Few activities that affect climate change can be potentially altered as easily as engine idling. Having motorists turn their engines off when parked and waiting in their vehicle reduces not only C02 emissions, but also emissions that impact local air quality. Further, when motorists elect to turn off their idling engines it may increase the likelihood of their involvement in other activities that can more dramatically reduce C02 emissions. This project targeted two forms of idling – idling that occurs at schools and idling by the general public throughout Sudbury. This project was based upon a City of Toronto pilot that decreased both the frequency and duration of engine idling.
As part of a larger initiative to reduce engine idling in the City of Greater Sudbury, this project targeted 49 schools throughout the city as well as a large number of locations where residents are apt to idle. There were several project objectives:
This project was funded by Natural Resources Canada and was delivered by EARTHCARE SUDBURY. McKenzie-Mohr Associates provided project assistance regarding the design, delivery and evaluation of the project.
This project used the unique methodologies of community-based social marketing (CBSM) to encourage motorists to avoid idling their engines at Sudbury schools. CBSM is an innovative approach to facilitating behaviour change, emphasizing personal contact and communications, and provides an attractive alternative to traditional information-intensive public outreach campaigns.1 It involves identifying the barriers to an activity, designing a strategy to overcome these barriers using knowledge from the social sciences, piloting the strategy to ensure that it is successful, and then implementing it on a broader scale. This project built upon the success of the Toronto pilot and explored the practicality and effectiveness of a community-wide implementation.
This report has two parts. The results for the school campaign are presented first, followed by those from the general public initiative. Finally, observations on potential future efforts to curtail idling are provided.
The Toronto pilot determined that an effective anti-idling strategy contains three elements:
To test the effectiveness of these strategies, the frequency and duration of idling was monitored at three of the 49 schools. At these schools baseline data was collected, the strategy was implemented and follow-up data was collected (each of these steps is described in detail in the next section). Two of the three schools were primarily elementary (one French and one English) while the third school included classes that ranged from grades 7 to 13. The other 46 schools received the same strategy, but no measurements were made.
Baseline measures were obtained at the three schools for ten days to determine the percentage of parents and bus drivers who idle their vehicle engines while waiting to pick up children. The duration of idling was also measured. These measurements were obtained when parents and bus drivers picked up children at the end of the school day.
Following these baseline measurements, signs were erected at each of the three schools (the two smaller schools received four signs each, while the third school received eight signs). Motorists were then approached at each of the three schools. Based on experience gleaned from the Toronto pilot, motorists were approached over two different days to ensure that many of the drivers were reached (in addition, the bus companies were approached individually and asked to participate in reducing idling). The script that was used to approach motorists was, as follows:
Hi, my name is ____________ and I am working with EARTHCARE SUDBURY on a project to reduce vehicle engine idling. Most Sudburians already work to protect the environment by participating in community programs, such as recycling. Would you have just 30 seconds for me to share some information on the benefits of reducing engine idling, another way to help the environment? IF NO – thank and discontinue.
IF YES – continue…
[Proceed through the script while holding the information card in your hand - this gives you a reminder of the issues to talk about – saving money, breathing easier, the environment – and makes it easier to offer them the brochure when you're done, making the conversation faster] When you don't idle your engine, you reduce the amount of gas you use. This means you'll save money on fuel - well over $60 per year, depending on gas prices. In addition, engine exhaust, as you know is unhealthy to breathe. By turning your engine off, you and others around you won't have to breathe in fumes from a vehicle that is going nowhere. Exhaust also affects air quality and contributes to climate change. Therefore, not idling your engine also means that you'll reduce problems like smog and climate change.
We have these information cards that explain how turning off your engine can save you money, help you breathe easier and spare the air. Would you like one? We're also asking people to make a commitment to turn off their engines when they're parked and waiting in their vehicles by placing this sticker in their windows. The sticker is a reminder to you to turn your engine off, and also tells others of your commitment to reduce engine idling (bus drivers were not asked to place the stickers in their window as the companies made the decision about whether and where to place the sticker). The sticker, which is static cling, has been designed so that it can be easily removed from your window at a later time. Many people have already made this commitment. Would you be willing to make a similar commitment? Would you be willing to place this sticker on your window? Thank you and have a nice day. Across the 49 schools these conversations occurred with 591 motorists. Fully 96% of those approached were willing to talk. Of those who were willing to talk, 92% agreed to take the information card. Of those who took the information card, 85% also took the sticker and 23% placed the sticker on their window during the conversation. 1
Following the intervention, follow-up measures were obtained for ten days to determine the frequency with which motorists idled their vehicle engines while waiting at the three schools. The duration of idling was also measured. As before, these measurements were unobtrusively obtained when parents and bus drivers were picking up children at the end of the school day.
