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Encouraging active lifestyles with Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel

EarthSense was proud to support the Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel 2023, the UK’s largest walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling challenge. The event inspires pupils to make active journeys to school, improve air quality in their neighbourhood and understand the benefits of these changes to the environment.

Sustrans Big walk & wheel EarthSense Air quality Monitoring

The competition has been running since 2010 with schools competing each day to make the most journeys by walking, wheeling, scooting and cycling. Over 2,600 schools signed up for the challenge this year, with almost 100,000 pupils taking part and over 2.6 million journeys recorded, a new record!

According to Sustrans, in 2022 the 10-day challenge meant that almost 3,000kg of nitrogen oxide and 1,335 tonnes of carbon dioxide were avoided. In 2019, Sustrans estimates that parents saved over £1.6 million in petrol costs.

Charlotte Arkley, Project Support Officer at Sustrans said, “Having daily prizes from companies such as EarthSense is a tremendous motivator for the participating schools to make the most of each day in the challenge.”

Lucy Vizor, Senior Digital Marketing Executive, EarthSense, commented, “We are thrilled to have been involved with the Big Walk and Wheel this year. As air quality experts, we know how important it is to reduce air pollution due to its detrimental effects, especially for children. We hope that events such as the Big Walk and Wheel help the next generation understand the importance of better air quality and that it inspires change to reduce air pollution. We were delighted to provide one of the daily prizes to encourage pupils to help reduce air pollution and learn about the benefits of active travel for themselves, their school, their neighbourhood and the whole planet.”

The importance of air quality around schools

Sustrans Big walk & wheel EarthSense Air quality Monitoring

In a 2021 YouGov survey, around half (49%) of UK school pupils said that they were worried about air pollution near their school, while 57% of pupils described the environment around their school as having too many cars.

Teachers also found that pupils who walk, wheel, scoot or cycle arrive at school more relaxed, alert, and ready to start the day compared to those who travel by car.

Active travel can also help to reduce anxiety, depression, and the risk factors of developing cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and Type II diabetes.

Children are particularly susceptible to polluted air, as pollutants can have a lasting impact on their development. The effects begin before birth, with studies linking pollution to low birth weight and premature birth.

Exposure to elevated levels of pollutants in childhood has been shown to inhibit lung capacity, cause asthma, lead to higher levels of respiratory disease and ear infections, increase the risk of allergies, and potentially affect brain development.

Children are more exposed to polluted air than adults because they have a faster breathing rate, are closer to the ground and usually spend more time outdoors.

Since its founding, EarthSense has focused on the importance of air quality around schools, including projects in Westminster, Nottinghamshire, Scotland, and Wales.

In 2021, our research highlighted that 27% of UK schools are located in areas exceeding the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) air pollution limits.

Our involvement with Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel 2023 underlines our commitment to continue working with more schools and local authorities to improve air quality.

About Sustrans:

Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel inspire pupils to make active journeys to school, improve air quality in their neighbourhood and discover how these changes benefit their world. Learn more about it here:

Learn more about air quality monitoring for schools here:

Air pollution at schools is seriously affecting students' health. Your duty of care means you must reasonably minimise and reduce risks of harm to your staff & students. Air quality monitoring identifies air pollution challenges, enabling steps to be taken towards healthier air. Learn more about it here:

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