Reminder: Turn the Key, Be Idle Free!

The sights and smells of back-to-school are here: new pencils and paper, first-day clothes, and the hint of fall in the air. It’s an exciting time for many kids, parents, and teachers as we enter another year and get back into the school day routine.

And with the return of that familiar routine, we’d like to encourage you to be Idle Free. Whether dropping off the kids or running errands around town, one thing we can all do to improve air quality is to “Turn the Key and Be Idle Free.”

It’s easy. If you’re stopped for more than ten seconds, turn the engine off. Read more

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Idling Is Getting Us Nowhere Fast!

Idling is gets us nowhere fast!

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 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.   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 for while parking, there are exceptions, but there are even better solutions.  Each year American’s burn over 6 million gallons of gas going nowhere—they are simply idling.  Estimates in Utah say that ¼ of our emissions are a result of idling. If you can see something coming out of the tail pipe, its particulate matter and it’s dangerous, especially to developing lungs and vulnerable populations.PM2.5, the tiny particles you can’t often see, lodges in the lungs and crosses the blood barrier.

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Utah Clean Cities Fuels National Discussion on Clean Transportation

By Tammie Bostick-Cooper, Executive Director, Utah Clean Cities

Each year, the Energy Independence Summit hosts various Clean Cities organizations and their stakeholders for a week of congressional networking and education. Utah Clean Cities is a familiar presence at this national event and has traditionally received a warm welcome of support from Utah’s six congressional offices and policy leaders in Washington. This year’s visit proved to be one of the most positive to date.

Alternative Fuels Offer Transportation Solutions

Transportation is one of the most important and complex issues facing our world. We simply have to move away from traditional fossil-fuel burning transportation models. If the science around the effects of burning fossil fuels isn’t enough to convince people, then perhaps a look at $150 billion the U.S. sends to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will help. And that sum doesn’t include the money we send to other countries for their oil.

The Energy Independence Summit urged the Senate Finance Committee to include transportation energy as a priority and asked it to extend critical tax incentives for emerging clean transportation. A long-term extension of these important incentives will stabilize growth-orientated tax strategies for clean transportation, decrease our reliance of imported oil, and create American jobs in clean transportation. Utah’s congressional representatives expressed unanimous support for this proposal.

Utah’s alternative-fuel fleets — with their proven, business-model analysis to back up their success — stand as an example for those considering a shift from imported oil to stateside fuel options. The state’s current alternative-fuel portfolio includes natural gas, propane autogas, bio-fuels and electric, all of which are increasingly generated by renewable and cleaner sources. And as we clean up our electric infrastructure, our electric vehicles become exponentially cleaner and will fit the needs of almost every commuter along the Wasatch Front.

For example, lithium-ion batteries are expected to grow from a $3.2 billion to a $24.1 billion global market share and create new technological jobs along with that growth. There are compressed natural gas (CNG) engines that can boast zero emissions at the tail pipe when fueled by renewable CNG — which is exciting news on the heavy-duty side, as they stand to replace large diesel vehicles on a wide scale. American businesses have embraced and want to continue to use our abundance of natural gas. The U.S. is the largest producer of this fuel in the world, and CNG is one of Utah’s most abundant resources.

Utah Leads the Way with Alternative Fuels

It’s exciting to tell Congress about Utah’s enthusiastic adoption of alternative-fueled vehicles. One can’t help but feel proud of Utah! We are incredibly innovative and energy- independent-minded, and our state has led the way with knowledgeable transportation choices. Our capital city, for example, is one of the most progressive transportation frontrunners in the nation. Salt Lake City is already moving smart technology out in to the streets with CNG refuse haulers and hybrid-fleet cars. All-electric parking-enforcement fleets and new EV chargers for public charging are coming soon.

The best part of being DC was meeting young congressional interns like Grace who hail from Utah

With so many compelling success stories, it’s hard to know where to start! Here are a few Utah companies, cities, and universities that have switched to alternative-fuel vehicles and are glad they did:

  • Geneva Rock’s new fleet of CNG cement mixers are 90 percent cleaner than their diesel predecessors.
  • Diamond Rental uses every alternative-fuel option they can with great success.
  • Park City launched six new all-electric Proterra buses during Sundance.
  • Snowbird is exploring the use of alternative fuels and actively embracing ride-reduction options.
  • Utah State University’s SELECT program is undertaking some of the most advanced research on electric transportation in the world.
  • The University of Utah is heavily engaged in extensive research on air quality and is leading the state though its adoption of campus-wide alternative-fueled transportation with EV WAVE and CNG bus routes, EV charging, and congestion mitigation through public transportation.
  • Smaller companies like Canyon Transport see huge returns on their propane shuttles, and they get the job done in heavy-weather conditions when you wouldn’t want to rely on Uber.

Utah Delegation Supports Energy Independence

It was easy to lead the conversation in D.C. about Utah’s air-quality future, including the specter of too many red-air days and people walking around in masks like they lived in Beijing, China. Regardless of what visitors may think of our smoggy air during the winter tourism season, the more important question is, “What about those of us who work, live and raise our families here?” During my visit, every congressional office expressed their support for finding an answer to that question. The Beehive State wants local choices, local fuels and local action for clean air strategies. The road ahead beckons for the widespread and aggressive adoption of alternative vehicles.

Hands were shaken and congressional leaders asked to be more fully involved with these advanced transportation initiatives. They were undeniably impressed with the fact that every dollar pledged to federal tax-incentives created $12 in growth. That certainly isn’t anything anybody wants to stop, and we asked for five more years of these important incentives.

Utah Clean Cities couldn’t be happier to know it has support for alternative fuels from our representatives in Congress.

Interested in purchasing an alternative-fuel vehicle, but not sure where to start? Visit our Utah Clean Cities website for more information about biodiesel, electric, flex-fuel, hydrogen, natural-gas, and propane vehicles. We also have a list of the alternative-fuel fueling/charging locations across the state if you want to explore whether an alternative-fuel vehicle would meet your transportation needs.

I am the Executive Director of Utah Clean Cities. I’m passionate about clean fuels, clean air, and clean strategies. I am a Utah native and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in organizational communications. Prior to my work with Utah Clean Cities, I was Executive Director for the Family Support Center of the Uintah Basin, co-founder of the most effective rural children’s justice center in Utah, and worked as an early intervention specialist with the Ute Indian Tribe for the Baby Your Baby tribal program.

As the daughter of a petroleum engineer, I lived the life of the boom-and-bust oil-field cycles. My experiences growing up deepened my commitment to preserving the delicate balance of Utah’s beautiful landscape and abundant resources with alternative, stateside fuels that are economically and ecologically sound and sustainable. I am one of the lead partners on the WestSmart grant with Pacificorp, where I will be developing workplace charging, fleet, and community education. I am also developing a program to promote increased consumer awareness of the new EPA vehicle sticker program and collaborating on the development of a Green Fleet program for Utah. I live in Salt Lake City near my two children who are attending Westminster College. Our family continues to contemplate our years spent in the High Uintahs living in a solar-powered, off-the-grid cabin. My best work to date has been as a mother and teacher.

This entry was originally published on February 27th, 2017, updated on February 27th, 2017, and posted in news.

Vehicle Fuel Awareness Month

This month Utah Clean Cities, members, stakeholders and clean air advocates helped launch the 8th annual Governor’s Declaration for Alternative Fuels Awareness month.  The well-crafted declaration encourages individuals and businesses to adopt cleaner transportation with low and zero emissions. With locally sourced, cleaner alternative fuels which Utah has in abundance: natural gas, propane and electric, Utah is positioned to continue to lead the nation with alternative fuels.   

Our air quality demands more than national positioning and state leadership, it demands thoughtful and active participation with our policy-makers and our citizenry.  We all make choices everyday and now is the time to choose better transportation and alternative fuels and vehicles are crucial to air quality


With the expansion of the Alternative Fuel Corridor, Utah’s continued development and expansion of fueling infrastructure is essential.  We have the largest natural gas fueling infrastructure per capita in the nation and propane is gaining it’ place in vehicles in the commercial, carrier (school buses & shuttles) and equipment.  Expansion of electric charging at home, work and in public, will be the next giant step toward zero emissions transportation.  Our progressive cities, universities, National Parks & Monuments and businesses have begun to add green parking and EV Charging.  Their efforts support their own fleets and encourage the use of EV’s for employee passenger cars.  80% of charging happens at home and at work.  With the addition of solar to homes and businesses, transportation can be truly net zero emissions using another abundant resource in Utah, our solar energy.

The declaration further encourages Utahans to take advantage of state and federal tax incentives for vehicle purchases for business fleets and private use.  The incentives have proven to encourage analysis financially and in almost every case, the short and long term benefits are clear and sound.  The important tax incentives add more than good business modeling and sound personal decisions; it directly supports cleaner emissions and hence cleans up our air.  And the high value of clean air, just like clean water, needs the emission reduction model outlined in the governor’s declaration.

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.