California Idle-Free Schools

Idle-Free California Inc. is currently seeking funding to implement the California Idle-Free Schools (CIFS) project for the 2017-18 school year. Depending on the level of funding and therefore the scope of the project, a number of schools in California, mainly in the Sacramento and Central Valleys, will be invited to receive educational initiatives on the issue of unnecessary vehicle idling. In the foregoing detailed explanation of this project, this page both proposes such a funded project and is a toolkit -- with full components below -- that any school can utilize.


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."


The CIFS proposed project 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).


The CIFS project will recruit middle school* science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers and their students to conduct idle-free campaigns. An initial training session by Idle-Free California Executive Director Wayne Michaud features a 30-40 minute PowerPoint and video explaining what idling is, the benefits in avoiding it, and campaign steps, along with handouts for students and teacher toolkit (if non-project, by the teachers themselves). 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 student-led unobtrusive data collection for one week in the fall, thereafter schools install two no-idling signs provided by the project and announce support of an idle-free campaign in the school community, a driver intervention event for two days in the winter, and final data collection for one week 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 and installing no idling signs, followed by a student-led two-day driver intervention event. PROJECT DETAILS AND RESOURCES BELOW.


NOTE: Parents are encouraged to participate! PTOs or parent clubs will also be recruited 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, and 2. motorists learning of the benefits potentially apply them beyond schools.


To help sustain either of these efforts, in project mode Idle-Free California provides school administrators with two outdoor no idling signs to install in pick up areas, and strongly encourage schools or school districts to adopt 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© presentations are intended for 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.


The CIFS project will recruit high school science, math, STEM, health, environmental teachers, and driver educators to offer Idle-Free from the Start guest-lecturing sessions conducted by the project's college level intern(s) (if non-project, by the teachers themselves). A 30 minute PowerPoint and video 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) 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 not included

in the project 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: soon after the beginning of the school year, conduct initial training session in the classroom, including provision of campaign materials.


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

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


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


Step 4: in Jan. or Feb., students conduct two day driver intervention 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 to five-day 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 adopt idling limitation policy, administrative procedure, or handbook rule.



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


Step 2: soon following initial training session, school installs no idling signs (provided by project) and disseminates information in the school community on the benefits of avoiding idling


Step 3: driver intervention 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:

How to conduct observations/measuring*

Observation/measuring form*

Analyzing the data*

How to conduct driver intervention event

Suggested script for driver intervention event

Driver intervention event flyer handouts (provided by project)

• Driver contact event "turn your key - be idle free" window cling decals (provided by project)

*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

• School: two 15" x 21" reflective aluminum no idling signs - suggested template (provided by project)

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