Clearing the air: School urges parents to cut engines to reduce car emissions

DACULA - Students at Puckett's Mill Elementary School have a message for motorists who wait in the car riders' lane: Please turn off your engines.

The school, which opened in 2008 in the Mill Creek cluster, is starting the second year of its No-Idling Program, an initiative of the Clean Air Campaign.

The program, funded by a grant from the UPS Foundation, encourages drivers to cut their engines while waiting for students to be dismissed.

"It's so easy to do, and the impact is so far-reaching," said Brian Carr, director of communications for the Clean Air Campaign.

Every hour of idling burns about one gallon of gasoline and can emit up to 15 pounds of pollution, Carr said. Turning off the engine saves fuel and makes the air quality safer for children.

Puckett's Mill student peer leaders routinely visit the car riders' lane to remind drivers whose engines are running to turn off their vehicles and to thank those who are complying with the program. The students also hand out random prizes to people who are not idling, said Mandy Collins, a gifted program teacher and co-leader of the school's 15-member Environmental/Science Committee.

The school has had 100 percent participation in the No-Idling Program, Collins said.

Hamilton Mill resident Nancy Wharton arrives at the school about 45 minutes before dismissal to pick up her granddaughter before driving to Osborne Middle School for pickup.

"I think it's a great program, and we do not idle," she said.

To further reduce pollution, the school also encourages students to ride the bus home. (School buses at Puckett's Mill - and all Gwinnett schools - also participate in the No-Idling Program.) In a week, the number of vehicles in the car riders' lane dropped from 68 to 45, she said.

"We know if we have fewer cars on the road, we'll have a better tomorrow," she said.

Of all metro Atlanta districts, Gwinnett County has the highest number of schools participating in Clean Air Campaign programs. Of the 130 Clean Air Schools, 39 are in Gwinnett.

The $25,000 grant from the UPS Foundation will help the Clean Air Campaign expand its programs throughout the state, officials said.