Sustainability in London – live global and go local
Samantha Heath, has been the Director of the London Sustainability Exchanges (LSx) since 2005 and an outspoken voice about sustainability and climate change in the capital.
We spoke to Samantha about sustainability in the city and how the LSx operates on a local level.
LSx has worked with 300 communities across London, from youth groups, to trade unions, to faith groups and local charities. Training champions and ambassadors for sustainability within the communities has been one of the key elements of the process.
Samantha mentions that they focus on two important aspects when going into a community to start the conversation about sustainability and climate change.
First it is about raising awareness and helping people to make changes to their lifestyle, like getting them to walk and cycle more. Secondly it is about educating people to demand change from their local authorities, like cleaner busses, electrical charging stations for vehicles or pedestrian zones.
In Wandsworth LSx collaborated with the trade unions to measure pollution via 65 diffusion tubes which helped to generate a pollution map, raising public concern about pollution and confirming that Tooting and Wandsworth have dangerous levels of pollution.
Members of the unions BWTUC had little engagement with air quality issues until 2015 when they started working with LSx. The identified 25 champions to attend 4 training sessions about:
1) Discussing issues and creating awareness about air quality
2) Providing information about citizen science and how to get involved to improve air quality
3) Actions and Next steps
The unions have since continued to work within LSx and championed this work with their members.
A wide range of measured and actions have since been put in place like creating a set of key asks to mitigate pollution to be include in political manifestos and on-going local collaborations and meetings to keep the issue on everyone’s mind and support the members of the community most affected.
The community project Sustainable Merton has about 70 volunteers working on different environmental issues, of which about 10 are involved in tackling the concerns surrounding air quality. Sustainable Merton has a total of 19 community champions and 6 of these are trained in taking air quality measurements.
60 diffusion tubes were placed to monitor the NO2 concentrations in the local area and from these readings, maps were created to show pollution levels within different locations in Merton.
The key findings showed how poor the air quality is in many parts of the borough of Merton, with several black spots where levels exceed the EU legal limits. Also it was found that most Merton residents knew very little about the air quality in their area and that that local councillors and officers are not all well informed on the seriousness of this issue.
Sustainable Merton discovered, that major planning applications do not place air quality a priority and that in their view there is no clear plan from the local authority as to how this issue can be addressed.
Reaching out to the community via newsletter, social media, the dedicated website and sister groups was an important part of the project.
Local council members were contacted about the project and air pollution problems in Merton as well as the local MP.
Improving communications and the publicity will be an important next step as well as seeking funding to employ an air quality activist.
The Southampton Youth Forum is collaborating with LSx to get young people involved, measuring air quality and communicating the two aspects when it comes to air Pollution from “What can my city do” and “What can I do?” to improve Air Pollution:
Samantha mentions some of the many things the city and councils can do to improve air pollution:
- Bike Sharing Schemes
- Pedestrian Zones
- Electrical Vehicle Charging Points
- Greening the City
- Information on Pollution Hotspots
And individuals can and need to contribute as well making small changes in their lifestyle:
- Walk or cycle for short journeys
- Turn the engine off when waiting in the car
- Order items online in one batch
- Use public transport
- Use click and collect instead of delivery
Changes in lifestyle can best be achieved when the community works together to move in the same direction. Communication and on a local level has shown an impact when it comes to both raising awareness and influencing the local authorities.