EASTHAMPTON — A campaign targeting allowing motor vehicles to idle that started last year at Maple Elementary School is set to go citywide with a simple message: “Turn your key, be idle free.”
After the campaign received Mayor Nicole LaChapelle’s blessing last week, posters made and designed by students at White Brook Middle School are set to go up around the city this month telling motorists not to idle their cars. The posters note the environmental, vehicular, public health and financial impact of idling, and that unnecessary idling over 5 minutes is not legal in the state.
“It’s going to be huge,” said Shelly Greenstein, a local environmental activist with Easthampton Climate Action. “I think people will respond to them.”
Greenstein said she’s never heard of anyone having any kind of penalty for idling.
In addition to the slogan, the posters include other information, such as that idling a vehicle for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting it, and that children are especially vulnerable to negative effects from exhaust fumes because their lungs are still developing.
Posters, most of whom were made by the fifth graders, are already up at White Brook Middle School, which has been ground zero for the anti-idling campaign this year. The climate activist group Mothers Out Front helped to cover the cost of laminating the posters.
In the previous school year, fourth graders at Maple Elementary School advocated with signs and pledges to get people to eliminate unnecessary idling. This campaign was kicked off by an education program led by Maple Elementary parent Paula Garcia and Greenstein.
“The kids were very responsive at Maple,” Greenstein said. “They were quick to identify that it was a problem at their school.”
She also gave the lion’s share of credit for the initiative to Garcia.
“I just jumped on board,” she said.
This school year, one of Garcia’s children became a fifth grader at White Brook Middle School, joining many other former Maple Elementary fourth graders. As such, Garcia and Greenstein felt that it would be good to launch the education program there.
“They experienced the success of last year’s campaign,” Garcia said of the former Maple Elementary students now at White Brook.
Greenstein and Garcia kicked off the anti-idling campaign with presentations on the issue to the fifth graders. After the presentations, the fifth graders incorporated into their math curriculum calculations for how much greenhouse gas emissions were produced by people idling their vehicles at the middle school.
Five fifth graders were then paired up with five eighth graders to do presentations to the sixth, seventh and eighth grades explaining the problems with idling.
Students then circulated anti-idling pledges to drivers, primarily their families, to pledge not to idle. The class in each grade that got the most pledges received a pizza party.
In total, 261 drivers signed anti-idling pledges as a result of the effort at White Brook this year.
“The idea is that the kids take it on,” said Garcia.
A group of students from the high school, middle school and Maple Elementary School will be giving a presentation to the police later in the month at 50 Payson Ave. explaining why it’s important that the idling law be enforced.
“It’s great for the public to come and sit down with public safety,” said LaChapelle, who is setting up the meeting. “To be able to do that with our K-12 students is fantastic.” The police are excited to sit down with their young constituents as well, she said.
A plan for where the posters will be placed will be discussed at the meeting, LaChapelle said.