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Idle-Free Zone – Winter 2005 Edition

Idle-Free Zone – Winter 2005 Edition

Idling Campaigns – A Perfect First Step to Meeting the One-Tonne Challenge


Idling Campaigns – A Perfect First Step to Meeting the One-Tonne Challenge

On average, every Canadian produces over five tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year just by going about his or her daily activities. In an effort to curb our GHG emissions and their impact on climate change, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Transport Canada have joined forces and launched the One-Tonne Challenge (OTC). This public education and outreach program encourages Canadians to reduce their personal GHG emissions by one tonne, or roughly 20%, by changing their behaviour at home, at work and on the road. Reducing vehicle idling is one of the many actions that help meet the challenge.

The One-Tonne Challenge creates awareness of the benefits of reducing GHG emissions and offers Canadians programs, practical tools and support for their personal efforts to reduce their own emissions.

In This Issue...

"Idle-Free" Meets the One-Tonne Challenge

The anti-idling movement has continued to expand across Canada as municipalities and community groups take action to contribute to a healthier environment by putting a stop to unnecessary vehicle idling. This issue profiles some of the latest approaches to get drivers to reduce idling and highlights how "Idle-Free" campaigns are a perfect fit with the One-Tonne Challenge. Be sure to check out the recent additions to the Anti-Idling Tool Kit and get your community involved in the growing quest to make Canada an Idle-Free Zone!

Did You Know...

Canadians Idle More in Winter

Canadians Idle More in Winter

Canadian motorists idle their vehicles an average of 5 to 10 minutes per day. A recent study suggests that in the peak of winter, Canadians voluntarily idle their vehicles for more than 75 million minutes a day – equivalent to one vehicle idling for 144 years. We idle about 40 percent less in summer, but still waste an enormous amount of fuel and emit unnecessary pollution.

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Local Communities Tackle Idling

Many municipalities have taken action to curb idling. To learn more about the innovative ways these communities have encouraged motorists to reduce idling, read on! If you have an idling-reduction success story you would like to share, please e-mail us.

Québec City Does It With the Turn of a Key

Québec City's "With the Turn of a Key!" campaign shows how a multifaceted program can go a long way to reduce idling. During May and early June, the Conseil régional de l'environnement – région de la Capitale nationale (CRE-CN), the campaign's organizer, tackled the idling issue by contacting daycare parents, educating municipal staff, personally approaching drivers and delivering an intense media campaign across the city.

The parents of over 4000 children received idling information pamphlets thanks to the collaborative efforts of 60 day-care centres and the CRE-CN. The pamphlets provide facts about the economic, environmental and health impacts of idling and include a series of actions that individuals can take to reduce their idling habits. "Parents were very keen on receiving information that ex-plains how idling habits affect children's health and what they can do to improve the situation," says Mélissa Auclair, CRE-CN project coordinator.


CRE-CN's program also tackled the idling habits of city employees by offering them short training sessions. Over 500 city staff were educated about idling and offered an opportunity to raise their concerns about vehicle idling. "This was a great opportunity to dispel some of the myths that employees had about idling, and we were able to convince people to adopt idle-free behaviour," explains Auclair. "Obtaining corporate support for the training sessions was the key for this approach to succeed. It is necessary for the municipality to strongly encourage participants to attend the training sessions."

Taking the idle-free message to the streets, CRE-CN continued its efforts by spending some time at four local Ultramar gas stations. Here CRE-CN staff presented over 1200 motorists with information about idling and a decal to post in their cars, indicating their personal commitment to reduce idling. "This proved to be a highly effective way to reach drivers because we approached them where idling occurs," advises Auclair.


CRE-CN's program also demonstrates that media campaigns are an effective way to generate widespread awareness of the idling issue. The campaign warmed up in April 2004 with a launch event hosted at City Hall that garnered media attention in local newspapers the Journal de Québec and Le Soleil. The campaign intensified over the spring to include over 50 posters on city buses and in central locations, over 110 radio announcements, and over 150 advertisements in local media. The CRE-CN's dedicated Web site also offers interested residents information about idling and its impacts and what they can do themselves.

