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The Seacoast Women's Giving Circle was founded in April 2006 by a group of local women eager to use their skills and resources to address critical issues facing the Seacoast community.

No Idling FAQ.

How did this project get started?
In 2007, the Seacoast Women's Giving Circle decided to focus on the environment as the issue for our first giving cycle. We met with local environmental leaders to learn about the needs of our community and heard again and again that the seacoast needed a No Idling campaign, particularly at our local schools. We researched the experiences of other towns that had initiated grassroots No Idling campaigns and began our effort with a pilot in four schools in April 2008. With the enthusiastic support of school leaders from a dozen additional schools, we launched the Turn the Key. Be Idle Free campaign across the seacoast of NH.

What are your goals for this project?
We want to raise awareness among seacoast parents about the negative impacts of idling so they can voluntarily change their behavior. Habits are hard to break, but it just makes sense to "be idle free." Clean Air Zone signs and stickers will remind everyone to "turn the key."

What are you asking people to do?
The Turn the Key. Be Idle Free campaign asks parents at participating schools and all seacoast drivers to turn off their car if their wait will be longer than 10 seconds.

Why? Because experts say there is a maximum 10 second break-even rule. If you are idling longer than 10 seconds, both you and the engine are better off if the engine is turned off and restarted. An idling vehicle gets the worst gas mileage possible - 0 miles per gallon. As gas prices rise, turning off your vehicle is a quick and easy way to save money at the pump. And, pollution from idling vehicles negatively impacts all of our health, but particularly our children and asthma sufferers.

People tend to idle their cars primarily for two reasons: to warm up the engine or to avoid frequent restarting while waiting in lines for the drive-through, carpool, carwash, at bridges and such. By understanding the negative effects of idling and reducing the practice, you can improve your car's performance, save money, and reduce needless carbon dioxide emissions.

What Can Seacoast Residents Do to Help?

  • Turn off your car - the second you take to turn off your car is worth the savings to your health and wallet.
  • Don't use a remote starter - these starters encourage excessive idling.
  • Drive to warm up - if you must warm up your car, idle for only 10 seconds and then drive off.
  • Spread the word - tell your friends and neighbors why it's important to "Be Idle Free" in school carpool lines and when waiting for the bridge or drive through.

Isn't it better for your car to let it idle to warm up and also to idle rather than turn it on or off?
Idling is actually an outdated habit. Our rules of thumb related for driving cars derive mostly from a time before electronic ignition became universal. Most of us learned from our parents or driver's education teacher that turning on and off the car repeatedly would wear out the battery, wear out the starter, and waste gas. But, this is no longer true.

Today, nearly every passenger vehicle engine (cars, SUVs, and pickups) uses electronic ignition and none of these three concerns exists any longer. Even Click & Clack on the radio show ‘Car Talk' are telling people not to idle! Idling actually forces the engine to operate inefficiently and in a gasoline rich mode that can degrade the engine's performance and reduce mileage.

Are there any state laws in NH prohibiting idling?
Excessive idling is against the law in New Hampshire. There are also several state and local policies restrict idling to five minutes or less, except under extreme weather conditions during which idling up to 15 minutes is permitted. However, unlike Massachusetts, there are no fines or penalties in New Hampshire for not complying with the state's idling regulations.

In general, there is a huge range (0 - 15 minutes) in restrictions on idling under state law and city ordinances across the country. The most restrictive cities, such as Minneapolis, Minnesota allow 0 minutes of idling in residential neighborhoods during the day (10 am - 6 pm) and up to $700 fines.

What about school buses?
Since 2002, New Hampshire's Department of Environmental Service has asked school bus companies and drivers to take steps to reduce idling of school buses in schoolyards. Over 70% of the school bus companies in the state have taken a "No Idling Pledge" as of September 2007, including Laidlaw Transportation Services and First Student, the two bus company that serve the majority of our area.

A visit to our schools at pick up time will show that not all buses are living up to this pledge. We hope this campaign will remind everyone, from parents to school bus drivers, to stop unnecessary idling for our children's health, our wallets and the environment.

For more information on NH DES program for school buses, contact Kathy Brockett, DES, at (603) 271-1370.

If an additional school would like to participate, what should they do?
Schools can download information on the No Idling campaign as well as sample parent letters, pledge forms and more. We encourage any interested schools to contact us via email at

How can other citizens or local businesses get involved?
Local citizens and business owners can help by downloading the fact sheet about the Turn the Key. Be Idle Free campaign from our website and posting it at their business or place of work. Spreading the word amongst neighbors, co-workers and friends will help increase the impact of the campaign.

Can one person really make a difference by reducing their own idling?
One person can make a difference and a community of our size can make a really big difference when all residents make one small change in their daily habits.

Estimates of the amount of time Americans voluntarily idle each day we drive range from 5 to 10 minutes per car. By not voluntarily idling 5 minutes per day, we can save between about $30 and over $60 per year per vehicle, assuming a price of $3.15 per gallon of gas.

Each day, Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline by voluntarily idling their cars 5 minutes a day on average. All of this idling releases 40,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. That adds up to 1.4 billon gallons of gasoline annually and 13 million tons of CO2. (Source Hinkle Charitable Foundation)

What should someone do if they see a car idling in one of the new Clean Air Zones at the participating schools?
If you see a car idling, let the driver know that the school has started a No Idling program and encourages all parents to participate. You'll get the best results with a friendly tone. Once people know the basic facts about idling, they are generally happy to change their habits.

For example, one could say:
"I thought you might want to know that the school started a No Idling program. They're asking parents not to idle their cars, especially in the "Clean Air Zones" near the school buildings. I just learned that it actually isn't good for your car or your health to let your car idle for more than 10 seconds."

Can you cite other communities where this kind of initiative has been launched and (if so) the impact?
There are three communities in NH that have initiated similar campaigns: Keene, Nashua, and Hanover. Other cities in New England have also launched comparable campaigns, such as Lenox, MA; Freeport, ME, Burlington, VT, and Kittery, ME.

Most communities focus on educating citizens about existing state laws regarding idling and the negative impacts of idling so they can voluntarily change their behavior. Few communities have funds to study the long-term impact of their campaigns, but more and more towns are initiating No Idling policies and public awareness efforts.

Why is 'no idling' an important lesson to teach our kids?
Children are often more apt to make changes in personal behavior and to remind their parents to do so as well. Education efforts around seatbelt safety in this county focused primarily on children for just this reason. In many of the participating schools in the No Idling campaign, parents will be asked to sign a pledge form, with their child as a witness, agreeing to limit their unnecessary idling. We found in our pilot schools that children repeatedly reminded their parents to "turn the key" and therefore were a critical part of the effort's success.

Children are often very interested in nature and protecting the earth. Learning about how simple changes in behavior, such as limiting idling, can impact our environment teaches children that they can help make a difference.

Has anyone NOT been supportive?
We started the Turn the Key. Be Idle Free campaign after hearing again and again that our local schools needed a No Idling public awareness campaign. So, we've had wonderful support from the outset. All of the schools that we've approached have been thrilled to join the campaign. In fact, many of them had planned to address this issue even before we approached them and we've simply made it easier for them to do so.

"Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

No Idling Sign
No Idling Bumper Sticker