Three cheers for Clean Air Day

Primary five pupils pose with umbrellas and a Clean Air Day Banner in their playground

School pupils in Edinburgh have helped mark Clean Air Day 2022 by pledging their own clean air goals.

On Thursday (16 June) children from Sciennes Primary School were joined by Environmental Protection Scotland, who coordinate Clean Air Day in Scotland, to call for action on air pollution.

This year, Clean Air Day highlights the negative impact poor air quality can have on our health, encouraging people to leave the car at home and take alternative, more sustainable modes of transport like walking, cycling or public transport where possible.

Sciennes was the first primary school in Edinburgh to set up a ‘bike bus’ – where children, parents and marshals group together to cycle, walk or wheel along an agreed route to school. It was also amongst the first nine schools to introduce ‘School Streets’, which restricts cars outside the gates at the start and end of the day to create safe and welcoming environments for travel by foot, bike or wheel.

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener, joined pupils on Thursday to find out about their efforts to travel sustainably, as well as sharing some of the work to improve air quality and support environmentally friendly travel across Edinburgh. This includes a Low Emission Zone, which was formally introduced on 31 May and will limit the most polluting motor vehicles in the city centre.

He said: 

We all have a right to breathe clean air and today we’re reminded just how important that is to our health and wellbeing. I’m proud to see our youngest residents engaged in the conversation about better air quality – they will be the catalysts for change.

We owe it to future generations to do everything we can to create a cleaner, greener city for everyone. Thankfully there’s already lots going on – just last month the Council introduced a Low Emission Zone in Edinburgh, which will tackle air pollution in the densely populated city centre, with knock-on improvements to air quality expected across the wider city area. This will save lives.

This is just one of a number of tools at our disposal to reduce air pollution. From investment in public transport, including bringing the tram to Newhaven, to transforming the city centre and areas around Edinburgh through our 20-minute neighbourhood programme, which encourages people to travel locally in ways that are cleaner, greener and improve our wellbeing, and progressing major walking, wheeling and cycling projects like George Street and City Centre West to East Link, I want to support people to make healthy, sustainable transport choices.

John Bynorth, Policy and Communications Officer at Environmental Protection Scotland said: 

The main thing we’re focusing on with this year’s national air quality campaign is that air pollution affects every part of your body. A lot of people know about the impacts relating to conditions like asthma, bronchitis and heart and lung disease but there’s emerging evidence that it affects your brain and cognitive ability and there’s research into how it affects unborn babies in pregnancy.

It’s really fantastic what Edinburgh’s doing with Clean Air Day, particularly so soon after the launch of the Low Emission Zone, which is going to make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of people in the Capital.

Lucy Gallagher, Acting Head Teacher of Sciennes Primary School, said:

We are very pleased to continue our support for Clean Air Day to raise awareness of children's right to good health and to promote active travel. Our young people know that air pollution can harm the human body. They also know that young people are even more at risk and so they want to speak out to make a difference!  We would like all our children to have clean air every day on their safe and active route to school. 

Activities have been taking place in schools around the Capital in the lead-up to Clean Air Day. Pupils from Stenhouse, Craiglockhart and St Mary’s RC Leith primary schools have each designed clean air banners for their school gates as part of a dedicated poster competition launched jointly by SEPA and the Council. Blackhall and St Mary’s East London Street primary schools have created banners through Our Amazing Air, a learning programme run by Glasgow Science Centre and SEPA.

On Thursday, children from Preston Street Primary School shared their ‘Clean Air Heroes’ with each other before cheering on classmates leaving school by foot, wheel or bike and at Canal View Primary School an air quality sensor was installed this week so pupils can learn about air pollution.

A new, dedicated webpage, Future Edinburgh, was also established this week to highlight projects underway or in planning that aim to address climate change, population growth and poverty, as well as tackling issues like air pollution and congestion. The page provides information on the plans and strategies underpinning these ambitions – City Plan 2030, City Mobility Plan and Net Zero 2030.

Amongst initiatives are the development of 20-minute neighbourhoods to create a network of healthier, greener and thriving local areas where everyone can meet most of their daily needs within a short walk, wheel or cycle from their home, City Centre Transformation and Trams to Newhaven. Several major active travel projects are in the pipeline including George Street and First New Town, West Edinburgh Link and City Centre West to East Link, which is currently under construction.

Find out more on the Council website.

Published: June 16th 2022