South Yorkshire stride on Clean Air Day

In recognition of National Clean Air Day this year PWLC’s STARS South Yorkshire Team have undertaken a huge one-day challenge - walking a 16 mile route passing through all 4 local authorities in the region while encouraging schools on or near the route to either join in the walk or run a ShoeShare event.

Thursday 21st June was Global Action Plan’s 2ndClean Air Day, with schools, workplaces and individuals across the nation undertaking activities to improve air quality both indoors and outdoors and spread the word about air pollution its causes and remedies.

Clean Air day is now more important than ever with recent research highlighting that the health damage associated with diesel vehicle emissions are around 20 times greater than electric vehicles and at least 5 times greater than those associated with petrol vehicles. The total health cost to the UK from cars and vans is £6 billion each year, with almost 90% of this coming from diesel vehicles.

Global Action Plan have identified that swapping 1 in 4 car journeys in urban areas for walking or cycling could save over £1.1 billion in health damage costs per year.

PWLC’s STARS South Yorkshire Team decided to do the walk on Clean Air Day in order to demonstrate both the importance of action for Clean Air and to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ - showing their schools how much they care about active and sustainable travel. The route will start in Rotherham, covering approximately 8 miles into Sheffield where they enjoyed lunch at Elsecar Heritage Centre. Followed by a ten-mile section in the afternoon between Elsecar (Barnsley) and Conisbrough (Doncaster). They were inspired in part by South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership’s 10 day active travel challenge.http://www.sysrp.co.uk/activetravelchallenge/

Schools located near the route were invited to join the walk for sections and schools in the region were encouraged to take part in some kind of walking activity on the day – a walk to school day, a daily mile or other step challenge. In addition to this the team linked up with Unicef and Clarks Shoes to promote the ShoeShare Scheme. As part of Unicefs Rights for Respecting Schools campaign pupils are asked to bring their family’s old and unwanted shoes into school – In partnership with Clarks Shoes these are then sent for re-use. For every tonne of shoes collected, a donation is made to Unicef which goes towards education programmes around the world.

This campaign ties air quality issues, working with schools and the promotion of walking together beautifully as shoes usually take quite a few years to decompose, running shoes, for example can take up to 1000 years to break down. When breaking down, organic shoe materials such as leather release a harmful greenhouse gas called methane, and this gas contributes to climate change. Therefore, throwing away our unwanted shoes will not help the climate change problem to go away but recycling them will reduce the negative environmental impact.

As if this wasn’t enough, another member of the Team chose to cycle the Way of the Roses on 20th June. The Way of the Roses is a 170-mile coast to coast route, mostly on quiet roads or off-road cycle paths. Starting in Morecambe and finishing in Bridlington, the team hope to beat their 2012 time of 16 hours. The ride is also timed to coincide with a 10-day Active Travel Challenge that local schools are taking part in. Schools compete against each other to see who can get the most people travelling to school actively over a 2-week period. The hope is to inspire people to think, 'well if they can ride across Britain in a day then I can easily come to school on my bike!'

We’re proud to be involved with and supporting Unicef and Clean Air Day this year. If you want your schools to help less fortunate young people around the world take their first steps into education go to https://www.unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/resources/shoeshare/

If you want to learn more about air pollution and access some great resources that can be used across the year go to GAPs Clean Air Day website https://www.cleanairday.org.uk/

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