Air Pollution: The Solution

Want to know how to reduce your exposure to air pollution? Here's some tips that emerged whilst writing the book:

The Clean Air Blueprint: For You

• Read the blueprint for cities [scroll down] and start lobbying your local politicians – how are they doing on all those points? And if they are not doing any of them, why not? If they say they don’t have the budget, ask if they fine polluters and how that money is spent.

• Check out the government’s air quality measurements near you. Get an app that gives real-time air quality readings. Consider getting your own portable pollution monitor. Either way, educate yourself about the real pollution levels where you live and work.

• Before you burn anything – whether it’s fuel in a car or charcoal on a fire – ask yourself if you really need to, or if there is a viable zero-emissions alternative.

• Try to walk, cycle or use public transport rather than using cars for short journeys (and if you’re unfit or lazy, like me, consider an electric bicycle or scooter).

• If you live in a city, join an electric car club. If there isn’t one, write to one and tell them to come to your city.

• If you need to buy a car, check out the electric cars on the market (especially the second-hand electric and hybrid models) and the government grants available.

• Switch your home energy supplier to one that offers 100 per cent renewable electricity.

• Consider making your own renewable heat or energy, such as solar panels or ground or air-sourced heating.

• Do not install a wood-burning stove, if you live in a built-up area, no matter how ‘eco’ the marketing brochure claims it is. If you live in a log cabin in a forest, then fine, burn away.

• Talk to your local schools and nurseries about installing green walls, implementing ‘walking bus’ schemes, or School Street zones

• Don’t panic! Even if you live in a horribly polluted city, you can reduce your personal exposure. Walk or cycle on back streets rather than main roads. If you have to walk along a major road, walk on the building side of the pavement rather than the roadside kerb to reduce your nanoparticle exposure.

• Masks, air filters, pram filters – honestly, it’ s your call. They can help. If nothing else, they raise awareness and get people talking about the issue. But really, unless you live in a filtered environment all day long, you ’ re going to be exposed to pollution. So, do all the points above first. But by all means, do everything you can to protect yourself.

• Tell others to buy my book (shameless, I know!)

Want to go a step further, and take the fight to your city authority? Or perhaps you work for the city authority and want to know the best practice policies for reducing air pollution? Here's a checklist of actions for your local politicians and decision-makers:

The Clean Air Blueprint: For Cities

• Ban all petrol and diesel cars from city centres as quickly as possible – copy the Paris Crit’ Air scheme as a means of doing so – and pay for it, and the points below, by fining the biggest emitters.

• Replace fleets of diesel buses with electric buses.

• Invest in walking and cycling infrastructure, specifically pavements, protected cycle lanes (physically separated from traffic) and bicycle parking.

• Pedestrianise your major shopping streets during daylight hours – research shows that local businesses benefit as footfall is increased.

• Green your city: plant trees, protect parks and require buildings to install green roofs.

• Install green walls besides busy roads, schools and hospitals.

• Set a renewable energy target. Aim for 100 per cent renewable energy procurement by 2030, with a step-by-step five-year plan for how to get there. Require planning permission for new buildings to include on-site renewable energy such as panels.

• Greatly increase the number of electric car-charging points. Consider the retro-fit of existing infrastructure such as turning lampposts into EV chargers on every street.

• Make city parking free for electric cars, in the short term.

• Ban solid-fuel burners such as wood-burning stoves and coal fires for domestic heating within built-up areas (unless alternative affordable heat sources are unavailable – in which case, sort that out first)

• Work with train authorities and national government on plans to move towards full railway electrification, replacing the diesel fleet.

• Port cities: require all ports to install ‘cold ironing’ , which plugs ships in to local power supplies while in port, rather than running their engines.

• No matter how good your clean air laws, back them up with enforcement; properly fund enforcement authorities.

• Implement ‘environmental justice’ schemes which identify the communities that suffer from the worst pollution, and weight the investment of all the above points in favour of those communities.