International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies

Today marks the very first International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. It emphasises the need to make further efforts to improve air quality, including reducing air pollution, to protect human health. 

World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year; either by bad outdoor air or indoor smoke. 

There are three main areas that we as individuals can do to help improve air quality: –

1) Switch to renewable energy

It is a known fact that coal is the worst among burning fossil fuels as it releases more carbon dioxide (CO²) per unit of energy than oil or gas; however more than a third of the world’s electricity is generated by coal. If more people switch to renewable energy, this can help reduce CO² emissions and also the toxic particulates which contribute to air pollution. 

2) Taking alternatives in transportation

As the majority of cars run on either petrol or diesel, they emit CO² and other gases like Nitrogen Dioxide (NO²) from the exhaust fumes and these all contribute to air pollution and climate change. 

Walking, cycling and taking public transport are alternatives to driving and encourage more active and healthy living. Car owners can also consider switching to electric cars and consuming renewable electricity to achieve zero-emissions both ‘at the pipe’ and from the power source. 

3) Act together as a community

There are many movements going-on initiated by environmental bodies like Friends of The Earth, Green Peace and Climate Tracker. We can act together as a community and help to enforce our governments to enact upon air quality issues. 

Our Managing Director Georgia Elliott-Smith is fighting for cleaner air. Georgia has initiated a legal challenge against the government’s decision to exclude waste incinerators from its new carbon trading scheme. You can read more about her challenge in the Guardian here:

Have you looked up to the sky today? Tell us what you think about air pollution. 

What we have learned from Plastic Free July?

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

“Just because you can’t see it; it doesn’t mean it’s not there”.

Have you ever realised how much waste we produce each day?  Do you know where your waste ends up? Most of the time we do not think much about our daily consumption of products and the associated waste but if we spend some time thinking about it logically, even though our waste disappears from our sight; it still exists somewhere on the planet. 

According to Greyer et al. (2017)1, as of 2015 an estimated 79% of global plastic waste was discarded in landfills or the natural environment, 12% was incinerated and only 9% recycled. Another publication issued by UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)2 in 2015 highlighted that on average 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year. These figures are alarming and as a citizen of Planet Earth, is there something we can do?

You might think the developing world is mainly responsible for poor waste practices, but the London average household recycling rate is less than 30%, despite around 80% of what we throw away being recyclable.

As we approach the end of Plastic Free July, I would like to share this shocking video of plastic waste discarded in the Mediterranean Sea: –

Here are a few ideas we can all try to help minimise plastic waste: –

  • Identify the types and quantity of plastic you use. Is there more you can recycle? Consider buying products or food in bulk to minimise excessive plastic packing.
  • Replace disposable products with reusable ones. For example, using reusable bags when shopping decreases single-use plastic bags but you could also try using reusable drinking straws, cutlery and coffee cups.
  • Switch to brands that use planet-friendly packaging and materials. More and more brands are switching to packaging made from recycled and / or biodegradable materials. Try to develop a habit of looking at the packaging / content label and choose wisely to help with reducing plastic waste.
  • Contact your favourite brands by social media or email asking them to reduce their packaging or change to more sustainable practices. You never know, you could be the tenth person to ask the same question that week and that’s how we start to show businesses there’s profit in being green.

Plastic waste reduction requires a shift in both industry and individual practices. We need to make employees and communities aware of the need to adopt the 5 Rs suggested by Bea Johnson (2013)3: –

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse / Repair
  • Recycle
  • Rot (applicable for compostable plastics only)

We can voice the need to reduce plastic waste to politicians and government who have the power to enact policies to reduce the production and consumption of plastic. For example, imposing bans on plastic products including single-use cups and cutlery and levying a green tax on certain single-use plastics. For any policies put in place, government and organisations should continuously monitor and evaluate the performance and communicate them openly to help curb plastic pollution in the environment.

1 Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R., & Law, K. L. (2017). Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, 3(7), e1700782.

2 Jambeck, J.R. et al. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), pp. 768-771. 

3 Johnson’s, Bea (2013). Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste