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Business: Transportation

Idle-free Zone – Winter 2004 Edition

Idle-Free Zone
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Spotlight on Municipal Action

Idle-free campaigns are popular with city residents, and such campaigns offer many benefits to municipalities. This issue of the Idle-Free Zone on-line newsletter profiles the continuing efforts of Canadian municipalities to be idle-free. For those communities that have yet to take action on unnecessary vehicle idling, we encourage them to join the growing national idle-free momentum and to draw on the many resources and free, ready-to-use tools on the Idle-Free Zone Web site.

Links and downloads

  • Add your name to our mailing list. You'll receive future issues of Idle-Free Zone newsletters and 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 idle-free campaigns. From sample public opinion surveys on the topic of vehicle idling to the latest idle-free 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.

Municipalities Key to National Idle-Free Drive

Turn off your engine stickerIncreasingly, Canadian municipalities are getting into the driver's seat to take action against unnecessary vehicle idling.

Although idling might seem like a small annoyance in the bigger picture of local environmental problems, this bad habit costs millions of dollars a year in wasted fuel, producing unnecessary pollution and contributing to problems such as climate change and smog. What's more, it's needlessly affecting community health, particularly for our children, senior citizens and people with respiratory problems.

Did you know …?

If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada reduced fuel consumption – for example by not idling – by five minutes every day for a year, we could prevent more than two million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually. That's equivalent to removing over 350 000 cars from the road for one year.

To help municipalities and community groups take action to kick the idling habit, Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency launched a national Idle-Free Campaign in 2001. The centrepiece of the campaign is the Idle-Free Zone Web site, offering information, materials and tools that local communities can customize to design and roll out their own idle-free campaigns.

According to John Efford, Minister, Natural Resources Canada, the purpose of the campaign is clear: "Everything we do, large or small, to cut greenhouse gas emissions is an important part of the answer to climate change. That's what our Idle-Free Campaign is all about – helping municipalities and individual Canadians take action at the local level. I hope communities across the country will join this growing and successful campaign."

Momentum Builds

The Idle-Free Zone Web site is a resource that has given many Canadian municipalities the opportunity to launch their own idle-free campaigns. Most recently, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), in Ontario, rolled out the GTA Idle-Free, which involved 18 participating municipalities with a combined population of over five million residents. This is the largest regional idle-free campaign undertaken in Canada.

Similar regional or municipal campaigns have also been recently unveiled in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; Ottawa , Ontario; and Sherbrooke, Québec. Municipally led campaigns are now in the planning stages in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia; Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia; and Québec, Québec. Scores of community groups – in all parts of the country, including as far north as Yellowknife, Northwest Territories – and industry groups, such as the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, have also carried out idle-free initiatives.

Why Launch an Idle-Free Campaign in Your Municipality?

There are many reasons and benefits for a municipality to take action against unnecessary vehicle idling, including:

Bus shelter lungs AdvertisementWith strong public support for action to reduce idling, the campaign is a terrific community-based environmental improvement initiative, one that is of considerable interest to local media. Idle-free campaigns launched in Canadian municipalities over the past several years have received substantial media coverage. For example, the GTA Idle-Free Campaign was covered by every daily newspaper and most major television and radio stations in the GTA.

Idling is the perfect issue for municipalities to demonstrate municipal leadership. Whether through a public education campaign or by adopting an idle-free by-law, municipalities are well positioned to show leadership on this issue. Experience has also shown that municipalities need to address idling in their own operations when asking residents to be idle-free. According to Paul Graham, campaign advisor for Greater Sudbury, Ontario, "You can't do anything with the public without getting your own house in order too. The municipality must take the lead on issues such as idling."

Bus shelter lungs AdvertisementVehicle idling is one environmental problem that can be addressed with relative ease – all it takes is the turn of a key. As Eva Ligeti of the GTA's Clean Air Partnership points out, "Idling is a completely useless activity with no benefit to anyone." Many idle-free campaign proponents have discovered that the vast majority of residents are highly receptive to the idle-free message, in part because the solution – turning off one's engine – is so easily achieved.

Showing progress on issues such as idling can also open doors for more basic changes needed to address climate change and air quality issues in the future. As Canadian communities continue their efforts to help meet our international commitments to Kyoto, idling is seen by many as a great "quick start" initiative and a potential stepping stone to engaging residents in other activities that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Idle-free campaigns are a great way to kick-start or enhance environmental or local action plans. According to Mississauga, Ontario's environmental coordinator, Brenda Sakauye, "The idle-free campaign absolutely fit with our local action plan and has become a shining example of community partnerships for our work with the World Health Organization to develop a healthy city model."

Because idling is of such widespread interest and happens in multiple settings throughout the community, an idle-free campaign is often most effectively implemented through creative, mutually beneficial partnerships. Idle-free campaign organizers often cite the partnerships formed to implement their campaigns as a one of the key success factors. According to the Final Report on the Greater Toronto Area Idle-Free Campaign, the partnerships established to support campaign development and implementation were "essential" in enabling the campaign to "reach a substantial portion of the GTA community with its idle-free message."

Many Resources Are Available to Help Municipalities Get Started

Brenda Sakauye.In addition to the many benefits of initiating an idle-free campaign, the good news for municipalities is that the Idle-Free Zone Web site provides a strong foundation for developing and implementing a campaign. As Brenda Sakauye of the City of Mississauga, Ontario, notes, "We adopted many of the approaches and tools for use in Mississauga's campaign. The key is to customize the materials for local use."

Catherine Ray, senior program manager with Natural Resources Canada, says, "We're thrilled with the response to our Web resource so far. We're hearing that municipalities and community groups throughout Canada are using our Web site's approaches and tools as a starting point for their campaigns. This is exactly what we hoped would happen."

The Idle-Free Zone

"One-stop shopping" for municipalities on the topic of vehicle idling:

  • free, downloadable tools, graphics and materials (posters, brochures, decals, calculators, fact sheets, etc.) – just download, add your logo and print

  • extensive facts, figures and research on idling, including why, when, where and who idles

  • tried and tested approaches to help you put a halt to needless idling in your municipality

  • latest information on idle-free campaigns and initiatives across Canada; tips from campaign organizers, including the Top Ten tips for communities that are developing and implementing idle-free campaigns Enter the Zone

Enter the Zone

The City of Mississauga's municipally led idle-free campaign recently claimed Canadian Geographic's prestigious Climate Change Silver Award for 2003

Mississauga was one of two Canadian municipalities selected by Natural Resources Canada to test the approaches and resources on the Idle-Free Zone Web site. The pilot campaign, "Towards an Idle-Free Zone in Mississauga," ran over two years, from 2001 to 2002.

Links and downloads

Find out what the Canadian Environment Awards organizers said about Mississauga's campaign

National Idle-Free Drive in Full Gear … More Canadian Communities Roll Out Idle-Free Campaigns

The list of Canadian municipalities rolling out idle-free campaigns continues to grow. This issue of the Idle-Free Zone features highlights of recent campaigns in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa, Ontario; and Sherbrooke, Québec.

Links and downloads

  • Visit the Idle-Free Zone to get information and free, ready-to-use materials to launch your own idle-free campaign.

Put your municipality on the Idle-Free Zone Map of Participating Cities. Future issues of this newsletter will continue to profile the efforts of communities across Canada to become idle-free zones. To share your idle-free story and get your community on the map, contact us through the Idle-Free Zone.

Greater Toronto Area Campaign Calls on Five Million Residents to "Turn it Off!"

Chances are that if you were in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) this past June, you would have seen or heard about Canada's largest campaign to date to reduce vehicle idling.

The GTA Idle-Free Campaign was rolled out across southern Ontario by 18 municipalities and regions – with a combined population approaching five million – that work together on air quality issues through the GTA Clean Air Council. Other key campaign partners included Natural Resources Canada, GO Transit, the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI) and s, a local environmental group that coordinated the involvement of over 170 volunteer "Idle-Free Ambassadors."

The overall goal of the campaign was to get motorists to turn their engines off when parked or stopped for more than 10 seconds, except in traffic.

The month-long campaign featured a broad region-wide public education program, using radio and newspaper advertising, transit posters, highway message signs, banners and media events to raise awareness about idling. Coupled with this were visits by "Idle-Free Ambassadors" to area schools, GO Transit stations and over 60 participating gas stations to seek commitments from drivers to avoid unnecessary idling.

The idle-free campaign was the featured community engagement tool of the fourth annual Smog Summit – an important annual intergovernmental initiative to address air pollution in the GTA through collaborative action and citizen engagement.

Thoughts from GTA Idle-Free Campaign partners

"Idling cars are super-polluters that emit twice the exhaust fumes as moving cars do. Air quality is getting worse every year, and with increasing numbers of smog days, just breathing becomes a health risk." Eva Ligeti, Executive Director, The Clean Air Partnership.

