Chris Large is Senior Partner at environmental charity Global Action Plan and leads on the Clean Air Day campaign. With five months to go to the second Clean Air Day, he takes a look at the focus for this year’s campaign.
Because of the participation of thousands of volunteers and organisations, the UK’s first Clean Air Day in 2017 made a real difference. Every volunteer that arranged free breakfasts for cyclists, led a school walking bus, or organised events in city squares can be proud that a statistically significant increase in public understanding about air quality issues was identified in a post-event survey. From corporate communication campaigns and arranging a debate in the Scottish Parliament, to putting dogs in clean air T-shirts and organising naked cycle rides, your efforts were worthwhile and made a real difference.
So, in 2018, the national campaign is following your lead. In coordinating the campaign in 2017, Global Action Plan focused primarily on increasing public knowledge of how to cut air pollution levels and minimise exposure to pollution. But we saw how local efforts in workplaces, schools, hospitals, universities and public space also increased the take-up of actions that actually cut pollution levels or minimise exposure. So the theme for Clean Air Day 2018 is to encourage people to try a clean air action for the first time. Let’s consider just one pollution source – traffic. Achieving clean air requires millions of people to decide to travel differently around our cities and towns, and each person will, one day, make the different choice for the first time. Our aim is to inspire thousands of people take the decision to give a different action a try on Clean Air Day.
As with last year’s campaign, all you local advocates for clean air will know what specific actions to promote to best achieve clean air in your community. Here are 10 ideas, inspired by local campaigns in 2017, to encourage people to try a clean air action on Thursday 21 June.
- Take it EV. Encourage electric car drivers who are passionate about EVs to take a colleague or a neighbour for a spin, aiming to convert 100,000 more drivers to choose an EV when they upgrade.
- Clean up the school run. When St Dunstan’s Primary School in King’s Heath organised a walking bus for the BBC2 Fighting For Air programme, PM2.5 levels dropped by 30% in one day due to fewer cars at the school gate.
- Meet virtually. Your colleagues are bright, otherwise they wouldn’t be working with you. They’re so bright they can have productive meetings without being in the same room. Challenge teams to meet by video or teleconference instead of driving.
- Giveaway a freebie. (and tell us so we can promote it). Could your company give away free bus tickets, cycle hire, car club membership or free breakfasts for cycling and running commuters?
- Breathe easy indoors. Air pollutants that originate and stay inside our homes are perhaps less publically known. We can encourage colleagues to give each other a plant that is great at catching common indoor pollutants, prompting people to explore the issue further.
- Car park takeover. If people can be encouraged to leave the car at home for the day, they can be rewarded by turning the car park in to a green oasis, with pop up food outlets for lunch.
- Walk this way. Freely available websites and apps help people to find the local walking or cycling routes with the cleanest air. One local authority promoted their website and tracked 11,000 route searches on Clean Air Day 2017.
- Scan your Van Plan. Vans travel 75 billion km on UK roads in a typical year. 95% are diesel, but electric models are increasingly available. Check whether your suppliers can make fewer deliveries to your site, or upgrade their fleet to include EVs, especially in built-up areas.
- Smart online shoppers. Some city centre workplaces tell me that 50% of all the deliveries handled by their post-rooms are online shopping deliveries for their staff. There are now many services that arrange smarter, less polluting drop offs in parcel collection points in train stations or local shops on the way home. Try the Cross River Partnership’s Click Collect map of pick up points. https://clickcollect.london/
- Buddy up. If Clean Air Day 2017 taught us anything, it is that change is easier if we try together. Maybe enthusiastic cyclists and runners, or regular walkers who know the streets like the back of their hand can accompany newbies on their first run, walk or cycle and make the change that little bit easier.
Whatever action you choose, please do take advantage of the national media campaign on 21 June to promote a clean air action in your community. We know from 2017 that your efforts really do make change happen.
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Clean Air Day