Air Quality: Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free

By Robin Erickson, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

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 Erickson

I 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.