idle-free campaign taking root

By Jim Stanford on September 28, 2011

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Peter Neal, Willie's brother, installs a sign on the Town Square.

One of the changes Willie Neal envisioned finally is going into effect.

Last week, Neal’s family and supporters put up the first few of 300 idle-free signs that will be installed around town in coming months.

The signs discourage motorists from leaving their engines running while parked, as per town resolution 10-19. The notices are part of a larger educational campaign that seeks to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions and improve air quality by reducing unnecessary idling.

The Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Fund, a nonprofit set up in memory of the late Nordic skiing standout and activist, raised $7,500 to pay for the signs and associated materials. The fund has been working with the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Energy Coalition and Town of Jackson.

“The end goal is changing the culture in which we live,” said Neal’s mother, Mary, who has worked tirelessly on the campaign.

The signs will be erected on public property. Business owners who wish to have them installed for free on their property can contact

Advocates have targeted the downtown area and core streets for the signs, and have been reaching out to businesses such as banks and dry cleaners — “the quick errands that turn into several-minute conversations with people while the car sits running,” said Phil Cameron, director of the clean energy coalition.

So far, Center for the Arts, PAWS and Betty Rock are among the organizations and businesses that have expressed interest in the signs, Cameron said.

Willie Neal

Neal, an eight-time high school Nordic state champion who was hit by a car while training in Maine in 2009, was the first to lobby the Jackson Town Council to pass an ordinance prohibiting unnecessary idling. Others took up the campaign in his memory. The council was too timid to pass such an ordinance but opted for a softer resolution last year.

By getting people to think about shutting off their vehicles, Willie hoped to inspire a host of choices about everyday behavior and energy consumption, such as choosing reusable grocery bags, water bottles and food containers rather than disposable plastic, Mary Neal said.

Mayor Mark Barron read a proclamation at the Town Square ceremony last week, saying, “People can reduce air pollution, they can turn their cars off, and in doing so they can save fuel costs.”

Idling longer than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting the vehicle; modern engines, including diesel, do not need to warm up more than 30 seconds; and driving warms the engine 50 percent faster than idling, according to the coalition, among a host of organizations.

Kudos to the Neal family, Cameron and Brian Schilling, town staffer and one of Neal’s former coaches, for helping make Willie’s dream a reality.


Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Town Government

14 Comments so far

  1. Rob W. September 28, 2011 10:12 pm

    I support this. I agree with this. I may even tell others about this.

    But when it’s -35 in February…I will most certainly start my car ten minutes before I drive to work. It’s cold.

  2. Chad September 28, 2011 11:22 pm

    So I’m going to call out a business that anyone who cares about this issue should consider avoiding. I was going to leave well enough alone, but the forum presents itself…

    A vehicle in the Avalanche Taxi fleet, though not certain there are more than one, was witnessed this weekend in the Smiths parking lot. Driver pulled up near Buffalo Meat Co. and went inside for a solid 5-10 minutes while his Tahoe (or similar) ran outside. Next, driver moves vehicle 50 yards to front of Smiths Liquor, parks illegally and literally right in front of the doors, engine left running for 5+ minutes. No passengers. 75 degree day. Consider this story next time you need or recommend a taxi.

    If my hall monitor presence needs explanation, I was biding my time with a frozen yogurt in front of Mix after a bike ride to Harvest Fest with the family. Maybe this all makes me a cliche of progressivism, but I’m not the only one.

    Kudos to the Neals and their supporters for this cause. More than ever, its in the public consciousness, and you are making a difference.

  3. murph September 29, 2011 4:43 pm

    what about educating the touron? well i hope they posted some of those signs in the R.V.lots

  4. buck September 30, 2011 5:55 am

    I’ve often thought about but have not acted upon the desire to approach an idling vehicle, open the drive side door, turn off the ignition, grab the keys and throw them in a snowbank.

    I suggest we all take the initiative. You idle your shit sled, I huck your keys.

  5. joe September 30, 2011 12:24 pm

    I think it makes you more
    than a cliche.

  6. Seriously? October 4, 2011 7:54 am

    I like the effort to eliminate wasted fuels, etc via education- but to put more signs up around town is not a great approach to the Percieved problem.

    I have a couple questions – please show some facts on the statements about cars needing 30 Seconds to warm up, please define a modern vehicle? what models, makes and years do we have the luxury of 30 seconds?
    I think that a lot of Jh residents do not have modern cars and may not have the luxury of not warming a vehicle before driving…

    Plus it is cold inthe winter and unless you like wearing a down suit over your work garb, you probably will warm your car a bit.

    I try not to use too much fuel and balance comfort with that effort- but I do not have a modern car or truck, and need to warm my car and in the winter sometimes when it is real cold it will run so I dont have to deal with not starting back up.

    Last year – Someone went into my vehicle and turned off the engine on a -10 day, and left a note about idling. Had to get car jumped-

    If someone goes into my vehicle for this again this year and seen I will press charges for trespassing and anything else I can do-’not to mention phhysical confrontation.

    I agree – good idea – but don’t get too righteous with this – Neal had a great vision, but there are some larger battles to be fought.