The post-campaign survey showed that the media efforts were effective, with over 35 percent of survey respondents having heard about the anti-idling campaign.

For more information about the CRE-CN campaign, visit

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Zeroing In – How to Reduce Winter Idling

With the arrival of winter, here are some hot ideas to put a freeze on idling in colder weather.

  1. Minimize use of remote car starters.
    These devices encourage you to start your car much too long before you are ready to drive, causing unnecessary idling. This wastes fuel, is bad for the environment and costs you money.

  2. Warm your car by driving it.
    Once a vehicle is running, the best way to warm it up is by driving it. With modern computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away. Just make sure your windows are clear of snow and ice before getting behind the wheel! Besides, more than the engine needs to be warmed up: the wheel bearings, steering, suspension, transmission and tires all need warming up too, which can be done only when the vehicle is moving. A typical vehicle must be driven for at least 5 kilometres to warm up these parts. To make matters worse, the catalytic converter doesn't work when it's cold. Until the converter warms up, engine emissions pass through the exhaust untreated.

  3. Use a block heater.
    When your engine starts up, it has to pump oil throughout the block to lubricate moving parts. In a cold engine, the oil is thick and resists flow, which means the engine has to work harder to overcome internal friction. Thick oil also takes longer to circulate, which allows metal-to-metal contact and increases engine wear. One answer to this cold-engine dilemma is to use a block heater to warm the engine block and lubricants. Using a block heater means the oil won't be as affected by the low temperature and will reach its peak operating temperature faster. You don't need to leave a block heater plugged in overnight to warm the engine. In cold weather, simply plug in your block heater two hours before you need to use your vehicle. Better yet, use an automatic timer to switch on the block heater at the right time.

Visit the Idle-Free Zone Web site at for more ideas and ready-to-use materials to get you started on an anti-idling campaign – no matter the season.

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Nappan Project Sows Anti-Idling Seeds

What do chats at the farmers' market, door-to-door canvassing and driving instruction have in common? According to the Nappan Project, they're all great ways to talk about stopping idling. The Nappan Project has been actively sowing the seeds of sustainability in rural Nova Scotia this summer and setting an excellent example of how communities can link their local initiatives to the One-Tonne Challenge. "The project aims to inspire and enable rural residents in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, to meet the Government of Canada's One-Tonne Challenge by reducing their personal emissions," explains Jason Blanch, Executive Director. The project has four components – vehicle trip-reduction programs, an anti-idling campaign, a walking tour of the Nappan Project Demonstration centre and a school program.


"People in rural areas cannot easily switch to other kinds of transportation, like public transit, so idling their cars less is one of the easiest emission reduction actions they can implement," explains Blanch. "Asking people to commit to reducing idling is an easy way for us to get drivers to think about ways they help the environment and inspire other actions." Nappan Project / One Sky Climate Change Coordinator, Rebbeca Rolfe, took the lead on this initiative and spent her Saturday mornings at a booth at the local farmers' market, encouraging individuals to make a commitment to be idle-free. She convinced 400 drivers to sign a pledge. Blanch reports, "Of the people who approached our booth, almost all of them took a sticker to put on their cars to show their commitment to be idle-free. Through these efforts we have been able to reduce about 96 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, and we saved about 40 000 litres of gasoline."

During the rest of the week, the Nappan Project team conducted a door-to-door campaign to provide residents with an information package on idling that included stickers and brochures from the Idle-Free Zone Tool Kit. The package also included a family contract, which family members could use to discuss which actions they were willing to commit to implementing.