1 At one school a more intensive approach was used that involved presentations being made to students and materials being sent home to parents. Contact EARTHCARE SUDBURY to obtain more information about this separate initiative.
In total, 2248 observations were made of motorists' idling behaviour at the three schools (sixty-four percent of the motorists were female). In general, the weather was warm (13¢ª C average) and sunny during the duration of the observations. The combination of signs, information cards and commitment had a substantial impact upon the occurrence and duration of idling.
Fifty percent of motorists were observed idling their vehicles during the baseline period compared to 33% during the follow-up (a 34% decrease). As revealed below, the extent of this reduction varied by vehicle type. Drivers of long buses reduced their idling from 57% to 46%, a modest decrease. In contrast, the drivers of short buses reduced their idling from 72% to 43%. Variability also existed regarding personal vehicles. Parents who drove cars reduced their idling from 30% to 14%, while van drivers decreased from 44% to 32% and truck/SUV drivers from 52% to 30%.
Not only did the intervention reduce the frequency of idling , it also dramatically reduced the duration. As shown below, motorists at the three schools idled their vehicles for an average of 220 seconds during the baseline and 150 seconds during the followup (a 32% decrease). As before, duration of idling varied dramatically by vehicle type. Drivers of both long and short buses significantly reduced their duration of idling (234 seconds to 124 seconds, and 294 seconds to 125 seconds, respectively). In contrast, car drivers reduced their idling more modestly (165 seconds to 138 seconds), while van and truck/SUV drivers actually increased the duration of their idling (199 seconds to 231 seconds, and 202 seconds to 224 seconds, respectively).
In total, the labour costs totaled $2676 (Canadian), or $54 per school. These figures do not include supervisory fees or supplies (pens, clip boards, T-shirts, photo ID, hats, traffic vests and transportation to the schools).
The development of the communication materials and printing for the city-wide campaign equalled $5840 Canadian, approximately half of which was spent on the school campaign ($59 per school). In total, 155 signs were used at the 49 schools. The signs, posts and concrete bases totaled $5,893 or $38 per erected sign.
In summary, assuming four signs are placed at a school, the cost for labour, printing and signs at that school is $265 ($168 U.S.). Finally, the graphics used in this project, along with a wealth of other information, are freely available from Natural Resources Canada's Idle-Free Zone website (http:// oee.nrcan.gc.ca/transportation/business/idling.cfm).
The general public anti-idling initiative followed the same process as with the schools. Prior to approaching drivers, baseline information was collected regarding idling frequency and duration. These efforts were followed by an initiative across the City of Sudbury to encourage motorists to not idle their vehicles. Once these interventions were concluded, follow-up measures of idling frequency and duration were obtained. In addition, random telephone surveys were conducted before and after the interventions took place. These surveys gauged community awareness, knowledge, attitudes and selfreported participation in turning off vehicle engines. The results from the two telephone surveys are presented first, followed by a description of the intervention and the associated findings.
In October and November of 2001, a baseline residential telephone survey was conducted with residents of the former City of Sudbury. This survey was repeated in October and November of 2002 following a comprehensive program to encourage Sudbury residents not to idle their vehicles.
For the baseline telephone survey, 406 householders were contacted and asked if they would participate in a ten-minute telephone survey. Of the householders contacted, 147 completed the survey, a 36% participation rate. Of the 271 householders who wished not to participate, 20 completed a refusal survey. Too few respondents completed the refusal survey to warrant comparisons between the two surveys. Of the respondents who completed the full survey, 51% were female. On average, participants reported being between "35-44" and "45-54" years of age. The majority of participants lived in single-detached homes (72%), with 2.7 individuals and 1.8 vehicles per household. Respondents reported on average having "graduated college or technical training" and having a household income before taxes of just more than "$50,000 to $59,000."
In contrast, for the follow-up telephone survey, 453 householders were contacted and asked if they would participate. Of those contacted, 150 completed the survey, a 33% participation rate. Of the 303 residents who wished not to participate, 23 completed a refusal survey. As with the baseline survey, too few respondents completed the refusal survey to make comparisons meaningful. Of the respondents who completed the full survey, 57% were female. On average, participants reported being between "35-44" and "45-54" years of age. The majority of participants lived in single-detached homes (79%), with 3.29 individuals and 1.9 vehicles per household. Respondents reported education levels between "graduated college or technical training" and "some university," and a household income before taxes of just more than "$70,000 to $79,000." In comparison, participants in the baseline and follow-up surveys were similar in gender, age, housing type and number of vehicles owned. Respondents to the followup survey, however, reported higher levels of education and income.
