Transport and Air PollutionAll too often our children regard the family car as being the only way to get from A to B and the plane being the only way to travel to a holiday destination. Educating them about environmentally harmful methods of travel is important – as is offering them a viable, ‘green’ alternative.

What is Air Pollution?

The combustion of fossil fuels causes most of the air pollution we experience in our towns and cities today. In the main, these combustion fuels come from engines and power stations in the form of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. The conditions are often made worse by the congestion and high traffic levels we experience, as more and more people take to the roads.

Air Pollution from Cars and Our Health

Cars cause huge amounts of health-affecting air pollution. Nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons are omitted from car exhausts and severely affect air quality. This deterioration in the air that we breathe can cause respiratory difficulties for some people. Smog, a mixture of smoke, gases and moisture, can also form in highly polluted areas, leaving a thick, fog like veil over the sky-scape.

Other Environmental Damage

Nitrogen oxide also makes acid rain when it mixes with water in clouds – this causes damage to wildlife and plant life.

So What are the Alternatives?

The car is probably the most common form of transport in use in the world today. Ask your children to think of how and why we rely on our cars so much. Use everyday scenarios that are generally associated with driving and ask them to come up with alternatives to using the car – for instance, what alternatives are there to the school run (walking, school bus, cycling etc.) or the weekly trek to the supermarket (buying locally produced food, having your shopping delivered, growing your own fruit and vegetables)? How do they think communities without access to motorised vehicles manage? What do they use?

Ask Your Kids – Is the Journey Really Necessary?

Before deciding how to get to your destination, have a think about whether you really, really need to go there – for example, are you using the car to travel to an out-of-town shopping centre or retail park? Could you not buy locally? Perhaps at first glance local prices might be higher, but once you’ve factored in parking, charges, wear and tear and petrol costs, it could even work out cheaper! Or how about using the shop’s mail order or web based ordering service instead?

Eco Friendly Ways to Get About

What would your children regard as eco friendly travel? And what other benefits do these forms of transport have?

Bicycles: Green and healthy too – switching from a car to bike not only protects the environment, but gets you fit.

Train or bus: Using public transport means there are less cars on the road, which in turn means less pollution – lots of people aboard one train or bus is far more environmentally sound than one person in one car!

When You Have to Use Your Car

Obviously there will be occasions when you have to use your car – what ways can your children think of that will make car use less damaging to the environment? Talk about car pools, car sharing and the new wave of ‘eco friendly’ electric cars. And lead by example – restrict your car use to the bare minimum and do your bit for the environment too!