- Cara Fielden
How we can reduce air pollution in ways that benefit our wellbeing
Did you know that there are 4.2 billion deaths per year as a result of outdoor air pollution? That’s a ridiculously large number, don’t you agree? You might be wondering why we’re telling you this - well, this month we saw World Clean Air Day. Seems niche, we know. But actually it’s a really important topic when it comes to wellbeing, especially because of the impact it can have on our general health! Not only that, but there are ways to reduce air pollution that involve activities that could also benefit our wellbeing. Two birds with one stone! Let’s jump right in.
Air pollution is on the rise, and lots of environmental organisations are raising awareness about the damaging effects it can have. And whilst we want to do the same, as we mentioned, this post will have a bit more of a wellbeing spin on it (otherwise, it probably wouldn’t make sense from our point of view!). Damage to our environment can actually be detrimental when it comes to our mental health, as lots of people are experiencing something known as ‘climate’ or ‘eco’ anxiety, in which a person senses fear, tension or worry around the climate crisis, or "a chronic fear of environmental doom".
Doing things within our control to help reduce air pollution could actually decrease the anxiety many of us feel about the environmental issues the planet is currently facing - air pollution being a big one. It’s not a secret that air pollution damages our physical health, too. It can worsen and increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. That’s more than enough reason to want to make a change, right?!
What can we do to help?
Use public transport
This is probably the most obvious thing we can be doing. Statista said about the issue ‘Road vehicles are by far the main source of transportation emissions in the UK, accounting for roughly 90 percent of the total in 2020’. Encouraging people to take public transport over their personal vehicles means fewer cars on the road, which means less emissions. One bus can replace a minimum of thirty cars! It’s also clear that cars take up a whole load of space, which causes more traffic and congestion. So consider taking the bus or train to your next destination, and this also gives us more time to do less stressful things than driving. Read a book, journal, listen to your favourite podcast or playlist - all good things for our wellbeing!
Recycle and reuse
The more materials we recycle, the less ends up in landfill, where air pollution is a higher risk. Recycling reduces the need for power, meaning that less fossil fuels are burned and therefore less pollution fills the air. This one may seem like a long shot for our wellbeing, but first of all, just knowing you’re helping the environment can fill us with satisfaction! Not to mention that it’ll help us feel like we have a purpose, and looking after the planet is definitely our responsibility. Having purpose can also reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, you can read more on that here.
Cut down on your meat and dairy intake
This one might not seem very obvious, but the connection between eating animal products and air quality is extremely important. According to the Clean Air Strategy 201, ‘Scientists have found that animal agriculture is actually the largest producer of air pollutants at over 50%.’ Cattle and dairy farming alone is responsible for a large number of ammonia emissions, which cause both air and water pollution. If you want to read more about the impact of dairy on the planet, click here. Eating a more plant-based diet has so many benefits for our mental and physical wellbeing, so this one seems like a given!
Cut down on journeys
As we mentioned above, cars are a big contributor to the emissions that cause air pollution. So if public transport isn’t available to you, why not ask for a ride from your bestie, or travel along with your colleagues to work? You could even brush the dust off your bicycle, walking shoes, or roller skates! And you know how trying new things is good for our brain power…
Final note from us: We all want to do the best we can for the planet. It’s ours and so many other species' homes - and a lot of the ways to improve damage from things like air pollution is in our control. So, if we can, why not try a few of these things out. Just knowing you’re making a difference is significant enough to both the environment and our wellbeing.
World Health Organization (2022). Air pollution. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1
Ridango (2022). Five reasons why using public transport is better for the environment Available at: https://ridango.com/blog/five-reasons-why-using-public-transport-is-better-for-the-environment/
Department For Environmental and Rural Affairs (2019). Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/770715/clean-air-strategy-2019.pdf