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Idle-Free Zone – Summer 2004 Edition

Idle-Free Zone

Canadians Tackle Idling with Innovative Approaches

A rising number of Canadian regions, communities and organizations are rolling out "idle-free" campaigns – initiatives to encourage people to stop leaving their vehicles running while they are parked. This issue profiles some of Canada's newest anti-idling initiatives and their innovative approaches to help Canadians kick the idling habit. As the number of these campaigns grows from coast to coast, the wealth of ready-to-use materials and unique approaches in the Idle-Free Zone tool kit grows too. Check out the latest anti-idling ideas at the Idle-Free Zone. Then make your community part of the growing quest to make Canada an idle-free zone.

Links and Downloads

Add your name to our mailing list! You will receive future issues of the Idle-Free Zone newsletters, as well as other news and updates.

The Idle-Free Zone Web site contains a wide range of downloadable resources and materials to help municipalities and community groups launch their own anti-idling campaigns. From sample public opinion surveys on the topic of vehicle idling to the latest anti-idling graphics, communications tools and campaign reports, the Idle-Free Zone is your "one-stop shopping" source to help you develop and roll out your own idle-free campaign.

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Vehicle Idling – A Common Problem

Air pollution and climate change are affecting the health of Canadian communities from coast to coast. Unnecessary vehicle idling is one of many contributors to these problems, but we can all do something about it. If you drive a vehicle, you can be part of the solution. You can stop unnecessary idling: just turn the engine off.

Canadians idle their vehicles at work and at home, throughout our cities and rural areas. Emissions from idling vehicles affect local air quality, our environment and our health. Encouraging people to turn their engines off when they park is good for everyone: it improves the quality of our air and environment, it protects the health of our children, friends and neighbours, and it saves us money, because the fuel that would be burned during idling is not wasted.

Did You Know?
Idling is a complete waste of money. If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada avoided idling for just five minutes per day, every day of the year, we would save more than 930 million litres of fuel, worth more than $640 million!

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Unique Local Campaigns

Communities all across Canada are coming up with new and exciting ways to encourage people to "turn it off" when they park their car. Dedicated individuals, organizations and governments continue to develop and adapt campaigns to help spread the anti-idling message from coast to coast.

Each part of Canada is unique. Each community, therefore, needs to develop its own solutions to fit local needs. A town in Yukon, for example, where the temperature can drop to –40°C in the middle of winter for weeks on end, has a far greater challenge to get people to stop idling than a city in the warmer parts of the country.

Canada's cities and towns have responded with innovative anti-idling programs that work best for their particular community. The Idle-Free Zone Web site, with information, materials and ready-to-use tools, has proved to be a great starting point for their programs.

The diversity of solutions is evident in the stories featured in this newsletter, from 2000 anti-idling signs posted throughout Manitoba, to battling comic book characters in Ottawa, to the use of cheerleaders to promote the idle-free message at hockey games in Sherbrooke, Québec. The many idle-free campaigns already launched throughout Canada show that Canadians are serious about stopping unnecessary idling across the nation.

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Diverse Communities – Innovative Local Solutions

The Idle-Free Zone is designed to provide a useful starting point for communities that want to reduce unnecessary idling. The Zone has plenty of information about idling issues, as well as free, downloadable, ready-to-use communications and outreach tools – everything a municipality or community group might need to get going, without having to start from scratch.

Ever since the launch of the Web site several years ago, the Zone's tool kit has grown exponentially, as more and more communities have developed their own unique approaches and tools to stop idling at the local level. Click Ottawa, Sherbrooke, Manitoba and Saskatchewan to find out how they have used the Idle-Free Zone as a starting point and check out their innovative approaches toward making their communities idle-free.

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Captain Oxygen Takes On Dirty 'Airy in Ottawa Schools

Captain Oxygen.Nothing gets the kids more excited than action heroes visiting their school. Comic book characters Captain Oxygen and Dirty 'Airy are just two of the many features of a truly unique anti-idling program for schools developed by the City of Ottawa and the non-profit environmental organization Friends of the Earth (FOE) Canada. The program targets elementary-school-aged children. "It's important to work with children at a young age. If you start with the children, the message will eventually get through to the adults more effectively. I call it the nag factor," says FOE's Sheila Forsyth.