  • "The … campaign was a great initiative that brought together organizations such as the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, The Clean Air Partnership, communities and governments in a partnership to engage consumers in taking action that will improve the environment." – Bob Clapp, Vice-President, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute.

  • "It only made sense that GO would partner with all the municipalities we serve in order to reduce idling and help clean the air." – Dr. Gordon Chong, GO Transit Chairman.

  • "Working with such a broad and diverse group of volunteers was a rich and rewarding experience. It was inspiring to meet concerned individuals and groups and work with them to empower citizens to make small changes in their lives that add up to cleaner air for everyone." – Chris Benjamin, Volunteer Coordinator, Greenest City.

Highlights of campaign results

According to a post-campaign report prepared by the GTA Idle-Free Campaign organizers, the month-long campaign generated impressive results:

  • The campaign was the largest of its kind in Canada.

  • The GTA Idle-Free Campaign, as part of the 2003 Smog Summit, generated extensive media coverage, with the campaign being featured by a wide range of television, radio and print outlets.

  • Campaign materials were posted and distributed by all participating municipalities and regions, as well as by various organizations, individuals, schools and companies in the GTA. Volunteers at intervention locations – including GO Transit stations, gas stations, schools and other community locations/events – also distributed campaign materials.

  • Overall, the campaign reached a substantial portion of the GTA community with its idle-free message. This was achieved through the use of a variety of broad communications tools used across the GTA.

  • A total of 172 volunteers, from children to senior citizens, acted as Idle-Free Ambassadors and participated in personal contact interventions with members of the public during the campaign.

  • There were a total of 49 "idle-free" events involving the Idle-Free Ambassadors at 35 locations throughout the GTA. Almost 1300 personal contact interventions were conducted at schools, GO Transit locations, gas stations and other community locations during the campaign.

  • Most motorists approached were willing to speak with Idle-Free Ambassadors (72 percent) and take information about the campaign (71 percent). In total, 51 percent were willing to make a commitment to not idle their engines, with 20 percent immediately applying the window decal as a symbol of this commitment.

  • Personal contact interventions influenced the frequency of idling during the campaign, with decreased idling observed at GO Transit and school locations.

  • Organized idle-free blitzes of enforcement for the City of Toronto's existing Idling Control Bylaw resulted in 120 tickets, 195 warnings and three summonses. In addition, the enforcement blitzes generated substantial media interest in the campaign.

  • The campaign was effective in enhancing the "clean air" activities of the GTA Clean Air Council (CAC). Participating in the campaign allowed GTA-CAC members to fulfil their idle-free commitment in the 2002 Inter-governmental Declaration on Clean Air, while facilitating municipalities that already had idling initiatives to enhance their existing activities and empowering other municipalities to take action on idling.

Links and downloads

  • Get more details, and see how the Clean Air Partnership used the Web to promote the GTA Idle-Free Campaign, on the Smog Summit Web site.

Obtain communication tools from the GTA campaign, using the Anti-Idling Tool Kit.

Diverse Partners Join Forces to Launch Alberta Campaign

President and CEO of Climate Change Central Allan Amey speaks at a news conference in CalgaryA rich, diverse group of partners has joined together to encourage Albertans to reduce vehicle idling.

… all share a common goal: to get motorists to turn off their engines when parked or stopped for more than 10 seconds, except in traffic.

The month-long Alberta Reduce Idling Campaign included public awareness advertising and events at schools and gas stations to directly engage drivers. Furthermore, the Cities of Edmonton and Calgary, the Calgary Health Region, Alberta Environment and Alberta Transportation supported the campaign by rolling out their own initiatives to curb idling.

Lorne Taylor, Alberta's Minister of the Environment and co-chair of Climate Change Central, kicked off the campaign at a south Edmonton elementary school in mid-September 2003, urging drivers to switch off their engines while waiting in their vehicles. "Vehicle idling is tough on the environment, on Albertans' health and on our vehicles, so it makes good sense environmentally and economically to start changing this driving habit," he said.

What excited Paul Hunt of Climate Change Central most about the campaign is the partnership that drove it. Hunt enthused that the initiative "Brought together a rich, diverse set of partners from government, industry and the community – which we hope will provide a model for future collaborations on other issues."

