No idle zone

Green groups campaign for idle-free schools

Parents wait for their kids in idled cars at Reno High School.

Parents wait for their kids in idled cars at Reno High School.


For more information about GREENevada, visit And to see the petition for idle-free schools, visit

Go to any elementary, middle or high school the area—or anywhere for that matter—around quitting time, and you’re guaranteed to see many cars with parents inside them, sitting and idling all around the school, awaiting their children, especially when it’s cold outside. The school buses will be there doing the same, often.

It does make sense. No one wants to wait in a cold car—or a hot car in the warmer months. But non-profit GREENevada is working to show people that it isn’t worth the costs. GREENevada is a collaboration among nine non-profit organizations, according to Envirolution community services director David Gibson.

“Cars emit a bunch of different pollutants from nitrous oxide to carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide to particulate matter, so having all those cars idling outside of the schools creates bad air quality for all the students inside the school,” Gibson said. “And then the larger issue related with that is climate change and reducing those impacts.”

And on economic note, reducing the amount of idling cars and the time they idle can also save money.

“It also just wastes gas,” Gibson said. “Every individual who is sitting out there idling can save money by not idling when they’re picking their kids up from school.”

The idea for an idle-free schools campaign originated at the organization’s recent fall retreat of students and teachers in the area. At the retreat, there were several special guests from the community, including Julie Hunter from the Washoe County Air Quality Management Division. Gibson said that Hunter mentioned that she wanted to start a campaign like this at all the schools in the district but did not have the resources for it. From there, GREENevada has taken on this project and plans to work with district students on it.

“We’re recruiting schools right now to lead a pilot program where the students will be getting a baseline tally of how many cars and buses are idling and how long. Like, do people get there five minutes before the end of the school day or 20 minutes?” Gibson said. “And then once we have a baseline, we’ll do various things to reduce the amount of cars that are idling—encouraging people to turn off their cars, encouraging people to walk or bike to school, encouraging the use of public transportation.”

He also said that GREENevada will be working with both the school district and the Air Quality Management Division to create signs at schools. These may be formal signs or something made by students. They’re also planning to make bumper stickers and things of that nature to encourage more parent involvement. GREENevada is also addressing the concerns about idling buses.

“Bus drivers don’t want to sit on a cold bus if they’re waiting outside the school for a half hour, so we’re going to see if there’s opportunity in providing seat heaters for the school buses, so they can turn the bus off and still be warm,” Gibson said. “We want to work with all the stakeholders instead of just saying, across the board, you can’t idle anymore, because we understand that there are health or safety issues with that, particularly in the winter time.”