Respondents to the baseline and follow-up survey were asked how many times, if at all, during the previous day they thought they had idled the engine of their vehicle before they began driving. On average, respondents to the follow-up survey reported idling their vehicles slightly more frequently than did baseline respondents (1.2 times and .83 times per day, respectively) and for durations of 167 and 104 seconds, respectively. Fully 57% of the baseline participants reported not idling their vehicle at all during the previous day (compared to 36% for the follow-up participants).
Participants were then asked whether they idled their vehicle in four different settings, and if they did, for how long they idled their vehicle in those situations. As can be seen below, the vast majority of participants reported not idling their vehicle on the previous day in the four situations (range of 60% to 97%) and of those who did idle their vehicles, most reported idling only once in these four situations (the bars represent the percentage of respondents who reported idling). Participants were most likely to report idling in fast food or bank machine drive-through lanes, with 22% of the baseline respondents reporting that they idled their vehicle one or more times in this setting compared to 40% of follow-up respondents. Fifteen percent of baseline respondents indicated that they idled their vehicle while waiting for members of their household in their driveway compared to 27% of follow-up respondents. Further, 14% of baseline participants reported idling while picking up friends or family at locations other than their home, while 29% of follow-up respondents did so. Finally, only 3% of baseline participants reported idling when running errands compared to 13% of follow-up participants.
1It is important to note that the results presented here are based upon self-reports. In survey research respondents often inflate the extent to which they are involved in socially desirable behaviours, such as not idling their vehicle. Therefore, these results should be viewed as approximations of actual public involvement.
When participants reported idling in a situation, they were subsequently asked to estimate the length of time that they idled. Baseline respondents reported idling their vehicle for the longest period of time (233 seconds) when picking up friends or family members compared to 160 seconds for follow-up respondents. When waiting in a fast food or bank machine drive-through baseline participants reported idling on average 160 seconds, relative to 181 seconds for the follow-up respondents. Finally, baseline respondents reported waiting in the household driveway for a family member for 139 seconds on average, compared to 224 seconds for those in the follow-up. Too few respondents reported idling their vehicle when running errands to make reporting durations in this setting meaningful.
Respondents were also asked, "How long can you idle your engine before you'd use more gas than if you turned it off when parked and then restarted it later?" On average, baseline participants believed that they could idle their vehicle for three minutes before they began using more fuel than would be used in restarting, while follow-up respondents believed their vehicles could be idled for three minutes and fifty seconds before needing to be turned off. Further, fully 30% of baseline respondents and 39% of follow-up respondents believed that they could idle their engine for five minutes or longer before it was more efficient to turn it off. Only six percent of baseline participants and nine percent of follow-up participants answered 10 seconds or less – the length of time that Natural Resources Canada has determined to be the cut-off for turning off an engine. Similarly, participants were asked the extent to which they agreed with the statement, "For brief stops it uses more gas to restart a vehicle than it does to keep it idling." Only 39% of baseline respondents and 44% of follow-up respondents moderately or strongly disagreed with this statement, indicating that they understood that it was more fuel efficient to turn their vehicle off. Further, only 36% of baseline participants and 33% of follow-up respondents believed that it does not hurt the starter to turn the vehicle on and off more frequently. These results indicate that several knowledge deficits exist with respect to idling. Sudburians will need to be made more knowledgeable regarding the optimal length of time to idle as well as the negligible impact that turning a vehicle off and on has upon the starter. In addition to assessing self-reports of idling frequency, duration and knowledge, the survey also measured beliefs related to idling. For these items, participants were asked to state the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements. Two statements addressed beliefs regarding letting an engine "warm-up" before being driven in the summer or winter. As shown below, Sudburians have markedly different views on whether an engine should be allowed to warm-up before driving during the summer and winter. For summer driving, only 9% and 10% of baseline and follow-up respondents, respectively, moderately or strongly agreed that it is important to warm the engine prior to driving. In stark contrast, 59% and 67% of baseline and follow-up participants, respectively, moderately or strongly agreed that an engine should be warmed before driving in the winter.