The final part of the anti-idling initiative was to create a partnership with the Fundy Driving School, where licence training for a variety of motorized vehicles will now include instruction on the adverse impacts of idling. Stewart Fraser, an instructor at the school, is personally committed to the anti-idling message. According to Fraser, "The anti-idling information from the Nappan Project fits well with the existing curriculum because our programs focus not only on driving skills but on all aspects of driver education." He reports that the Fundy School has provided over 300 drivers with a tool kit and has found that "The information was very well received by new drivers and seniors taking a refresher course alike."

The team's efforts didn't stop there. Rolfe and Blanch spoke with farmers they met close to the office to encourage them to stop idling. "In rural areas, we often see diesel engines running for long periods, so by encouraging action with farmers and local truck drivers we can have a strong impact," says Blanch.

Throughout the fall, the Nappan team will continue its efforts to meet the One-Tonne Challenge goals. For more information on the Nappan Project's One-Tonne Challenge and anti-idling, visit To download campaign materials, go to

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City of Burlington to Ticket Idling Drivers

Motorists in Burlington, Ontario, who idle their vehicles will soon generate more than exhaust fumes as a result of their actions. Starting May 2, 2005, City Council will implement a new bylaw stipulating that drivers idling their vehicles longer than three minutes are liable to receive a $155 fine. "The intention of the bylaw is to educate the public about the issue and to deter idling drivers," says Fleur Storace-Hogan, Environmental Projects Support Officer, City of Burlington.


In the meantime the City is focusing on educating the public about the bylaw. It has developed a "mock ticket" that gives idling motorists information about the impending bylaw and the negative impacts of idling. "We designed the ticket as a friendly way to educate residents about the upcoming bylaw. We are excited to see how it is received by the community," says Storace-Hogan. Parking enforcement officers will be armed with these friendly tickets and issue them throughout the coming winter months.

The new bylaw builds on Burlington's Idle-Free Campaign, which saw the distribution of posters and bookmarks communicating idling reduction messages throughout all city schools, participating bookstores and municipal facilities. The city also posted 32 "Idle-Free Zone" signs at key municipal sites that were identified as "idling hot spots," 10 signs at Burlington's three GO stations and over 50 signs at local schools.

To download Burlington's anti-idling ticket, visit the Idle-Free Zone at

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Idle-Free Extends Across the Border

Not only has the Idle-Free Zone message reached numerous Canadian communities but it has now made its way to the Town of Lenox, Massachusetts!

In September the Town of Lenox launched its campaign to enlist drivers of all motor vehicles to "protect our health and environment" by turning off their vehicles whenever they stop or park for more than 10 seconds.

Rick Gregg, originator and chairperson of the Idle-Free Sub-committee of the Lenox Environmental Committee, says the campaign "seeks to educate Lenox residents and visitors about the harmful effects of motor-vehicle engine idling on human health and the environment and about the need to eliminate all unnecessary idling."


Gregg notes that although a Massachusetts law against idling is punishable by a fine, the Lenox campaign, at least for now, "is primarily educational, to let people know why they should care about this effort and, hopefully through education, to get greater compliance with the law." The "Making Lenox Idle-Free" campaign includes Idle-Free Zone signs posted at local schools and a wildlife sanctuary, window signs for local businesses, brochures and press events. Gregg attributes his ability to launch the campaign to the City of Mississauga pilot project and the NRCan Anti-Idling Tool Kit materials. "I admire what Canadian communities have been able to accomplish in terms of idling, and the NRCan materials were a big help in getting our campaign started in Lenox."

The American Lung Association of Western Massachusetts, Massachusetts Audubon, the Center for Ecological Technology, the American Automobile Association and the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund have all endorsed the campaign.

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News From Western Canada

City of Calgary Leading by Example

In an effort to encourage employees to reduce idling, The City of Calgary has adopted a new corporate anti-idling policy as part of its ISO 14001 environmental management system, EnviroSystem. "The City of Calgary is the first municipality in North America to have an environmental management system for its entire corporation," explains Rob Shymanski, City of Calgary Environmental Specialist. Linking the vehicle idling reduction policy to the EnviroSystem ensures that the City has procedures that are consistent across the organization for reducing idling as well as a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of individuals.

The City's approach to developing the "Vehicle Idling Reduction Policy" was inclusive and involved consultation with its major business units to ensure that the final product would work for the multiple fleets involved in providing city services. The City had hoped to develop a policy that would be applicable across the whole corporation, but "through consultation with the business units, it soon learned that a blanket policy that works well for personal vehicles would not be effective for an organization like ours with a diverse fleet of vehicles that perform specific functions," explains Shymanski. A number of exemptions needed to be considered. As a result, the final policy specifically says:

"Idling of vehicles wastes fuel, creates pollution and causes premature engine wear. It is every City employee's responsibility to minimize fleet operating costs while reducing harmful effects to the environment. Violators are subject to disciplinary action.

"Exceptions are during an initial engine warm-up period in weather below -10 degrees Celsius and during periods of extreme cold weather below -10 degrees Celsius. When engines must be left operating, for any reason, the operator will remain with the unit."

The exemptions apply to business units such as the Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Transit, Roads, Parks, and Waste & Recycling Services. These units have vehicles that may not be shut off for health or safety reasons. For example, emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks, while engaged in operational activities are exempt, as are vehicles that are required to idle in order to power hydraulic equipment or lights.

To ensure that city staff are educated about the new policy, the City developed a training video and an intranet Web site to highlight key aspects of the policy and to assist in improving employee awareness of the impacts of excessive vehicle idling.

Calgary's efforts don't stop there. During the past year, Calgary increased its commitment to reduce idling by posting over 200 idling reduction signs at city facilities, including fire halls, recreational centres and heavy machinery yards. The City has also produced a downloadable version of the sign artwork and made signs available to organizations that wish to promote idle-free zones at their workplaces.

Vancouver's BEST Program

In the spring, Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST) and the Jack Bell Foundation officially launched the Idle-Free Workplaces Campaign to reduce unnecessary vehicle idling among fleet-owning businesses and their employees in the Greater Vancouver area.


The Idle-Free Workplaces Campaign is designed to educate businesses and municipalities on the benefits of implementing an Idle-Free policy for their fleets, to increase fuel efficiency and to reduce expenditures. One of the main components of the BEST campaign is to demonstrate the financial savings that can be achieved in one year. For example, the cost of idling a single car for 10 minutes is the cost of at least one-tenth of a litre of fuel. In one year, that can add up to about $100 for every light-duty vehicle in Canada. "We've been able to grab the attention of fleet managers by explaining the costs associated with idling vehicles," suggests David Hendrickson, Co-ordinator of the Idle-Free Workplaces Campaign. "The savings can be really significant."

The Idle Free Workplaces Campaign provides fleet managers with a package of communication materials including posters, information cards, windshield decals and bumper stickers. It also offers "lunch n learn" presentations and advice on developing an idling reduction action plan for the organization. Hendrickson emphasizes that the "I'm Idle-Free" sticker campaign is the key to garnering attention for the issue, as the general public can readily identify companies who are participating.

One of the unique features of the BEST campaign involves educating drivers about unnecessary vehicle idling while they wait at the BC Ferries terminal in Tsawwassen, which handles approximately 1.3 million private and commercial vehicles annually. In the summer, BEST volunteers set up a display, handed out information, answered questions, and asked drivers to pledge to be Idle-Free and share idling facts with their family and friends.

Hendrickson concludes, "We're trying to make connections in people's minds between idling, air quality and cost savings. Ideally, we're hoping that the message of being Idle-Free at work will carry over to employees' personal lives." So far, the Idle-Free Workplaces Campaign has successfully reached employees from numerous organizations, including Novex Couriers. "Novex is eager for its drivers to participate and strives to be Idle-Free because vehicle idling pollutes the air, wastes money and doesn't get you anywhere," adds Robert Safrata, CEO for Novex Couriers.

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Markham and Newmarket Go Head to Head in the Idle-Free Challenge

In an effort to deal a knockout blow to idling in their communities, Markham and Newmarket have entered the anti-idling arena for the great Idle-Free community Challenge.


This spring, these two Ontario towns challenged each other to encourage 500 residents in their communities to commit to reducing unnecessary idling. The challenge is the brainchild of the York Region Environmental Alliance (YREA), which works with schools and volunteers to educate idling drivers by providing them with information and asking them to pledge to be idle-free. "The towns have really embraced the challenge and are eager to participate," says Sari Merson, the campaign organizer. The YREA is not only promoting the challenge, but is also the challenge's official scorekeeper!

Round 1: Newmarket Takes the Early Lead

Newmarket dove headlong into the Challenge, building an early lead of 155 to 2 in idle-free pledges. Newmarket's impressive lead was attributed to "actively going after pledges at the local farmers' market during the summer and other local events," says Newmarket Councillor Joe Sponga.

Round 2: Markham Fights Back

In response to Newmarket's impressive first round, Markham posted an advertisement in Markham's paper, the Economist & Sun, to encourage its residents to make their pledge. Markham residents rose to the challenge and, with the help of YREA at The Thornhill Village Festival, brought Markham back into the race. The latest tally stood at 174 pledges for Newmarket and 164 for Markham. "Markham picked up its numbers once the word started to spread that Newmarket was in the lead, and our residents felt that they needed to take action," says Markham Councillor Erin Shapero. Markham's actions included reaching residents through local events, displays at the civic centre and community group involvement.

Round 3: Now Underway!

With the competitors neck and neck, the battle is intensifying, especially with Councillor Sponga's competitive edge showing through as he admits to really wanting "to show Markham that we are more environmentally conscious than they are." On a more serious note, he adds, "People love this type of competition because it appeals to community pride, and we have a lot of that in Newmarket."


Similarly Councillor Shapero confirms that: "Markham residents place environmental sustainability as their number one priority, and therefore competing with Newmarket to reduce GHGs and climate change and to improve air quality is very important to our residents." She enthuses that this type of program is great for municipalities. "Although we have been challenging each other, it also helps to see what they are doing, and we share information in a way that moves both our communities forward together."

Sari Merson of the YREA says, "The towns have taken positive action by encouraging employees to pledge and by distributing information in community centres and public libraries." YREA will work with Markham and Newmarket this fall through initiatives planned for shopping malls, beer stores and other places where people commonly idle their vehicles.


Markham and Newmarket are also getting help from youth to promote the idle-free message. Students from Unionville High School in Markham handed out "idling infraction" notices to drivers of cars idling in front of the school. The notices indicated that engine idling wastes fuel and contributes to climate change. This fall, the challenge will continue in schoolyards, with seven schools in each community taking part. "The BEST way to get to parents is through the kids," Merson explains.

The Final Knock Down

Both towns are also actively considering other ways to kick the vehicle-idling habit through anti-idling bylaws and policies. Markham hopes to have a bylaw in effect this winter, while Newmarket has developed a policy for its corporate vehicles. Its council is also considering having a bylaw.

For the latest results of the Markham-Newmarket Idle-Free Challenge, visit

Need help with your campaign?

Do you have questions about how to create an Idle-Free program for your community? Do you have success stories you want to share, or comments on the information we have provided?

Please e-mail your questions and comments to, and we will be happy to help!

Contact Us – We're not sitting idle!

What's Hot in the Zone?

NRCan has developed a new tool – 10 TIPS for an Effective No-Idling campaign – to help communities initiate their Idle-Free Zone campaigns.

The action plan features a step-by-step process that provides users with guidance on:

  • Setting campaign goals and objectives
  • Doing preparatory research
  • Using community-based social marketing
  • Preparing key messages, tools and tactics
  • Evaluating activities

It also provides examples and resources from previous campaigns that can be downloaded free-of-charge.

To view the action plan, visit

Looking Ahead – What's in the next issue?

Look for more success stories, tips and how-to information in the next issue of the Idle-Free Zone newsletter. Our next issue will focus on these topics and more:

  • School-based programs: How do we turn our schools into Idle-Free Zones?
  • Anti-idling bylaws vs. public education campaigns: What is the BEST approach to solving the idling problem? Bylaws, public outreach or a combination of the two?
  • Federal House in Order: Natural Resources Canada walks the talk.

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Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention Takes Idle-Free Message to the Border

Through its Truckers Idling Reduction Program, the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention (C2P2) spent last summer educating freight truck drivers at the Blue Water Bridge border crossing in Sarnia, Ontario, about idling.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of 24-wheel heavy-duty diesel trucks take to the roads in North America. In fact, Kady Cowan, Program Coordinator for C2P2, indicates, "The Department of Energy in the United States reports that the 3 million transport trucks in the United States idle away an estimated 3.8 billion litres of fuel every year. That is equal to about 11 billion kilograms of GHGs and 400 000 kilograms of particulate matter released into the air by the transport industry every year."

In Sarnia, the signs of idling are evident with the smog generated by several thousand idling truck engines lined up to cross the U.S.-Canada border. The waiting times can be up to four hours, and for the most part drivers leave their engines running while they advance in the slow procession. C2P2 recognized the potential for improving air quality at borders and decided to take action and begin discussing the issue with drivers.

The Truckers Idling Reduction Program uses a targeted approach that focuses on personal contact with drivers who are waiting in customs compounds and weigh stations. Drivers were approached by project staff who discussed the issue of idling, asked about drivers' idling habits and provided them with information about the health and environmental impacts of idling. "Fuel economy is an important issue to trucking companies, and framing the idling issue within that context helped them understand the benefits of reducing idling," explains Cowan. Drivers were also encouraged to respond to survey questions through a draw incentive program.

C2P2 is continuing its efforts to reduce idling at the border by conducting a case study on anti-idling devices this fall. In reality it's the drivers themselves who idle their vehicles, not the trucking companies, and their motivations for leaving the engine running differ. "Drivers spend up to eight to ten hours in their trucks when they aren't driving, and therefore heating, cooling and the use of appliances in their sleeper cabins are important for their safety and well-being on the road," explains Kady. So C2P2 is evaluating the use of two anti-idling devices to see how well they work and how receptive drivers will be to these fuel-efficient alternatives. To learn more about C2P2 Truckers Idling Reduction Program, contact Kady Cowan, Program Coordinator, at 1 800 667-9790.

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Trucks and Fleets – Driving Home the Idle-Free Message

FleetSmart's Idle-Free Quiet Zone

Truck drivers across the country are being asked to reduce unnecessary idling at truck stops. As part of ongoing awareness efforts, the FleetSmart division of Natural Resources Canada launched its third annual Idle-Free Quiet Zone at the Husky car and truck stop in Brandon, Manitoba, on October 4, 2004.

This year's campaign participation is high, as 82 truck stops, dealerships and roadside service centres have declared their sites to be Idle-Free Zones. This means that truckers who pull into Quiet Zone areas can enjoy cleaner air to breathe, a quieter sleep and a clear conscience knowing they are doing their part to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The program is conducted in the fall, and this year it coincides with FleetSmart's rebate program, which is designed to assist vehicle owners to lower fuel and maintenance costs. Savings can be realized by changing operating practices and installing such technologies as in-cab heaters and auxiliary power units that reduce the need to idle. Owners of Class 6, 7 and 8 trucks and buses licensed for commercial service in Canada are eligible to receive rebates for approved equipment purchased after August 12, 2003.

For more information on the rebates, call 1 800 387-2000 (toll-free) or visit

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