  7. JH October 6, 2011 2:55 pm

    This is a campaign that annoys me. Think about all the other worthwhile causes we could be working on in this valley. Sure, this has a negative impact on the environment, but I think each and every person driving to the Post Office and to the Recycling Drop off, rather than delivery of mail and pick up of recycling is a FAR FAR FAR greater waste. I disagree with idling, I think it’s pointless and a waste of resources, but so is giving this much attention to campaigning against it.

  8. Scott October 6, 2011 3:49 pm

    I don’t understand preventing air pollution by creating visual pollution. These signs look like they were designed by a committee … and everyone got to put their logos on them. We have too many junk signs around town right now. Adding more will do nothing but add to the visual clutter. If you MUST put up these signs, cut off the top and bottom third.

  9. Chad October 7, 2011 9:39 pm

    Pretty sure visual pollution doesnt cause eye cancer, trap greenhouse gasses, and contribute to the prosperity of regressive nations.

    That being said, the signs are a bit busy.

    I think we can agree that warmups on cold days deserves some leniency. Its the fatties in summer like in my story above that deserve keys in the gutter.

    JH – curious what the most worthwhile cause is so I can ignore all others. Despite that sarcasm, you’re right about the waste involved with the PO. We should have twice-per-week home delivery. Probably cut net vehicle emissions by 80% while saving the PO some money.

  10. js October 7, 2011 9:52 pm

    +1, Chad

    the point of this was never to harass people in their own driveways, or on bitterly cold mornings, but to reduce *unnecessary* idling, and we’ve all seen plenty of examples of that.

    “Seriously?” — sorry to hear your engine was shut off in difficult circumstances. and you’re right, this is small potatoes. but unless we can take the easy steps, like turning off the car while you check for mail or shop for groceries, we’re never going to tackle the larger battles you speak of, much less win them.

  11. GB October 8, 2011 8:52 am

    DON’T EVER LECTURE ME ABOUT IDLING MY CAR. I don’t need your self-righteous attitude when there are far BIGGER PROBLEMS just behind your back that YOU contribute to.

    Ever walk into City & County buildings — pretty warm. They don’t shut off the heat (or the air conditioning) when they step outside for 2 minutes. You want to save the world, turn down YOUR home thermostat 15 degrees. Turn off the air conditioning at home. Stop driving to Idaho Falls for groceries. Stop driving up the pass to ski Glory, or driving down the snake to kayak the river.

    And STOP TOURISM! Tourism is all about wasting natural resources for pleasure. Fly here, Drive here, Buy trinkets made in China, Fish flown in overnight from Alaska, Long – very long – drives through Yellowstone, Private jets here for the weekend, Big homes burning all sorts of fossil fuels that are used 4 weeks a year, Motorhomes, etc etc etc.

    Spending money on Starbucks Coffee while children go hungry is a bigger insult.

  12. joe October 8, 2011 10:52 am

    our hall monitor, baby steppen, bloggen,peter pans are all ready throwin keys in their narcisstic imagination. can,t wait to see how this plays out for mother natures marines. good luck

  13. YTCleanEnergy October 11, 2011 11:38 am

    Signs, educational brochures, public radio announcements and direct community outreach will all play a role in this effort to curb unnecessary vehicle idling. All these approaches will encourage drivers to voluntarily eliminate the needless waste of fuel and the tons of harmful emissions entering our community’s air as a result of unnecessary idling in public.

    While this may seem a drop in the bucket, Dept of Energy estimates indicate that ~6 billion gallons of fuel are wasted annually by idling in the US. Reducing idling has real impacts on fuel use and air quality.

    ‘Modern’ vehicles, those that have computer controlled, fuel-injected engines engines, require very brief idling times to be driven safely (This includes most vehicles built after the late 80’s).

    At idle, the vehicle’s water jacket and engine are warming up but none of the other moving parts such as the transmission, transfer case, wheel bearings, etc… The best, most efficient way to warm up the entire vehicle is to drive it at moderate speeds once the oil pressure comes up (~30-seconds).

    If you are parked and idling your breakeven point for fuel usage is 10 seconds. 30 seconds is the break-even point considering battery and starter wear –and-tear. The 30 second time frame is one that was identified by the EPA after a study of vehicle emissions and warm-up times.

    This campaign seeks to address behaviors that ultimately affect the entire community. Similar programs are being taken up across the region and across the country. The goal is to provide citizens with credible information to make their own decisions and to overcome common misconceptions*.

    The bottom line is that idling for extended periods of time is harmful to your vehicle, wastes fuel, costs you money and harms community air quality.

    Here are a few starting off points for more in depth information about vehicle idling:

    *Safety should be any driver’s primary concern. At no point do we recommend shutting your vehicle off when stopped in traffic or when it’s necessary for its safe operation or the health and well being of its occupants. But, running into the grocery or Post office for ‘a few’ minutes? Turn your key and be idle free.!

  14. joe October 11, 2011 12:28 pm

    the real question is, how much money and resorces are we going to spend telling ourselves facts that people already know. that low hanging fruit has already been picked. the resolution has passed signs are great. next

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