On 21 June people around the UK will take part in Clean Air Day – a day of action on air pollution. Clean Air Day is all about empowering individuals to avoid our exposure to air pollution and reduce the amount of air pollution we create.
Air pollution impacts all of our health – in fact it costs society almost as much as obesity and smoking. Experts, such as Professor Frank Kelly from Kings College London, have found that ‘all of the organs in the body seem to be affected in some way by breathing air pollution’. It can make some existing illnesses (such as asthma) worse, and it can increase the risk of other illnesses. It’s scary stuff!
The good news is that there are loads of easy things we can do to reduce the amount of air pollution we breathe, and reduce how much we’re creating. As young people, we’re not just the future, we’re the present. It’s time for us to use our voices and do what we can to protect ourselves, our families and the environment. Here are 5 easy ways you can do that on Clean Air Day:
Leave the car at home
Cars and vans are one of the main causes of outdoor air pollution, and studies have also found that people in cars are often exposed to more air pollution than cyclists or pedestrians. Why not leave your car at home and walk, cycle, run, skip or scoot to work, school or uni instead?
Stick to side streets
If you are out walking, cycling or running and are worried about breathing in air pollution, try sticking to side streets or green spaces. It’s been found that avoiding main roads and taking quieter routes can reduce your exposure to air pollution by up to 20%.
Switch your engines off (or get your friends or family to!)
Walking, running or cycling isn’t an option for every journey, but even when driving there are things you can do to reduce air pollution. If you’re out and about in your car, switch your engine off when stationery whenever it’s safe to do so (for example, when you’re parked outside the school gates, pulled over waiting to pick someone up). This will help to improve air quality around you.
Reduce your deliveries
Have you ever noticed how many delivery vans drive down your street each day? Food, clothes, cosmetics, gadgets – we can get everything delivered to our homes at the click of a button. Try to reduce the number of deliveries you get, or arrange for your parcels to be delivered to a pick-up point in your corner shop. This will reduce the number of vans clogging up your road, and help reduce local air pollution.
Spread the word
If we don’t talk about issues like air pollution, how can we ever solve them? We’ve seen huge amounts of progress being made in tackling plastic pollution since people started talking about that – so now it’s time to do the same and start talking about clean air!
Talk to your friends, parents, neighbours, family about the issue, tweet about it, Instagram about it – get your voice and your concerns out there! We have loads of free resources available on www.cleanairday.org.uk to help you start conversations, including our Social Media Toolkit and Youth Toolkit. Follow us on @cleanairdayuk to find out more.
I originally wrote this piece as a guest blog for UK Youth. You can read the original here.