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Air pollution – a challenge most people don’t know how to tackle

Air pollution – a challenge most people don’t know how to tackle

Air pollution affects everyone, every day and has far-reaching consequences for health, wellbeing and the environment. It is something many people are aware of but very few know how to tackle.

A recent survey showed that 92% of adults think that reducing poor air quality should be a priority for the UK and yet 65% said they don’t know who to turn to for information and advice on air pollution. The new Clean Air Hub, launched this week, aims to help tackle the gap in information. 

83% of adults surveyed said they believe that their health is impacted by outdoor air pollution. They may well be right – recent research shows that poor quality air has an impact on every organ in the body – a recent study showing it causes harm from head to toe, including dementia, heart and lung disease, fertility problems and reduced intelligence.

It’s in the interest of businesses and organisations all over the UK to clean up our air because, as well as numerous other benefits, it improves employee health and wellbeing and reduces absenteeism. 

In the same way that businesses are tackling climate change and carbon emissions, it’s time to start acting on air quality. The good news is that businesses can make a difference – and be at the forefront of doing so.

Making changes to surface transport, which is responsible for almost one quarter of UK CO2 emissions, is one of the best and most straightforward places to start.   The two most popular actions the public expects from the government and business are switching fleets to electric vehicles (27%) and levying access charges for the most polluting vehicles in towns and cities (22%). Many businesses are setting the former in motion and it is expected that electric vehicle ownership will continue to surge.

But while sanctions can be part of the solution they can also be alienating. Incentives, on the other hand, can give positive motivation that makes people feel good about changing their behaviour and want to do more. This Clean Air Day, why not consider rewarding active and sustainable travel or other activities that encourage your people to leave their cars at home? 

In 2017 and 2018 we worked with SRM, Bologna’s mobility authority, to do just that. SRM wanted to improve air quality and reduce congestion in their city. They decided to try a different, positive approach: encouraging active travel and reducing single-occupancy car journeys. They had tried banning the use of polluting vehicles during the day, which had been unpopular with citizens, and wanted to see if incentives would be more effective than penalties. Bella Mossa got tens of thousands of people leaving their cars at home and received worldwide attention for its use of green incentives to reward sustainable travel behaviours.  

Clean air is not a lost cause – change is possible and one of the best ways to start is to reward small changes in behaviour, over time creating new habits.

    BetterPoints behaviour change programmes get people more physically active and travelling more sustainably. Ask us for a demo today.