Clean Air Day 2018 is on 21st June giving sustainability professionals the opportunity to bring the issue of air pollution to the attention of their workplaces. Air pollution affects all of us at work, home and on our travels. The pollutants in the air we breathe cause heart and lung diseases, shortens the life of around 29,000 people every year and costs the NHS around £20bn. Whilst it has become commonplace to employers to focus on climate change and the management of carbon emissions, it is time that companies turned some attention to air pollution.

Around two thirds of people in the UK are aware that their day to day actions can have a direct impact on the air quality in the local environment, less than 20% claimed to have taken any action to reduce this impact in a recent national survey. Few are taking the opportunity to protect their health by lifestyle changes such as opting to cycle, walking a route previously driven or buying more environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Employers can address this knowledge-to-action gap by providing information on the actions that employees can take to reduce and protect themselves from air pollution, and by encouraging staff to take pollution-busting action. There are a number of accessible resources on the internet for example posters and e-leaflets that make it possible for every workspace to embrace and act to educate their staff.

There are also many actions that can be incorporated into business practices which will assist companies to minimise impact on air quality including:

  • Virtual meetings via video or teleconference instead of travelling;
  • Reducing the amount of printed documents;
  • Incentivising staff who change their commute to a more environmentally friendly mode or public transport;
  • Encouraging suppliers to make changes such as limiting the number of deliveries to businesses or changing delivery vehicles to electric;
  • Discouraging the use of fuels that have the greatest impact on the environment;
  • Opening windows instead of powering air conditioning:
  • Ensuring equipment is properly maintained and powering down anything that is not being used.

Clean Air Day provides the opportunity for the whole country to come together and improve air quality through collective action and to make changes that can be perpetuated. Let us all seize on this opportunity on 21st June 2018 to clean up the air in and around our places of work.

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