In addition to asking whether they believed it was worthwhile to idle their vehicle prior to driving, they were also asked whether they thought their vehicle should be turned off for very short stops during the summer and winter. Once again, important differences emerged between summer and winter driving. An encouraging 74% of baseline participants and 69% of follow-up respondents believed that an engine should be turned off even for very short stops in the summer, but this number drops to 39% and 33%, respectively, during the winter. Similarly, 51% and 67%, respectively, reported that in colder weather they needed to keep the engine running in order to keep warm.
Participants were asked the extent to which they agreed that turning off their engine was "the right thing to do." As can be seen below, fully 80% of baseline participants moderately or strongly agreed that not idling their engine is the "right thing to do," compared to 61% of follow-up respondents. This belief, however, has not yet turned into behavioural change on the part of those who are most likely to influence them - family and friends. Respondents report that 64% and 67%, respectively, of their family and friends turn their engines off during the summer, while only 20% and 22% do so during the winter. Twenty-one percent of baseline respondents and 27% of follow-up participants indicated that they had heard of the phrase, "Idle-Free Zone". As this phrase becomes better known it will assist in decreasing idling as residents come to realize that others expect them to turn their vehicle off.
Few respondents are happy with the current level of air quality in the City. Only 23% of baseline respondents and 26% of follow-up respondents moderately or strongly agree with the statement, "I am happy with the current air quality in Sudbury." In light of the high level of dissatisfaction with air quality, it is interesting to note that 86% of baseline and 92% of follow-up respondents moderately or strongly agree that idling contributes to global warming. Further, 95% and 98%, respectively, believe that idling produces unnecessary air pollution. Also, there is near unanimity in the belief that, "Each member of the community has a responsibility for protecting the environment" and that, "Our quality of life in Sudbury would be improved if more is done to protect the environment."
Nineteen percent of baseline participants reported having heard of EARTHCARE SUDBURY, while 27% of the follow-up survey respondents had (compared to 50% when Sudburians were surveyed during late April and early May of 2001 ). Those respondents who had heard of EARTHCARE SUDBURY were asked how they had learned of it. Prior to the idling campaign, the most frequent response was through television (20%), followed by newspaper (17%) and then conversation and radio (both at 10%). Twenty percent were not sure how they had heard of EARTHCARE SUDBURY. Following the campaign, 28% reported that they had learned of EARTHCARE Sudbury via conversation, 23% by radio or newspaper, and 10% by television. Twenty-five percent were not sure how they had learned of EARTHCARE Sudbury. Note that respondents could provide more than one response.
It is difficult to ascertain whether the differences observed between the baseline and follow-up surveys are due to sampling differences or reflect actual changes in behavior and attitudes among Sudburians. The demographic differences in education and income between the two samples indicate, however, that the differences may well be due to sampling variability. Nonetheless, Sudburians are concerned about air quality and view engine idling as producing unnecessary air pollution. This initiative, therefore, provides Sudburians with a concrete action that they can engage in on a daily basis that will have a positive impact upon local air quality.
As with the school project, the general public intervention was comprised of three main elements: signs; personal contacts; and commitments. In addition, radio ads were aired by EARTHCARE SUDBURY that introduced the importance of not idling a vehicle. The sign, sticker and information cards utilized for the school project were also used for the general public intervention (see page 2 of this report). To test the effectiveness of these strategies, the frequency and duration of idling was monitored at several locations prior to and following the interventions.
Baseline measures were obtained at locations, such as supermarket and mall parking lots, for seven days to determine the percentage of Sudburians who idle their vehicle engines. The duration of idling was also measured.
Following these baseline measurements, signs were erected at a variety of parking lots throughout the city. Further, conversations occurred with motorists in locations where many drivers could be approached quickly and efficiently, such as in supermarket and mall parking lots. In total, 912 motorists were approached between October 20-27, 2001. Fully 72% of those approached were willing to talk. Of those who were willing to talk, 61% agreed to take the information card. Of those who took the information card, 59% also took the sticker and 21% placed the sticker on their window during the conversation.
Following the intervention, follow-up measures were obtained for seven days to determine the frequency with which motorists idled their vehicle engines while waiting in five different locations. The duration of idling was also measured. As before, these measurements were unobtrusively obtained.
In total, 603 baseline observations were made of motorists' idling, while 205 followup observations were made. Seventy-five percent of the motorists were male during the baseline compared to 73% during the follow-up. Fortunately, the average temperature for the baseline and follow-up measures was identical at 13.7 C. The combination of signs, information cards and commitment had a substantial impact upon the frequency, but not the duration of idling.
