Clean Air Day 2023: The University of Edinburgh staff opting for car-free commuting

One of the simplest ways to reduce air pollution is to minimise car travel. We asked staff at the University of Edinburgh who are already enjoying the rewards of car-free travel what they find most rewarding about their commute.

Each year, Clean Air Day highlights the dangers of air pollution, which presents one of the most pressing environmental health risks in the UK. The theme for this year's Clean Air Day is: Clean up our air to look after your mind, referencing the positive mental health benefits that actions to reduce air pollution can bring to individuals and their communities.

A study from the University of Edinburgh led by Dr Mark Miller has linked particulate matter in the air to poor cardiovascular health and other chronic conditions including dementia.

Getting to the heart of air pollution

Air pollution affects everyone – whether you are young or old, healthy or fit. Our research has shown that the tiny particles in air pollution enter the blood. This may be why air pollution has been linked to conditions such as asthma, lung cancer, dementia, kidney disease, diabetes and effects in pregnancy.

What can individuals do about air pollution? Emissions from vehicles are especially concerning, so minimising car journeys and walking or cycling more will help. Speak to your local councillors and ask them what they are doing to tackle air pollution locally and lobby for change at a national level. Reducing air pollution will help us all live longer healthier lives.

Dr Mark MillerCentre for Cardiovascular Science, The University of Edinburgh

Further research has indicated that poorer neighbourhoods are more likely to be at risk of negative health impact resulting from air pollution. University researchers suggest that the link between pollution and health inequalities might be tackled by directly targeting hotspots of pollution.

Pollution has higher impact in deprived areas

The good news is that the steps that individuals can take to clean up our city’s air can bring multiple benefits. One of the simplest ways to reduce air pollution is to reduce the number of journeys taken by car, which also helps to reduce carbon emissions (assuming the vehicle is not electric).

The benefits of active travel – getting from A to B by walking, cycling or wheeling - are widely known. Increasing levels of physical activity is associated with many improvements in health and wellbeing, including lower risk of heart problems and depression.

 We asked colleagues from across the University to share what they enjoy most about their car-free commute.

What do you enjoy most about your car-free commute?

The University offers a number of schemes to encourage staff to cycle or walk to work. Find out more:

Information about cycling at the University

Information about walking to and around the city of Edinburgh

Transport policies and plans

Blog: The joys of an Edinburgh cycle commute

Clean Air Day 2023