Idling Gets Us Nowhere Fast!

by Tammie Bostick Cooper, Executive Director

Students at Jefferson Junior High School decorate Idle-Free signs to remind everybody that their school is an Idle-Free Zone

Students at Jefferson Junior High School in Kearns decorate Idle-Free signs to remind everybody that their school is an Idle-Free Zone

Ten years ago, my niece came to my mountain home and announced her class was campaigning to stop the dirty, old school buses from idling at her Morningside Elementary School.  She talked expertly about carbon footprints, asthma, and PM 2.5.  I was getting my first education on the dire effects of idling from a nine- year-old activist!  Over the last year, I would say I have become an Idle-Free activist, too.  My college kids call me the Idle-Free Fairy, passing out Idle-Free stickers and knocking on idling car windows and asking, reminding, and sometimes retreating from annoyed drivers.

There is almost no reason to idle while parking (there are exceptions). Each year, Americans burn over 6 million gallons of gas going nowhere—they are simply idling.  Estimates in Utah say that one-quarter of our emissions are a result of idling. If you can see something coming out of the tail pipe, it’s particulate matter and it’s dangerous, especially to developing lungs and vulnerable populations.PM2.5, the tiny particles you can’t often see, lodge in the lungs and cross the blood barrier.

This month marks the ninth annual Idle Free in Utah Declaration, signed by the governor and a record 50 Utah Mayors. This is historic, and it shows that Utah leaders do care about Utah’s air. It is plain to see that the simple campaign started by Utah Clean Cities ten years ago is sensible and improves bad air by helping individuals make the choice to turn off their vehicles after ten seconds of parking. Utah school bus drivers have been trained in Idle Free and have a 100 percent Idle-Free busing policy. This year, two major school districts, Granite and Canyons, have declared their campuses 100 percent Idle Free.

Utah Clean Cities works to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and conservation is one of the key educational tools we recommend for reducing consumption through driver awareness.  We encourage the 10-second rule when parked, especially at our schools.  School become hot spots for pollution, where students and teachers literally come face to face with toxic emissions outside and inside their schools.

Students remind us all to Turn the Key, Be Idle Free

Students remind us all to Turn the Key, Be Idle Free

Our current work with the University of Utah, Salt Lake County Health, and a group of pilot schools will soon be getting accurate measurements of the air-pollution levels inside and outside Wasatch Front schools. We have to have a base measurement to begin our real work on improving our air. Science classes will scientifically collect, measure and decipher data. They will become critical thinkers and informed citizenry. The young people I speak with desperately want to be engaged and do something to save their world.  And they can.

The call to stop idling is urgent and everyone can do it.  Turn your own key and be Idle Free. Visit our website to see what your can do at your school to support Idle Free.

26september2016-tammie-cooperI am the Northern Coordinator for Utah Clean Cities, promoting alternative vehicles and clean air strategies like Idle Free. I believe there has never been a more compelling time to be involved with transportation and to answer the urgent call to change our dependence on imported fossil fuels. There are no perfect fuels, but there are practical solutions leading to them.

I grew up ranching and close to nature. I graduated from the University of Utah and worked with children on the Ute Indian Reservation. I raised two bright children in a small, off-the-grid cabin in the high Uintas.  They all live in Salt Lake.  Alexia and Cole attend Westminster College, where they continue to reflect on their childhood.


This entry was originally published on September 26th, 2016, updated on November 9th, 2016, and posted in news.

Air Quality: Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free

by Robin Erickson, Executive Director – September 14, 2015

You may be familiar with the slogan “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free,” but do you know where it all started?

Hopefully, when posed with this question, you can envision all of the places you have seen the nifty Idle Free Utah logo: the bank drive-thru, the airport pick-up zones, school loading zones, various location around Salt Lake City, where idling for longer than two minute is illegal.

But where were the first Idle Free Signs posted? If you said schools, you would be correct. Idle Free Utah began with school bus drivers, the fabulous men and women we entrust with the transport of our most precious cargo.

In 2006, Utah Clean Cities Coalition, in collaboration with the National Energy Foundation and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, developed a School Bus Driver Idle Reduction Curriculum. Get on the Bus for Cleaner Air and Healthier Kids was successfully implemented in Cache Valley, Salt Lake City, and Washington County School Districts. These dedicated drivers were the first large-scale case study for the benefits of such a program. The fuel savings, and air quality benefits proved to be so significant that by 2008, Idle Free was incorporated into the Bus Driver Training Curriculum across the state.

In the years since, Idle Free has expanded into a statewide public awareness program endorsed by the Governor, numerous mayors and municipalities, several businesses, and over three hundred schools. Overwhelming support from students, teachers, principals, school bus drivers, private businesses, local chambers of commerce, cities, and the State of Utah have made Idle Free a success.

Join the many Utahns that are making a conscious effort to reduce the nearly 6 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel consumed each year by idling vehicles. Think about it. Six BILLION gallons of fuel, and the associated emissions, to go 0 miles. For those of you who might point the finger to commercial vehicles, it is estimated noncommercial passenger vehicles – the individual drivers waiting “just a few minutes” – are responsible for half of the fuel consumed while idling.

Remember, “Turn Your Key Be Idle Free” when stopped for more than 10-30 seconds (when it is safe to do so and will not impede the flow of traffic) is a small change with big returns for you and your community.

This year will be our 8th year celebrating September as Idle Free Awareness Month. Utah Clean Cities will hold a press conference September 15, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. at the Utah State Office of Education Board Room, 250 South 500 East, Salt Lake City, where we will be presenting the Governor’s Declaration for Idle Free Awareness Month. State School Superintendent Brad Smith will be sharing information about the idle free program with school bus drivers and challenging the parents of the children at the schools to be idle free. Key clean air advocates will be there as well. We invite all of you to join Utah Clean Cities in our 8th season as Idle Free. For more information on Idle Free Utah, visit the Utah Clean Cities Idle Free page.

Robin EricksonI am the Executive Director, and Southern Coordinator, of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition (UCCC). I have been actively involved in the coalition since it was established in 1994. At the time I was managing the Newspaper Agency fleet, implementing the use of propane, biodiesel and compressed natural gas into our fleet of over two hundred vehicles. This saved the company $380,000 in fuel and $116,000 in maintenance costs, AND they were being environmentally progressive. I saw the value and need for UCCC’s work and was excited to join the staff in 2007. I have been involved in a myriad of projects, and I love getting to work with others in the community to make a difference here in our beautiful state.