The air we breathe (World Environment Day)

The air we breathe (World Environment Day)

This year’s World Environment Day theme is all around beating air pollution. It made us think about our city, and so we are taking a look at how Southwark is working to reduce air pollution across the borough, and what all of us living and working in Elephant & Castle can do to help make our air cleaner and safer for everyone.

More than 10 million people live in London, and as the population increases, air quality in the capital continues to be a concern. With this in mind, councils, boroughs, schools and organisations are implementing projects that will reduce the amount of toxic air we breathe.

Across the capital, multiple initiatives are already underway. The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) was launched in April, enforcing penalties to those travelling in vehicles that emit excessive amounts of dangerous nitrogen dioxide in central London.

Secondly, Breathe London is a new cross-sector project that sees sensor pods measuring air pollution distributed across the city. Additionally, two specially-equipped Google Street View cars will also measure air quality while mapping London, and sensors are planning to be used in wearable tech given to schoolchildren – all part of one of the most ambitious technological mapping campaigns in recent times. You can read more about this fascinating initiative here.

Meanwhile, Southwark Council is working to combat air pollution on a local level, with several proactive projects. The implementation of anti-idling enforcement came into play last year in the borough, giving council parking officers the power to issue an £80 penalty to the drivers of parked vehicles who refuse to switch off their engines when asked. Southwark has also been the first borough in London to install lamppost-powered electric vehicle charging points, encouraging the use of electric vehicles.

Schools across the borough have been working with the council on multiple schemes including School Streets, which bans motor traffic from streets around schools at certain times of the day and The Cleaner Air for Southwark’s Schools Network, where schools can learn about air quality and how to help reduce pollution.

On top of these projects, in March, pupils at the Charlotte Sharman Primary School took part in a week-long trial where they wore modified backpacks that measured the air quality a child is exposed to on an average day. The data from this trial has been sent to King’s College to discover where schoolchildren are most at risk from air pollution, and how to tackle this in the future.

So, what can residents do to help? Southwark council is urging all residents to commit to #onething to reduce pollution – why not share your #onething on social media? Here are just a few small changes you could make to your daily routine to improve air quality in the borough:

–    Leave the car at home – stay active and help the environment by walking or cycling.

–    Take public transport – cut down your car usage by taking the train, bus or Tube.

–    Car Club – buddy up with colleagues, friends or family on long car journeys.

–    Choose ‘Click and Collect’ – to help reduce the number of delivery vans on our streets.

–    Use less gas and electricity at home – check out advice from the Energy Saving Trust here

For more information about air quality initiatives in Southwark, please visit: https://www.southwark.gov.uk/environment/air-quality