Leaving the car at home for the day can help us experience the joys of travelling actively by walking, cycling, wheeling or scooting instead. Paul Turner, our School Air Quality Officer, explores the little known facts about car use and the importance of choosing active and sustainable travel in improving the air we breathe.
We work with school communities across Sussex to develop their understanding of local air pollution and what we can all do to improve air quality.
Research shows that in the UK in 2020, there were 17 million households without access access to a car.
Many places, such as large cities, have even lower numbers.
We therefore know that many people manage their everyday journeys without a car.
So, shouldn't we all feel more confident to swap the car for active travel, even just for one day a week?
The inefficiency of owning a private car
It was recently reported that the average car spends 95% of its time parked.
Further research has revealed that 34% of the UK’s nitrous oxide air pollution comes from transport.
It is therefore vital for us to reduce the number of cars we own and use in order to reach net zero.
This will bring us one step closer to achieving a society where the way we travel creates healthier places and happier lives for everyone.
The wonderful experience of an active school run
As a parent, I choose not to drive my children to and from school.
Instead, we enjoy the wonderful experience of cycling.
We spot wildlife and name trees. We sing songs and talk about our days.
That’s all while raising our heart rate and preparing us for the day, or decompressing at the end of the day.
Walking and cycling is the healthier option when thinking about air pollution too.
It has been found that air pollution can be around 10 times higher inside a car than outside. The car concentrates the pollution by circulating the air.
Bringing air quality awareness into the classroom
Since 2019, Sustrans has run the Air Quality Sussex schools project.
This is in partnership with Sussex Air, and is funded by DEFRA.
Together, we have engaged more than 70 school communities with assemblies, workshops and practical activities.
The project develops pupils' understanding of local air pollution and, most importantly, what we can all do to improve the air we breathe.
In 2020, the project reached more than 35,000 young people.
To support our school activities, we developed a series of Air Quality Explorer videos.
Each video provides background information on an aspect of air pollution and suggests activities to complete with friends and family.
The Air Quality Explorers learn about the pollution that comes from vehicles. They take a look at the main gases and particulates that come out of a vehicle exhaust.
More air quality videos to explore
There’s a whole selection of videos to explore. They are full of facts about air quality in the UK and Air Quality Explorer challenges for all the family.
Protecting our planet for years to come
It is so important that we continue to learn about the air we breathe.
It is our duty to work hard to improve it and protect the precious environment around us.
By sharing this journey with children, we can empower them to look after our planet for years to come - one step, wheel or scoot at a time.