The Ottawa partnership has produced a kit jam-packed with fun and educational activities for schools. A sample of the tool kit contents includes:

  • Chester the Car: Adventure in the Idle-Free Zone and Captain Oxygen: The Battle for Clean Air comic books

  • an "Idling Gets You Nowhere" poster featuring Captain Oxygen

  • ideas for outreach to parents of elementary-school-aged children and the broader community, as well as tools such as brochures, fast facts, newsletters, radio-spots, and even a "how to" set of instructions on throwing a fair

  • Curriculum Connections, which features activities appropriate for classroom and club use, with projects in art, language (writing), drama, social studies, mathematics, and science and technology

  • games that promote the anti-idling message, including a maze, word searches, crosswords, matching games, colouring pages and more

  • tips on how to monitor the success of implementing all of these activities, including a reporting and measuring form

The campaign began with a pilot project from November 2003 to March 2004: its results are expected late in the summer of 2004. Schools were invited to participate in the program for a minimum of four weeks. Each school was then asked to keep track of the vehicle idling that took place at its location, both before and after its anti-idling activities. What is Sheila Forsyth's advice to other communities planning similar programs? "Have fun with it!"

Links and Downloads

Visit the Idle-Free Zone Web site to download the latest materials from Ottawa's innovative campaign for elementary-school children.

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Sherbrooke Goes for the Anti-Idling Goal

The City of Sherbrooke, Québec, is well on the way to its goal of signing up 10 000 residents for its anti-idling drive. The Government of Canada, together with the Conseil régional de l'environnement de l'Estrie (CREE) and other partners, has been encouraging Sherbrooke residents to reduce idling through a citywide contest that began in the fall of 2003.

The campaign sent student volunteers to events that draw large crowds, such as hockey games and carnivals. The students handed out pamphlets and stickers for car windows, and encouraged people to join the contest and reduce idling. T shirts with the anti-idling logo were also sold at some events. At one hockey game, the cheerleaders pitched in and threw the t-shirts to fans in the crowd as gifts.

The campaign used incentives to encourage participation as well as reminders to reinforce the message. Every contest participant was eligible to win one of 10 prizes. Large billboard ads and radio spots were used at the beginning, middle and end of the campaign to generate awareness of the benefits of idling control.

The campaign ends in the summer of 2004. The partners will then poll contest participants: What do the people of Sherbrooke think about idling now? Look for the results of this unique campaign in a future issue of the Idle-Free Zone newsletter.

Links and Downloads

For more information on Sherbrooke's anti-idling campaign, visit the Conseil régional de l'environnement de l'Estrie (CREE).

You can also download materials from the Sherbrooke campaign at the Idle-Free Zone Web site.

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A Sign of the Times in Manitoba

"Healthy Communities Don't Idle!" is the message that the Climate Change Connection (CCC) and its partners are promoting across Manitoba. The CCC is a public education and outreach organization supported by the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro.

The CCC and its partners are handing out aluminum anti-idling "traffic" signs free of charge to rural and northern communities throughout Manitoba, as well as child-centred locations in Winnipeg, such as daycares, schools and hospitals. (They also receive project support from The Winnipeg Foundation – a community foundation that supports local projects – and Environment Canada's EcoAction Community Funding Program, which provides financial support to community groups for projects that have measurable, positive impacts on the environment.) "When you drive through the small communities, you can really see these signs. They are bright, highly visible, and their anti-idling message is powerful," says Jennifer Duggan of the CCC.

By the end of 2004, the goal is to have almost 2000 signs designating idle-free zones in communities across the province.

The CCC has produced 3000 window decals with the anti-idling message for distribution to drivers in communities across Manitoba. They were handed out at a recent youth sustainable transportation conference and are being given out to people paying their water bills in the town of Gladstone and the village of Benito.

Links and Downloads

For more information about Manitoba's campaign, visit the Climate Change Connection Web site at

You can also download Manitoba's signs and decals from the Idle-Free Zone Web site.

Saskatchewan Joins the Anti-Idling Crusade

Saskatchewan's provincial government launched its first full-fledged anti-idling program in June 2003. "This campaign is all about people helping themselves by cutting back on the time that vehicles idle unnecessarily," said Saskatchewan's Minister of Environment, Buckley Belanger, when he announced the initiative.

