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How BetterPoints and Sutton Council rewarded active commutes to improve air quality

How BetterPoints and Sutton Council rewarded active commutes to improve air quality

The Government has this week published its Clean Air Strategy 2019. It’s well known that the quality of the air we breathe has a major impact on health, as well as on wellbeing and quality of life.

As the report highlights, transport is not the only cause of air pollution, but it is a significant contributor. Poor air quality reduces life expectancy, mainly due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Short-term exposure (over hours or days) to elevated levels of air pollution can also cause a range of health impacts, including effects on lung function, exacerbation of asthma, increases in respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions and mortality.

The solution to the problem, which is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, requires change across society – businesses, statutory agencies and individuals.

It’s easy to think that small changes made by individuals won’t make a difference but at BetterPoints we believe that every single change matters and that small changes make a big difference. That’s why our programmes reward small changes in behaviour, such as walking or cycling to school or work instead of taking the car.

We recently partnered with the London Borough of Sutton to help improve air quality in the Borough. The Sutton Plan is all about making Sutton a better place for all who live and work there and improving air quality is an important part of this. 

How does BetterPoints fit in? The Sutton Plan BetterPoints programme was set up to encourage and reward active and sustainable travel in the borough. More active and sustainable travel means fewer car journeys, lower emissions and improved air quality.

Between July and December 2018, residents in a geofenced area could earn BetterPoints for walking, cycling, running or scooting to work or school. Each morning participants received air quality messaging via the BetterPoints app timeline to encourage them to think about the impact of their mode and route choices.

To get going there was a bonus of 500 BetterPoints for completing an activity in the launch week and motivating messaging was delivered via the participants’ app timeline throughout the programme. Gamification features were also used to add interest and make the whole thing fun and engaging.

A summer Treasure Hunt aimed at families got people out and about exploring their local parks whilst looking for virtual treasure. Treasure hunts put the ‘game’ into ‘gamification’ and are fun, free activities for all the family. Being active in parks and open spaces is excellent for health and wellbeing and the treasure hunts were enjoyed by many.

Regular ‘Draw Breath’ Prize Draws were held with BetterTickets being awarded for active commutes. Those completing three active commutes over half a mile per week had the chance to win £10 of BetterPoints each week and those actively commuting three times a week were entered into a further draw to win £25 of BetterPoints.

For participants opting for public transport instead of driving a fortnightly ‘Bus-is-Better’ prize draw also took place with the chance to win £25 in BetterPoints.

Participants had the chance to form teams and take part in team earning challenges to earn extra rewards – working together is a brilliant way of giving people an extra nudge!

Peter got in touch to tell us that the programme had encouraged him to get more active and not use his car so much. ‘I feel better knowing I’m doing my little bit to stop us all choking to death on car fumes,’ he says, ‘it is less than three minutes for me to drive to the supermarket to pick up a couple of bags of shopping. It came as a bit of a surprise that, with all the traffic congestion on the local roads, it actually didn’t take much longer to walk.’

In total from June to November through the programme Sutton residents travelled sustainably instead of using the car for almost 19,000 miles. We’re currently analysing the data and the final total is expected to be even higher! They burned almost two million calories and most importantly saved around 7.25 tonnes of CO2 compared to driving. So, small changes really can make a big difference to health, to wellbeing and to the very air that we breathe.


To find out more about all the features of the BetterPoints app and Behaviour Change Management System and how they can be applied to a wide range of interventions request a demo.

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