Reflection’s on 2019’s Clean Air Day in Scotland – engaging with local communities on improving air quality
Thursday 20 June was national Clean Air Day (CAD). Across the UK, hundreds of community-led groups, businesses and council representatives came together to recognise the importance of good air quality, and draw attention to the ongoing challenge of reducing harmful air pollution levels in busy towns and cities.
Amongst the many organisations participating in this event were members of Ricardo’s air quality team, based in Glasgow. CAD 2019 proved to be a busy one, with several members of the local team having been invited to city centre events in both Aberdeen and Glasgow. Despite June being a busy time for our consultants, who are usually hunkered down in the office, beavering away to complete client work and deliver on pending deadlines – the team took time out to go out into the local community and help draw attention to the importance of putting in place mechanisms to deliver and promote good air quality, whilst also talking to people about specific projects Ricardo is involved in.
In Aberdeen, our AQ team was represented by consultants, Sam Copsey and Ashleigh Norrie, who were lucky enough to enjoy wonderful sunny weather as they manned a visitor stall in St Nicholas Square. Amongst the items displayed on the stall, included Ricardo PM sensor equipment – giving visitors to the stand the chance to see Particulate Matter measured indicatively in real time with the values displayed on its screen.
The event in Aberdeen was attended by various groups and businesses involved in clean air technologies and initiatives designed to reduce air pollution and improve air quality. In attendance was John Bynorth of Environmental Protection Scotland, a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Local car hire provider, Co-Wheels, were also in attendance – promoting the benefits of pay-as-you-go car usage to reduce the number of individual vehicles on the road. Representatives from First Bus were also there, handing out free day passes to encourage locals to use public transport more often, rather than their own respective vehicles. Added to that, there were two electric and hydrogen vehicles on show at the Aberdeen event – providing a taste of what could be the norm for vehicle travel in the future.
Aberdeen City Council gave out free spider plants as a way of showing how small actions can help improve air quality – who doesn’t love a freebie! In addition, Aberdeenshire Council had a stall to promote ‘GetAbout’, an initiative by the GetAbout Partnership that promotes sustainable travel. A local primary school were also invited to learn about Clean Air Day.
In Glasgow, Stephen Stratton, Nicola Masey, Victoria Thomson and myself, manned a Ricardo stall in George Square, showcasing the Scottish Air Quality Database (SAQD) and website, on behalf of the Scottish Government. Similar to the Aberdeen team, on the stall, we displayed PM sensor equipment to show visitors levels across the day. We also had a large flat screen TV, showcasing the features of the SAQD website and information on the forthcoming Scottish Government AQ app. The app utilises data from the SAQD website to provide users with updates on changing air quality conditions in their local area and Air Quality Management Area details.
Before the event officially kicked off, Stephen and I had a photo call with MSP Rosanna Cunningham (Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform) and Councillor Anna Richardson. Both had been interested in work Glasgow CC and the Ricardo AQ team, were doing in the run up to Clean Air Day. Glasgow CC representatives and I had visited local primary schools in and around Glasgow in the run up to CAD, to promote the event through Citizen Science classes. (The term ‘Citizen Science’ refers to the involvement of the public in scientific research via community-driven research or global investigations.)
During Glasgow CAD, the road in front of the City Chambers, bordering George Square, was closed for use as a picnic area for the entirety of the event. Over 150 Pupils from five Glasgow primary schools were invited to take part in an event-wide treasure hunt, with each team having to interact with the various event tables. In the quest for a star stamp to add to their treasure hunt collection, pupils who visited Ricardo’s stall, were tasked with answering questions about air quality by Victoria and Nicola.
All in all, CAD 2019 was a great way to interact with the public to highlight the great work the team is involved with in running and maintaining the SAQD website and development of the forthcoming app, as well as drawing attention to the importance of good air quality more broadly.
It was encouraging to see so many interested stakeholders coming together to share ideas on how we can meet the ambitious targets Scottish Government has put in place to improve future air quality in Scottish towns and cities. Hopefully, next year, there will be even more councils getting involved in Clean Air Day events throughout the UK and much like this year, we hope to be there too.