Air Quality Debate Concludes Week of Sustainability Activities

Go Green Week 2023 1 - Air Quality debate cr
Air Quality Debate during Go Green Week

The debate was held as part of the University’s longstanding Go Green Week and open to the community. It featured representatives from Worcestershire Regulatory Services, First Bus, the health sector, and the University, including from its new Three Counties Medical School, as well as Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, Chair of the NHS Confederation.

The panel discussed air quality in the city and the impact this has on health. Questions focused on problems with air pollution in certain parts of Worcester and its effect on private student housing, moving between campuses and wider issues around sustainable travel.

Matthew Fung, public health consultant at Worcestershire County Council, said air quality had been improving virtually year on year, up until the current year, since the 1960s, but there were issues that need to be addressed. He said the solutions lay in coming together to tackle problems and that no single intervention by itself could address them.

Go Green Week 2023 2 - Air Quality debate

Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability at the University, stressed the importance of collating student and staff travel habits in order for the University to advocate on their behalf, showing external transport operators demand for certain services. She added: “None of these things are going to be easy for any of us to fix. The good point is that now everybody is having conversations and getting upskilled.”

Speaking after the discussion, panellist Jo Newton, Executive Director of Strategy, Improvement and Planning at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I think it has been demonstrated today that improving air quality is not just a single organisation problem. It’s a population issue and therefore needs a partnership approach and that’s what’s really encouraging, to be able to get the panel together today from different representative groups to identify the impact so we can work on to try and improve things for the students and the wider population. Our purpose as a health care provider is putting our patients first, and we know the health benefits that can come from improved air quality for our population as a whole, but in particular for children and young people as well as people living with long term health conditions like asthma.”

Lord Adebowale added: “I think it’s great we’re having this debate, it shows leadership. Universities are the engines of the future and young people they are that future so, if they don’t do it, we’re all in trouble.”

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Go Green Week featured more than 70 activities during the week, both in person and online, led by first year Environmental Management and Sustainability students in collaboration with Worcester Students’ Union. Activities were around a different theme each day: nature and biodiversity, food and wellbeing, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, reusing and repairing, and transport. Attendees could take home a plant or bird feeder, make a hedgehog house, sample vegan food and get advice on reducing food waste. A range of organisations, small local businesses and volunteers all contributed.

Ms Boom said: “The week proved an enormous success with many staff and students getting involved and learning about how to increase their sustainability. The event continues to grow year on year. The University is responsible for nurturing the next generation and we are committed to ensuring that not only do we set an example to our students, but that we send them out into the world with a knowledge of sustainability, what they can do about it and the ability to inspire positive change.”

The University has been consistently ranked among the most sustainable institutions in the Country for more than a decade by the People and Planet League, and in 2019 was named Sustainability Institution of the Year in the Green Gown Awards.

In 2018, the University of Worcester was one of the first universities to sign the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Accord, pledging to work towards a more sustainable future. The University has committed to a net-zero carbon target by 2030 for both direct and indirect carbon emissions.