with schools disseminating information in the school community on the benefits of avoiding idling, followed by a student-led two-day driver contact event.




NOTE: Parents/parent clubs/PTOs are encouraged to participate!


In addition to the benefits in idling reduction these efforts provide:

1. 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

2. motorists learning of the benefits potentially apply them beyond schools.


To help sustain either of 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.


*While middle school students are at the ideal age to conduct these campaigns, they can also be conducted by 5th and 6th grade elementary or high school students.



Idle-Free from the Start classroom presentations


Idle-Free from the Start© is intended for science, math, STEM, health, environmental studies teachers, and driver educators of 9th and 10th grade high school audiences to raise their awareness of the unnecessary idling issue. These students will shortly be motorists themselves and for the most part have not acquired misinformed habits about idling.


A 30-45 minute PowerPoint and videos presentation explains the benefits in avoiding idling along with an introduction to eco-driving, a series of efficient driving practices which result in being an average of 24% more fuel efficient. Driver educators in particular will be interested in the fact that eco-driving makes you a SAFER driver: eco-drivers avoid jackrabbit starts, are more aware of traffic around and ahead of them, and avoid tailgating. Learn more about eco-driving here. Students receive handouts and are given a "quick quiz".


POTENTIAL IMPACT: Students (and by extension, some of the adults around them) will learn to be more environmentally responsible and efficient drivers in the next 20 years (or until the internal combustion engine has been supplanted) by avoiding the consumption of hundreds of gallons of fuel and reducing CO2 emissions by thousands of pounds.




Idle-Free California has implemented funded Idle-Free Schools projects in the 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16 school years in Vermont under the organization's former name of Idle-Free VT Inc. For details of these successful initiatives, please visit the following pages: Vermont Idle-Free Schools and Idle-Free from the Start.

The California Idle-Free Schools project includes the steps and resources below. Schools are welcome

to download these resources, allowing teachers to implement these efforts on their own.

California Idle-Free Schools Toolkits


The videos below can be used interchangeably with the Idle-Free Schools campaign resources


To help teachers and driver educators incorporate comprehensive instruction on idling awareness and eco-driving into their curriculum, the complete presentation developed for this initiative is downloadable below:


POWERPOINT: Idle-Free from the Start - includes full notes and is editable.


• VIDEO: To Idle or Not to Idle (2:36)
















• VIDEO: Dr. Gerald Davis idle free Interview short clip (1:57)

















• VIDEO: CAA Fuel Efficient Driving Tips (5:02)

















• VIDEO: How Start-Stop Works - Johnson Controls

• VIDEO: American Idle: Running in Place - Green Ninja Show

• VIDEO: Busting the Myth that Vehicle Idling Uses Less Fuel than Restarting the Engine


• HANDOUT: Turn off the key and breathe free Fact Cards

• HANDOUT: 10 Eco-Driving Tips

• TEST: Idle-Free from the Start Quick Quiz questions The informative and fun Quick Quiz (4-5 minutes) is given just before the PowerPoint slide that reveals the Quick Quiz answers.


Presentation time varies from about 30 minutes to one hour depending on how much content is shown.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR DRIVER EDUCATORS: Since most California driver education classroom instruction has been replaced with an online course, these Green Driving Tips can be incorporated into the online course. It is strongly recommended to also include the CAA Fuel Efficient Driving Tips video.

The Idle-Free from the Start logo and any and all items contained in the Teacher's Toolkit may be used for nonprofit purposes only.

©Idle-Free California




Step 1: in Sept. or Oct., conduct initial training session in the classroom, including provision of campaign materials.


Step 2: in Oct. or by early Nov., students unobtrusively conduct four day study of initial data collection of idling vehicles utilizing note-taking and timing devices.

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


Step 3: in Nov. to Dec., 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. See "For school administrators" below for support resources.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: schools obtain and install one to two no idling signs in strategic areas. Sign template


Step 4: in Jan. or Feb., students conduct two day driver contact event, reaching out to idling drivers with information handout and idle-free window decal, asking them to take no-idling pledge. Campaigners create idle-free posters to display at event.


Step 5: in Apr. or by early May, students unobtrusively conduct four day study of final data collection of idling to evaluate effects of their educational efforts. Calculate the difference between before and after data collections.


Recommended to sustain effort: schools 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.



Step 1: initial training session anytime between the beginning of the school year and winter break.


Step 2: soon following initial training session, school disseminates information in the school community on the benefits of avoiding idling; obtaining and installing of no idling signs strongly recommended as above.


Step 3: driver contact event soon thereafter


U.S. EPA Region 8 Idle Free Schools video

The Idle-Free Schools campaign is modeled on this video and is the main part of the initial training session (Step 1)















For campaigners and teacher toolkit:

• Initial training session suggested PowerPoint: can be tailored from Sacramento County Idle-Free Schools PowerPoint

How to conduct observations/measuring*

Observation/measuring form*

Analyzing the data*

Format for calculating data*

How to conduct driver contact event

Suggested script for driver contact event

Driver contact event flyer handouts

*Long-term effort only


For school administrators:

School template: campaign newsletter announcement

School template: letter to parents

School template: pledge for parents

School template: letter to delivery companies

School template: letter to teachers and staff

School template: no-idling policy

School template: no-idling procedure

• No Idling Signs: two 12" x 18" or 15" x 21" aluminum - suggested template

NOTE: To help gauge the success of our educational outreach, we at Idle-Free California would very much appreciate hearing from teachers that make use of this resource. Please notify Wayne Michaud: info@idlefreecalifornia