In the fall of 2013, ACE and its partners in GREENevada, with support from the Washoe County Health District Air Quality Management Division (AQMD), launched a campaign called Idle-Free Schools for Washoe County, the county surrounding Reno, Nevada. GREENevada is a coalition of nine non-profits and agencies providing a collaborative approach to school sustainability through comprehensive environmental education and leadership.
What is idling? Idling is any time your car’s engine is running, but you’re not moving. In the drive-through, at a red light and in this case: sitting outside a school with the engine on.
Why is idling bad? Three reasons:
Health: Engine idling creates air pollution, which is especially bad for kids. Kids’ lungs are still developing, they breathe faster and are closer to tailpipes than adults. Breathing air pollution can aggravate asthma and even cause cancer. No bueno.
Environment: Idling emits CO2, the greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Climate change means more heat waves, worse droughts, floods and wildfires, sea level rise. In California and Nevada, it means a smaller snowpack, which affects the water availability and economy for everyone
Money: Idling your engine increases car maintenance, wastes gas and burns a hole in your pocket! What a waste. Did you know when you’re idling you get ZERO miles per hour? Ouch.
The goal of Idle Free Schools is to reduce idling by 50% at participating schools. This school year, six high schools in Washoe County are participating in Idle Free: Edward C. Reed High, Incline High, Sage Ridge School, Spanish Springs High, Sparks High and Washoe Innovations High School.
Here’s how it works:
Schools start by monitoring how much idling is currently happening outside their schools when school gets out. Once they know this and established a baseline, schools’ Action Teams (green clubs) kick off an awareness campaign about Idle Free. This can be anything from making a public service announcement video (PSA) to making posters and handing out yummy baked goods to students and parents who pledge to go Idle Free.
This doesn't even include the super-cool stickers, bumper stickers and flyers that students are handing out. Big props to Aidan Reilly at Washoe Innovations High for designing the logo and huge thanks to the Washoe County Health District AQMD for supporting their purchase and the program.
Once the school gets why idling’s no good, students go out again to monitor how much idling they’ve reduced. The school that drops its idling by the greatest percentage wins. (But everyone wins, really, if there’s less air pollution and climate change and more money in your pocket.)
Next year, ACE and GREENevada hope to bring Idle Free to more schools in Washoe County with the goal of one day making the entire Washoe County School District an Idle Free School District!