Green Team installs new set of idling signs


Kylie Akiyama

Green Team’s new “no-idle zone” signs are set up in the student pick-up and drop-off drive along Almond Avenue. Although they will not be enforced by law, they are meant to remind drivers to be mindful of their engine exhaust.

By Suzanne Guo, Staff Writer

In the second week of November, four new anti-idling signs were installed in the U-drive along Almond Avenue. The signs will not be enforced by law; they will mainly serve as a reminder for drivers to reduce the number of pollutants emitted when they leave their engines running as they drop off or pick up students.

With encouragement from GreenTown Los Altos—a Los Altos Community Foundation program whose goal is to advocate for a greener and healthier local community—Green Team club co-presidents senior Anya Gupta and junior Leo Lin decided to establish “no-idle zones” in one of the most traffic-heavy regions on campus. GreenTown Los Altos funded Los Altos Green Team as they collaborated with assistant principal Galen Rosenberg to obtain and set up the signs.

Green Team was initially planning to conduct an anti-idling project after hosting the Students for Green High Schools conference on Google’s campus in January 2017. This meeting brought together high schools from all over the Bay Area to exchange solutions to various environmental issues. Green Team was particularly inspired by Pinewood High School, who brought up their own local anti-idling efforts during one discussion.

Idling cars contribute to two rapidly growing environmental issues: increased carbon dioxide and inefficient energy consumption. Other consequences of idling include shortened engine life, increased fuel costs and noise pollution.

“[Idling is] very harmful for [everyone],” GreenTown Los Altos anti-idling campaign lead Cheryl Weiden said. “What’s in the exhaust [includes] carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrous oxide. All of this stuff causes different health effects [like] asthma, inflammation of the lungs [and] cancer. Mobile source air toxins cause 50 percent of cancers in the country.”

GreenTown Los Altos and Los Altos’ Environmental Commission have been working to mitigate this idling problem for over a year; in local communities and schools like Los Altos High School, they have been actively distributing videos, digital presentations, flyers, pledge forms and other educational materials created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA compiled these sets of resources into “toolboxes” when they launched their anti-idling campaign in 2016 as a way to help educate the public on the topic of anti-idling.

GreenTown Los Altos has also collected data on emitted pollutant levels by observing idling cars at certain sites like Rancho Shopping Center, Pinewood School, Covington Elementary, Blach Middle School and Los Altos High School. In December 2017, GreenTown Los Altos members spent three days, from two to four in the afternoon, documenting idling cars on Los Altos High School’s campus and compiling the numbers into sheets for further analysis with Los Altos’ Environmental Commission. Over the course of those three days, the surveyors found that the average sum of the idling time on campus per day was 360 minutes, which adds up to over 30 kilograms of carbon dioxide produced just from idling cars each day. This amount is equivalent to driving over 75 miles in an average passenger vehicle.

Both environmental groups plan to continue promoting anti-idling: Green Team hopes to spread awareness through stickers, videos and various other methods and GreenTown Los Altos plans to encourage other schools to participate in the campaign. To GreenTown Los Altos, the signs are just the beginning of the fight against idling vehicles.

“One entity has to take the first step,” Wieden said. “And once that entity takes the first step, then the others follow. It’s not that hard.”