Boulder Valley’s Manhattan Middle School set an ambitious goal to reduce car exhaust emissions around the school by 52 percent during the 2010-11 school year.

Thanks to parents, who were willing to forego the car or turn off the engine during drop-off and pick-up, the goal was reached.

Manhattan Middle School participated in the Clean Air at Schools: Engines Off! (CASEO) program, the third BVSD school to do so in the last three years.

Clean Air at Schools campaign

The idle-reduction program is managed by the Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition at the American Lung Association in Colorado and is supported by a consortium of partners including Encana Natural Gas, Denver Environmental Health, the Regional Air Quality Council and local school districts.

Kids walking near a car at school.“Parent and student participation at Manhattan was wonderful,” said Deborah Hopkins, a parent at Manhattan Middle School and the local program liaison. “We are very excited to see the results of our efforts and feel good about the fact that our children are breathing cleaner air.”

Manhattan Middle School was one of four schools chosen to implement the CASEO program in 2010-2011. Baseline data was collected at the school in October 2010, which measured the number and duration of cars idling during after school pick-up. Once the baseline data was collected, CASEO signage was put up around the school perimeter, and parents and students were given information regarding the impacts of idling – from health to air quality to fuel cost.

The results of less idling

Data was collected at two other times throughout the school year. The school saw impressive reductions in idling and associated exhaust emissions as a direct result of participating in the CASEO program:

  • 34 percent fewer cars idled and if they did idle, the duration was reduced by 24 percent.
  • This resulted in a 52 percent decrease in exhaust-based emissions.

Idle reduction is particularly important in school zones due to the impacts of exhaust on children’s lungs. Human lungs develop until the age of 18, and exposure to excess exhaust and smoke can stunt lung growth as well as contribute to many lung disorders including asthma. Children are even more at risk due to their faster rates of respiration and the amount of time they spend playing outdoors.

The CASEO program was launched in 2006 and has provided educate and support for 20 schools.

“The ultimate goal of the program is to protect the health of young lungs through improving air quality – saving money on fuel is just an added perk of the program,” said Natalia Swalnick, air quality manager at the American Lung Association and Clean Cities Manager.