On Campus Travel > Anti-Idling Policy

Every day, 3.8 million gallons of fuel is wasted in the U.S by vehicle idling.  That’s equivalent to five Olympic-sized swimming pools of fuel. This costs U.S. drivers over $13 million dollars, and results in the release of tens of billions of pounds of CO2 emissions, as well as other harmful particulates, which have adverse health effects and are damaging to our environment.

Consider opportunities to discourage drivers from idling at your sports venues and across your campus. Idling is common in pick-up and drop-off areas, parking lots, loading docks, and tailgating areas, among other places around your sports facilities. Nationally, American drivers idle for an average of 16 minutes per day, which is nearly 100 hours per year. Half of that time is spent waiting or warming up the car.

Your institution may already have an anti-idling policy in place. Contact staff in transportation and sustainability to determine whether this is the case and, if so, to identify additional opportunities to enforce this policy and minimize idling near your sports facilities. If your institution does not have any policies relating to idling, review the following recommendations from Sustainable America’s “I Turn It Off” initiative on how to develop a policy and discourage idling on your campus.


The following facts address common misconceptions about idling and may help you build support for an anti-idling policy at your sports facilities and across your institution. These facts can also provide useful content for messaging to staff, students and your broader campus community to dissuade them from idling.

  • Engines are best warmed up on the move: 10-15 seconds of idling is more than enough to warm up the engine as long as you have some time to drive slowly at modest power levels before hitting the highway. Even in cold weather, engines only need 30 seconds to warm up.

  • Turning your vehicle off is better for your vehicle’s engine: Idling can damage engine components.  When idling, a vehicle’s fuel is only partially combusted because the engine isn’t at peak temperature.  This causes fuel residue to build up on cylinder walls, which can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.

  • Despite popular belief, restarting your engine uses less fuel than idling: Since the electric ignition became universal in the mid-1980’s, restarting your vehicle does not result in significant fuel loss.  In fact, after just 10 seconds of idling, your vehicle will have burned more gas than it would have if you had restarted it.  To help put this in perspective, two  minutes of idling uses the same amount of fuel as one mile of driving.

  • Small individual changes can lead to significant public health and environmental benefits: If each car reduced its idling time by as little as five minutes per day, drivers would save between 10 and 29 gallons of gas and between 214 and 642 pounds of CO2 over the course of the year, depending on the vehicle’s engine size. Collectively, the 253 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. each year could save 2.5 to 7.3 billion gallons of gas and keep 54 to 162 billion pounds of CO2 out of the air.

  • Turning off your engine may save you a ticket: 37 states currently have anti-idling laws on the books with fines ranging from $50 to $15000 for repeat offenses.

  • Changing your idling habits is good for you and the environment: Breathing exhaust fumes is linked to increased rates of asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease, and cancer. Kids are especially vulnerable because they inhale more air per pound of body weight. Idling also emits harmful emissions that pollute the air leading to higher levels of smog, acid rain, and ozone depletion, among other environmental problems.


The most successful anti-idling programs take a comprehensive approach to idling reduction, which often includes an anti-idling policy, education and training. Driver behavior is the most important factor in reducing unnecessary vehicle idling, so the most successful idling reduction efforts focus most heavily on educating, training and incentivizing drivers to change.

The following is a quick list of actions to kick-start an anti-idling program with your varsity and club teams, as well as staff.

1. Assess current idling behaviors and opportunities for improvement

  • Understanding when and why your staff and fleet drivers idle will help you define appropriate improvement goals. Coordinating an anonymous survey or a focus group are two easy ways to gather information.

  • If possible, do a quantitative assessment of your group’s current idling hours so that you have a baseline number to track and improve upon. Metrics help make improvements more tangible.

2. Establish idling reduction goals and a plan for tracking your progress

  • If quantitative data is available, establish specific and staged reduction goals. These goals could be a percentage reduction or a total number of hours for a defined period (such as a season or academic year).

  • If you cannot quantify your idling data, then focus on more qualitative goals such as the number of staff, students, fans and other visitors informed about unnecessary vehicle idling and plan to conduct follow-on surveys or focus groups to assess the impact of your efforts.

3. Establish a formal anti-idling policy

  • Making a strong and formal statement about vehicle idling is an important first step, if not already in place on your campus.  This could be a reinforcement of your existing local or state laws or could be a specific to your institution or athletics department.

4. Develop and roll out programs, communications and incentives to achieve your goals

  • Start by sharing information. People will not change their behavior unless they understand the issue, impacts, and tools for change.

  • Design programs that are inclusive and fun for staff. Friendly competition goes a long way in encouraging positive behavior.

  • Develop clean and succinct communications–such as signs in relevant areas of your facilities–that empower visitors to your sports venues to take action.

  • For fleet efforts, consider using idling tracking technology, engine heaters or other auxiliary power units to help monitor and reduce unnecessary idling.

  • For external fleets hired for team travel, contact your bus and shuttle providers to ask about their idling policies and about any available data.

5. Celebrate successes

  • Communicate successes internally with staff and hired drivers, as well as with the public at large.

  • Post information on your website and share successes on social media.


While it is difficult to control fan behavior, especially outside of the stadium, thoughtful public education campaigns can go a long way in positively changing behaviors.  Drawing from successful fan engagement efforts in professional sports, here are a few tips to consider as you develop your fan anti-idling outreach efforts:

1. Lead by example

  • Get your teams on board with the program first.  You always want your athletics department to walk the talk before asking others to take action.

  • Fans are also more likely to change their own behaviors if the players they look up to have made the change themselves. Consider involving athletes in your outreach efforts by asking them to be part of a public service announcement or pictured in your educational posters.

2. Make programs and communications interesting, easy to digest and fun

  • In most cases you have very limited time to communicate with your fans, so make sure that your communications are succinct, digestible and memorable.

  • To the extent that you can tie your message back to the sport(s) you will likely create a deeper connection for the fan.

  • Consider developing fun games and other interactive activities to help drive home your message.

3. Engage students, staff and others to help disseminate the message on the ground

  • Engaging volunteers to post signs or disseminate small fliers about idling during tailgates and post-event parking lot clear outs will help spread your message when it is most relevant. Your student recycling green team may be able to help with this.

  • Tabling at events is also a great way to reach event fans.  Consider having students sign a no-idling pledge and receive a free idle-free sticker or other incentive.

4. Consider system and infrastructure changes that could help you achieve your mission

  • Consider permanent well-placed signage to improve compliance.

  • Consider changes to traffic flow or parking systems to reduce the need to idle and reduce traffic congestion for fans.


Promoting environmentally preferable transportation options throughout athletics and recreation can help your institution earn up to 7 points within the “Transportation” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


Many colleges and universities around the country have anti-idling programs. For examples check out:


Sustainable America: I Turn It Off Campaign

The Department of Energy: Idle Box

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