This past winter, Saskatchewan Environment (the provincial government department responsible for the environment) and Climate Change Saskatchewan (a Web site that provides information about climate change in Saskatchewan) invited the approximately 1000 schools in the province to enter a Vehicle Idling Awareness competition to reduce unnecessary vehicle idling at their school. Armed with a tool kit of activities they can adapt to their particular needs, participating schools monitor idling at their school before and after carrying out these activities and have until May 15 to submit their results.

Each school that completes the project successfully will receive an "Idle-Free Zone" outdoor sign.

Links and Downloads

For more information on the Saskatchewan campaign, visit the Climate Change Saskatchewan Web site at or Saskatchewan Environment at

Visit the Idle-Free Zone to download campaign materials.

Building On Canada-Wide Successes in Yukon

This spring marks the start of a yearlong project to develop and run an anti-idling campaign in Yukon. Northern Climate ExChange, a Yukon public education and outreach hub, together with local partners, will be creating a "made in Yukon" approach to reducing unnecessary idling and improving air quality. "We plan to build on the strengths and successes of anti-idling programs from across the country and apply the lessons they have learned, in developing a program for Yukon," says Bob van Dijken of Northern Climate ExChange.

The program will focus on public education and will attempt to change long-standing idling habits and dispel deep-rooted idling myths. The campaign will develop signs and pamphlets, work with schools, and incorporate the anti-idling message in weekend hands-on sessions on energy efficiency.

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Zoning In – Make Your Workplace Idle-Free!

Zoning In – Make Your Workplace Idle-Free!Welcome to "Zoning In," a new feature series in the Idle-Free Zone. This issue provides tips on making your workplace idle-free. Watch for more "how-to" suggestions and the latest information on hot idling topics in upcoming issues.

  • Is your municipality looking for a feature project to demonstrate environmental leadership? Start-up costs are low because campaign materials and approaches have already been developed and tested by others.

  • Why not start a workplace anti-idling campaign? Visit the Idle-Free Zone Web site for the information you need and ready-to-use materials to get you started.

  • Reducing unnecessary idling in your workplace is not just about health and environmental benefits, it also saves you money. For example, Molson Canada estimates that it saves $225,000 each year from its idling-control program for its fleet.

Why choose vehicle idling for your next workplace campaign?

  • Action to reduce idling enjoys strong public support. The campaign is a terrific community-based environmental improvement initiative. It will generate a considerable amount of interest in the local media.

  • Action to reduce vehicle idling demonstrates responsible municipal leadership.

  • Vehicle idling is one environmental problem with a simple solution: you just turn the engine off.

  • Progress on issues such as idling can open doors for more basic policy changes to address climate change and air quality in the future.

  • Idle-free campaigns are a great way to kick-start or boost environmental or local action plans.

  • Because idling generates widespread interest and happens at many locations throughout the community, an anti-idling campaign is often most effective when it is supported by creative, mutually beneficial partnerships.

Zoning In – How to Roll Out a Workplace Anti-Idling Program

You can make your workplace idle-free. Simply use the Idle-Free Zone tool kit. It's easy: just decide which approaches and tools work best in your workplace, download the materials you want, adapt them as you see fit, add your logo and print.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Declare your workplace an "idle-free zone."

  • Place anti-idling posters around high-traffic areas of your office (e.g. the water cooler). Post anti-idling signs in passenger pick-up areas, parking lots or receiving dock areas – anywhere a driver may leave a parked vehicle with the engine idling unnecessarily.

  • E-mail facts and figures on the benefits of turning idling vehicle engines off to your employees. Include a link to the Idle-Free Zone Web site.

  • Publish a "turn it off" story in your employee newsletter. Focus on the workplace anti-idling campaign. Remind employees to turn the engine off when their vehicles have been parked for more than 10 seconds.

  • Hand out an anti-idling information card and a window decal to employees with their pay stubs. Ask them to post the decal in their vehicles' windows to show their commitment to be idle-free.

  • Hold a contest to raise the profile of the anti-idling campaign and encourage employees to stop idling their vehicles. Ask employees to display an anti-idling decal on their vehicle. Award prizes to the owners of vehicles displaying the decal.

Make Your Fleet Vehicles Idle-Free

Most municipalities, and many businesses and industries, own vehicle fleets. They are used to move people and goods, or to perform various services and work-related activities. The "Repair our Air" campaign in Ontario estimates that service delivery vehicles spend 20 to 60 percent of their time idling. Reducing such unnecessary idling saves money. For example, Molson Canada estimates that it saves $225,000 each year because of its fleet idling-control program.

Do not let your vehicles idle needlessly while parked, wasting gas and money.

If you use the information available at this Web site to start an idling control campaign, you can reduce vehicle idling and save money.

Here are some of the things you can do to reduce vehicle idling in your organization:

  • Build a business case for reducing idling. Let management know that the anti-idling campaign supports your company's values and will save money at the same time.

  • Develop and implement an anti-idling policy to limit idling time by your fleet drivers. For example, the Waterloo Region in Ontario has a policy requiring all engines to be turned off after they have been parked for 10 seconds. Mississauga, Ontario's policy calls for a five-minute limit on idling.

  • Find out what other large organizations have done to reduce idling. Look up fleet anti-idling "best practices" on the "Repair our Air" Web site.

  • Place dashboard anti-idling stickers on all company vehicles.

  • Include information on the benefits of reducing idling in your organization's driver-training courses and materials.

  • Install anti-idling signs and posters in all garages where fleet vehicles are stored or maintained.

  • Consider participating in a "fleet challenge" with similar organizations, businesses or industries in your community.

Links and Downloads

For more information on fleet anti-idling programs, visit or the Natural Resources Canada's FleetSmart Web site

You can also download materials on how to implement a fleet anti-idling program from the Idle-Free Zone tool kit.

"Clean-Air Mail" – The Fleet Anti-Idling Program at Canada Post

Canada Post Corporation is committed to delivering mail in a way that helps to keep the air clean and our lungs healthy. The agency is encouraging its drivers to avoid unnecessary idling. The effect of this initiative is very significant: Canada Post is one of the largest users of transportation services in Canada, with a fleet of 6400 vehicles burning approximately 21 million litres of fuel every year.

In November 2003, Canada Post began a driver awareness campaign to reduce idling in its fleet. It was aimed at its more than 430 locations and 10 000 employees across Canada. The agency distributed a kit that included posters, information brochures, key chains and window decals at each location. The campaign's message, says Project Manager Tony Sabino, is, "Small changes in our habits can make dramatic improvements to the quality of our environment."

Canada Post has found that there has been a noticeable improvement in driver awareness of idling issues. It will continue to monitor the program for future results.

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Idling and Your Health

Idling and Your Health.The connection between vehicle idling and human health is not hard to make when you see children walking through a black plume belching from an idling bus. However, the connection between idling your car for more than 30 seconds and a child's asthma attacks may not be as obvious. Nevertheless, unnecessary vehicle idling can hurt our health in many ways. Here are some interesting facts researchers have discovered over the past few years that illustrate the connection:

  • Diesel and gasoline exhausts contain more than 40 hazardous pollutants.

  • Vehicle idling can have a powerful effect on the outdoor air quality at the local or community level.

  • Diesel-fuelled buses emit a higher concentration of soot and fine particles when they are idling than when they are moving.

  • Children are more vulnerable to health problems such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses because they breathe faster, inhale more air per kilogram of body weight than adults, and are still growing.

  • Health Canada estimates that more than 5000 premature deaths per year are due to poor air quality.

Links and Downloads

To download a recent report by the Calgary Health Region about how idling affects your health, visit the Idle-Free Zone.

Auto Show.No Idling at the Auto Show

From February 13 to 22, staff from Natural Resources Canada could be found at their booth at the 2004 Canadian International Auto Show, one of the largest consumer shows of its kind in Canada, promoting anti-idling and responsible vehicle use to the more than 300 000 car show visitors.


What's Hot in the Zone?

Almost 20 000 visitors clicked on the Idle-Free Zone Web site this year. The most popular parts of the site include:

  1. The Anti-Idling Tool Kit – offers free downloadable tools, graphics and materials (posters, brochures, decals, calculators, fact sheets, etc.). Just download, add your logo and print.
  2. The CO2 Calculator – helps you calculate how much carbon dioxide (CO2) your community can prevent from entering the atmosphere by cutting back on unnecessary vehicle idling.
  3. Idling Issues – lists many facts, figures and research, including the why, when, where and who of unnecessary idling.

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