Fifty-nine percent of motorists were observed idling their vehicles during the baseline period compared to 44% during the follow-up (a 26% decrease). As revealed below, the extent of this reduction varied by vehicle type. Motorists who drove cars reduced their idling from 62% to 44%, while minivan drivers decreased from 60% to 54% and truck/SUV drivers from 46% to 33%.
Motorists idled their vehicles for an average of 172 seconds during the baseline and 208 seconds during the follow-up (this difference was not statistically significant). As before, duration of idling varied by vehicle type. Car drivers increased their idling from 169 seconds to 228 seconds, while minivan drivers decreased the duration of their idling (168 seconds to 159 seconds). SUV and Truck drivers increased their duration of idling from 175 seconds to 207 seconds, respectively.
As with any project of this scale, a variety of lessons were learned that should be of assistance to other communities contemplating their own anti-idling campaigns. ?In order to increase the comfort level and receptiveness of individual schools, School Boards should be contacted first. Following this, arrangements made with facility managers/superintendants will ensure that sign placement on school property will meet their requirements. Discussions with school principals prior to installation of signs and the presence of intervenors increases the level of acceptance by parents.
The operators of the bus lines should be contacted prior to approaching individual bus drivers. In the City of Greater Sudbury, the operators were very supportive of this project. Individual operators spoke with their drivers and decided individually whether they wished to place the stickers on the front windows.
Two days were spent at each school speaking to motorists. In retrospect, either having more staff at each school (two staff members went to each school) or extending the length of time spent at each school would have allowed a larger number of conversations to occur. Starting with a smaller number of schools may also have increased support for the program at the Board level as word spread about the program. ?A critical aspect of this project involved erecting signs at the various schools. One of the best locations for the anti-idling sign was existing "school bus loading zone" sign posts. To ensure that the placement of signs goes smoothly good communications with public works, who in most communities will attach the signs, is essential.
Labour costs could have been reduced by working with volunteers at each school. However, such an approach would have involved considerable effort in coordinating volunteers. Perhaps a combination of paid staff and volunteers is worth pursuing.
General public initiatives, such as the one pursued in this project, have the potential to quickly alter public attitudes and behaviour regarding idling. True to the foundation of community-based social marketing, personal contact has been found to be a critical element of effective anti-idlng campaigns. Further, approaching motorists in mall and supermarket parking lots provides the opportunity for a large number of cost-effective personal contacts. Here are some specific suggestions for those wishing to organize anti-idling campaigns that target the general public:
An important element of a general public anti-idling initiative involves the placement of signs in parking lots throughout a community. These signs serve as an ongoing reminder to motorists to not idle. In this project, several businesses did not wish to have anti-idling signs erected on their property. To increase the probability of acceptance, Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations should be approached well in advance of the campaign to gain their endorsement and support. Alternatively, cities could pass bylaws requiring businesses to allow signs to be erected by the municipality. Both general public and school-based anti-idling initiatives lend themselves to being run as annual campaigns. As an annual campaign a municipality or an NGO would maintain a list of volunteers who have worked on past campaigns. Each year these individuals would be asked to donate half-a-day of their time to canvas school or public parking lots. With a large number of volunteers working annually on such a project it would be possible over the space of several years to reach tens of thousands of motorists and to do so at very little cost. 'significant knowledge deficits exist with respect to the length of time that a vehicle should be idled for before it is more effective to turn it off (10 seconds), how long a vehicle should be warmed before being driven in the winter (30 seconds) and the impact that turning a vehicle off and on has upon a starter (this cost has been estimated at $10 Canadian per year and is far less than the cost savings associated with not idling). Communities should consider using advertisements as methods to alter these beliefs regarding idling.
This project was the first community-wide initiative delivered by EARTHCARE SUDBURY. This organization has brought together citizens, businesses and governmental and nongovernmental agencies to craft a broadlysupported local action plan for sustainability. This anti-idling initiative significantly affected the frequency of idling by the general public and the frequency and duration of idling at schools. Further, it demonstrated that it is possible to deliver an effective campaign to numerous schools and the general public at modest cost. Anti-idling campaigns are particularly attractive as they provide nearly all citizens with an opportunity to take constructive action to lower their impact upon our atmosphere. As such, anti-idling projects may serve as an important first-step in raising awareness about climate change and securing public participation in the myriad of different actions that will be necessary if we are to effectively protect our climate.