Clean Air Day 2022 - Subship. An Ultra Low Emission zone sign in front of a block of flats in South London.

Air pollution in South London - what can we do?

Tom Szekeres

“This is everybody’s problem and it’s a problem at all times. This is a solvable problem. The real place we need to tackle air pollution is where people live, work, study, play.”

– Chris Whitty, February 2022


When we bought our flat on a bustling South London high street, we didn't give a second thought to air pollution. We loved the shops, we loved the energy, and we loved being able to jump on a bus at a moment's notice to go and explore.

But as time went on, and our family was affected by "unexplained" infertility, then premature birth, then chronic lung disease, we started to ask questions.

And we soon realised that all of the warnings that you see on the side of cigarette packets also apply to air pollution.

And that air pollution in South London is a huge issue. Stunting children's lungs. Causing premature death. And implicated in health conditions like those that affected our family.

We wanted to do less harm, and help. And so we've come up with some top tips that can help reduce air pollution, in time for Clean Air Day 2022.


As an individual

  1. Avoid private car ownership.
    It's hard, but doable. More than 50% of South Londoners manage, and most likely, so can you (although there are exceptions).
  2. Don't install a wood-burning stove.
    They're absolutely terrible for air quality (both internal and external). If you have one already, it's time to stop using it. It's harming your health, as well as your neighbours'.
  3. Consider buying an e-bike. Or using a bike trailer.
    Trying is believing - book a test ride at Fully Charged (next to London Bridge). We're big fans of the Tern GSD - available for £100/month with finance.
  4. Use a car club.
    We use Zipcar Flex. All of their vehicles are compatible with ISOFIX car seats, so you can still get about with young kids. If you use Flex, you don't need to worry about refuelling. And insurance, tax, everything, is included.
  5. If you need to own a car, switch to a second-hand electric model.
    The total cost of ownership will very likely be less than a fossil-fuel vehicle. Powering it is cheaper as well as cleaner, and charging points are everywhere now.
  6. Shop from businesses that use all-electric or bicycle delivery.
    Like, say, Subship. :)
  7. Replace your gas boiler with a heat pump.


Prevention is better than mitigation, but it's going to take time and political will to ban the internal combustion engine.

  1. Toxic air is higher inside cars than outside - so for their benefit, walk, scoot, or cycle your children to nursery or school.
  2. Wherever possible, use side streets rather than main roads.
  3. If you're a homeowner on a main road, and your front garden is just tarmac, gravel or slate, replant it with greenery. It will reduce your home's exposure to pollution by a decent amount - very likely 20-30%. You'll also be helping with biodiversity, and helping your neighbours too. Ours was created by Gilder's Leaves.
  4. If you're building a shed for your bike or bins, consider getting a green roof.


  1. If you offer local delivery, consider using a cycle courier or an electric van courier (talk to us about this!).
  2. If your business requires a small van, consider leasing an electric model, like the Nissan E-NV200.
  3. For businesses that require larger vans - make sure you train your drivers not to idle when parked at the side of the road. It's much worse than stationary traffic, because of how close tailpipes are to passing buggies and little ones.
  4. Implement a Cycle to work scheme, and if you have space, make sure you have decent cycle parking and showers for staff.
  5. If you're a retail business, don't sell fuel for wood burners.


A caveat

Not all of the steps below are possible for everyone. Some of them are only applicable to able-bodied people. Some of them are only going to be possible for homeowners, or people with spare cash. But people who have more cash to spare, tend to be a bigger part of the problem.