Air quality project wins national award

A project in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Islington to improve air quality and help businesses operate better according to “green” principles has won a national environmental award.

The Zero Emissions Network, in which councils work with businesses to reduce pollutants, improve staff health and save money, won the Air Quality Initiative Prize at the Energy Saving Trust’s Fleet Hero Awards last week.

Selina Talukdar, project officer for ZEN Tower Hamlets, said: “It’s fantastic to be recognised for the work we are doing to improve air quality. This is the second award we’ve won this year.”

ZEN launched in Hackney in 2013 and expanded to Tower Hamlets and Islington last year after it received funding through Boris Johnson’s Air Quality Fund.

Julie Winnard, one of the judges this year, said: “We were impressed by how much the ZEN team had got done in such a short space of time and with limited resources.”

ZEN won in the Air Quality Initiative category, introduced this year, because of its travel plans issued to help businesses make greener travel choices. Talukdar said that the travel plans are designed to “get staff walking and cycling more”.

Pic: @ZENCityfringe

The Zero Emissions Network (ZEN) wins the Air Quality Initiative Prize at the Energy Saving Trust’s Fleet Hero Awards Pic: @ZENCityfringe

“Businesses complete a travel survey and must obtain at least a 13 per cent response rate. We then analyse the data and see where improvements can be made. For example, if staff show an interest in cycling we would suggest training and tell the business to invest in cycle parking,” Talukdar said.

More than 700 businesses have signed up to the scheme, which offers free cycle training for all staff and free trials of electric cars, as well as grants to increase more sustainable travel and advice on reducing delivery costs.

The project is scheduled to run until April next year, but it is now in a good position to receive more funding and potentially be renewed for another three years. Talukdar said they were hopeful.

The Fleet Hero Awards, held for the tenth time at the London Transport Museum, celebrate organisations that have implemented green solutions, policies and innovations to reduce their carbon footprint and fuel costs.

ZEN aims to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are toxic to humans  and difficult to detect at low concentrations. The UK has exceeded EU limits for nitrogen dioxide for several years.

In April this year, the UK’s highest court ruled that the Government must take immediate action to cut air pollution. Each year an estimated 29,000 people in the UK suffer an early death due to air pollution.

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