When fluffy is meaningful

Street Planting by a group of volunteers

Whilst September has been a busy month for us, it is always worthwhile keeping track of what good work is being done in local communities across the UK to improve local air quality. We didn’t have to look too far into this week, because right in our own backyard we learned of a couple of great initiatives right here in London.

To start with was the news that the Mayor has committed £6 million to create Low Emission Neighbourhoods across London. And, he is inviting bids for this funding for the likes of car-free streets, as reducing emissions from construction machinery.

Meanwhile, across in Lambeth, partnership working between the Borough Council and sustainable transport charity Sustains to deliver air quality education. This will work with schools to help children understand the chemistry of air pollution, its effects, and to develop campaigns to do something about it in their area.

It’s easy to write these initiatives off as fluffy, and nice-to-have. Especially when bigger action can be taken. But there is a value in this work. By giving communities and local councils the opportunity, capability, and the funding to deliver meaningful changes on the ground, they are more likely to become embedded in the communities that they are targeting.

Think about this. If a friend or neighbour recommends that you try out a restaurant or go see a particular movie, you are more likely to try it than if it was recommended by the government, right? Here, a similar logic is being applied to air quality interventions. So, things that are done to enable this community work are welcome.

Where the problems are found are in scaling up these solutions so that they have a meaningful impact across a city, or nation. Previous attempts at this such as Agenda 21 have found this to be a challenging task. Community work is not easy to scale. This is the challenge for national and local government – to back initiatives that are local enough to succeed but are able to scale.

We discussed just this, and many other things, with many of you at the National Air Quality Conference last Thursday (4/10/18). Thank you so much to all of you who popped by to say hello. We had a fantastic day, and we will be in touch soon.