Links and downloads

Sherbrooke Seeks Idle-Free Pledges From Drivers

"Stop your engines" was the rallying cry in Sherbrooke, Québec, this fall as the city launched a campaign to get at least 10 000 drivers to pledge to reduce idling.

In partnership with the Government of Canada and the Conseil régional de l'environnement de l'Estrie (CREE), the City of Sherbrooke's campaign was designed to raise awareness about idling's impact on the environment, residents' health and vehicle performance.

Un bon tuyau decalsAccording to Valérie Nantais-Martin of CREE, "Not only does our campaign encourage others toward more environmentally sustainable behaviour, but it helps people understand how the little things we do can have an impact on the environment and human health. This fits perfectly with the objectives of CREE, which are to promote energy conservation and environmental improvement within a framework of sustainable development."

The campaign featured teams of "ambassadors" who spoke with drivers at public events about the importance of changing driving habits and common misperceptions about idling. Drivers were given a unique folder with a sticker for the motorist to sign and post on his or her vehicle's front window as a pledge to avoid idling.

Links and downloads

Obtain a copy of Sherbrooke's idle-free pledge package using the Anti-Idling Tool Kit.

Idle-Free Campaign Boosts Ottawa's Environmental Plans

Bus shelter lungs AdvertisementThe City of Ottawa, Ontario, has launched a two-pronged campaign to reduce idling in the nation's capital. The idle-free campaign is a key initiative under Ottawa's air quality and climate change plan, which supports the city's overall environmental strategy.

The first phase of the idle-free campaign, initiated last June, focused on city employees and facilities, with a new idle-free policy affecting all city-owned vehicles, including buses. According to campaign coordinator Birgit Isernhagen, "The idea was for the city to get our own house in order first, before reaching out to the public."

The public outreach portion of the campaign was unveiled this fall, consisting of a comprehensive public education initiative along with personal contact with drivers at a wide range of community locations, including schools, libraries, arenas and park-and-ride facilities. An employee-based group, Keen to be Green, and Friends of the Earth provided the campaign with volunteer "people power" to spread the word about the benefits of not idling throughout the community.

Early reaction to the campaign has been very positive. "I've seen the change happening with people – colleagues and the public alike – as they turn their engines off when parked. It's very rewarding that our efforts are making a difference," says Isernhagen.

Links and downloads

Obtain communication tools from Ottawa's campaign, using the Anti-Idling Tool Kit.

Remodelled Site Now Easier to Use

No one can accuse the Idle-Free Zone Webmaster of idling.

Based on feedback from users, work is underway to revamp the site to improve navigation and make it easier to download materials. Recent improvements to the site include the following:

  • More user-friendly grouping of tools – including brochures, graphics and reports – in the Anti-Idling Tool Kit.

  • Grouping of idle-free campaign materials by campaign proponent (e.g. City of Mississauga, Ontario) so that users can download and replicate entire suites of tools produced by others and avoid having to develop materials from scratch.

  • Clearer instructions on how to download graphics and materials, including new download options – ranging from "low quality" output suitable for home or small business publishing to "high quality" for professional printing or use of graphics.

"We are aware that launching public awareness projects can be costly, so we're striving to make it as easy as possible for site users to benefit from the work done and lessons learned by others," says Catherine Ray, senior program manager with Natural Resources Canada. "We will be updating the site every four months to reflect the different idle-free activities occurring in Canada and outside the country."

Links and downloads

  • Add your name to our mailing list. You will receive future issues of the Idle-Free Zone newsletters and 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 idle-free campaigns. From sample public opinion surveys on the topic of vehicle idling to the latest idle-free 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.

Zoning In … South of the Border

flagIdle-free advocates in the United States are now zoning in to the idle-free message and approaches. Here's what our American neighbours are saying about the Idle-Free Zone Web site:

  • "At the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality we love to dare to be similar, and we're always looking for effective pollution prevention programs that we can replicate. The successful, pioneering work by Natural Resources Canada has inspired us to create the idle-free pilot projects that we're implementing in Oregon and Washington. The Idle-Free Zone Web site has been a highly valuable resource for ideas and information." – Marcia Danab, Office of Communications and Outreach, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

  • "What I like about the Canadian Web site is that it applies to gasoline as well as diesel, to individuals and businesses." – Sally Bosman, Department of Environmental Health, City of Denver

  • "The Idle-Free Zone Web site is a great collection of useful resources. The background research and toolkit will be very helpful as we develop a plan to further reduce air pollution here in Minnesota." – Jeff Ledermann, Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance