6 things you can do about air pollution

Posted by Fran G — 7 June 2017 at 11:03am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace / Kristian Buus

We’ve all heard the stats by now: Air pollution is terrible for our health and is linked to strokes, heart disease and diabetes in adults. Children are particularly at risk of lung diseases like asthma and more than 1,000 nurseries across the UK are close to roads with illegal levels of air pollution. Diesel cars emit 10 times more harmful fumes than trucks or buses.

It can seem overwhelming to tackle this enormous problem. Diesel cars that emit up to 18 times the official NOx limit in real-world conditions are still being sold by the likes of Nissan and Renault. And public opinion seems to generally agree that the government is failing to adequately address the problem.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! There are plenty of things that we can do to tackle air pollution, across the UK and in our local communities. Read on to find out what you can do…

1. Write to or phone a car company

It’s right to look to our government to take air pollution seriously, but let’s not forget about the role car companies had in producing the problem. The car industry lobbied hard for years against standards designed to reduce pollution. What’s more, many of them cheated or manipulated industry tests to make out that their cars emit far fewer toxic diesel fumes than is permitted. They lied and misled consumers — and now we’re all paying the price.

But car companies can now do the right thing and ditch diesel once and for all — and switch to 100% electric instead. We already have the technology to make reliable and cleaner electric cars: if car companies commit to investing in electric now, it will further bring down costs and increase electric infrastructure for us all to use.

If you own a car, or even if you don’t, car companies need to hear from us. Send them an email today telling them to be ahead of the curve and make the switch now. If you have a few extra spare moments, why not give them a call, too? And if you haven’t already, make sure you sign the petition and share it with your friends.

2. If you can, walk and cycle more often, or use public transport

Ultimately, if we truly want to tackle both air pollution and climate change, we need to use our cars less. So, while this isn’t possible for everyone of course, try to walk or cycle somewhere instead of driving there, or take public transport. It’s better for our air and environment, and you get bonus fitness points!

3. Consider switching to electric

Electric cars are better for our air and for the environment. Most major car companies are already producing electric models, and many of them are now getting great mileage. Charging networks are growing and with a continued push towards renewable energy in our power system, in the long run electric cars will be powered by clean, green sources.

But to bring the costs down, we need the car industry to really commit to this change so they can make more affordable models for all of us.

If you are in a position to buy an electric car, here are 5 reasons why you should definitely do so:

4. Take part in local activities tackling air pollution

Local communities are getting involved in efforts to fight air pollution in their areas all around the country. Check out these groups in LeedsLondon and Sheffield — and there are lots more across the UK.

If you’re keen to get involved, talk to your friends and neighbours about it — they might already know about groups doing things around air pollution or you could form one with them! Search Twitter or google “clean air” initiatives in your area — most major cities (where pollution is at its worst) now have local or even council initiatives.

Or join a local Greenpeace group to get involved! There are 60 groups across the UK and most hold monthly meetings. Just visit this page to find out where your local group is and who to contact. Local groups always welcome new members and there is no long term commitment needed — just show up and get involved in the issues that interest you!

5. Join the VW class action suit

If you own or lease a VW, Audi, Skoda or Seat that was affected by the emissions scandal, you might want to join the class action suit that law firm Harcus Sinclair UK Limited is leading.

The claim is on behalf of a group of affected car owners, and is a response to the defeat device and the impact that it has had on Volkswagen owners. Before you buy a car it must pass various tests designed to ensure it is fit for use, including things like crash-testing and road handling but also, crucially, emissions testing. The testing process relies heavily on the honesty of manufacturers: often the tests are carried out ‘in-house’ and only observed by independent inspectors. The Euro 5 standard (introduced in 2009) included a significantly lower limit for the production of NOx by diesel vehicles than previous iterations of the rules, and it is these rules that Volkswagen breached.

To find out more and to join the claim, visit: http://www.vwemissionsaction.com/

6. Push politicians to take action on air pollution

We need government action too. Theresa May’s cabinet so far has produced a very mediocre plan outlining how it will tackle the problem. It’s not enough.

Politicians need to hear more from their constituents about this issue, how it’s affecting our lives and what we’re worried about to propel them into action. You can email your MP, speak to your local councillors, and have your say in the government’s national consultation, too.

Air pollution affects us all — but if we all do even one small thing to tackle it we can get ahead of the problem.

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