Today is National Clean Air Day - a day to promote solutions that can be used to reduce air pollution. Clean Air Day is coordinated by the Global Action Plan, in order to raise awareness of air pollution, and provides a prompt for individuals and societies to reflect upon their own experiences of local air quality, and a time to consider how we, as individuals, can take initiative in making our environment and society a cleaner place.

This year, Clean Air day is choosing to focus on the impact of vehicles, and indoor pollution. One of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ advice for how individuals can improve air quality in Britain is by reducing idling: the act of running an engine when a vehicle is stationary. Local authorities are entitled to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who leave their engines running unnecessarily while their vehicles are stationary on a road. However, in reality, this proves difficult to implement, therefore it is crucial that individuals take initiative when driving, to act responsibly by limiting engine idling.

Road transport has continued to be a primary contributor of NO2 levels and the Brighton and Hove Air Quality report for 2017 revealed that 26 out of 66 air quality monitoring stations across Brighton exceeded the legal annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. To combat this, Breathe in Brighton, the air quality campaign organised by Argyll Environmental and Brighton Peace and Environment Centre are launching an anti-idling campaign. The aim of the campaign is to myth bust common misconceptions about leaving your engine running and work collaboratively with the community, schools and the council to support the education of the problem, whilst identifying viable solutions in the process. As part of the campaign, we are launching a billboard advert on Queen’s Road in Brighton to highlight shocking facts such as “leaving your engine running for a minute could fill up 150 balloons with toxic gases”. The Local Authority has supported the campaign and we hope that it will further emphasise the need for action on engine idling in Brighton and Hove.

The impact that idling has on emission levels is often underacknowledged. An idling car releases more harmful emissions than the actual act of driving, due to the release of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. Additionally, idling your vehicle for two minutes releases the same amount of fuel as driving a vehicle for one mile. Therefore, less pollution would be emitted if an individual turned off their engine and restarted it after a minute, than if they left the engine running. Additionally, reducing idling is not only environmentally efficient, but often is more economically beneficial for the driver too.

Recent action against car pollution has also been taken across Sussex, as national awareness of the issue continues to grow. Last March, after the local lobbying of pupils and support from Brighton and Hove City Council, St Luke’s Primary School were given permission to close the street during school collection hours in the morning and afternoon. This was part of a campaign to improve local air quality and road safety. Sustrans, a charity who supported the implementation of the closures, hope that this is just the beginning of increasing action taken against poor air pollution, particularly around schools where children’s health is increasingly impacted by idling cars.

Clean Air Day is a significant day for Britain, nationally as well as on a local scale. It provides an opportunity for Brighton to reflect on how we can create a cleaner, and more sustainable environment by addressing and raising awareness of the key issues preventing good air quality.

If you would like further guidance on how to reduce air pollution as both an individual and as a business, the Clean Air Day website has a number of free resources and toolkits. https://www.cleanairday.org.uk

For further details about Breathe in Brighton and our upcoming anti-idling campaign launch, visit our twitter page here - https://twitter.com/BreatheBrighton

Natalie Cleverly
Breathe in Brighton Intern on behalf of the University of Exeter

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