Cornwall’s school children reduce local CO2 by 30 tonnes


In just two weeks Cornwall’s school children reduced local air pollution by 65kg of dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by walking, biking and scootering to school, instead of travelling by car.

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As part of cycling and walking charity Sustrans’ annual Big Pedal challenge, children from 21 Cornwall schools used human power for an astonishing 25,469 journeys. 

This comes hard on the heels of two important new pieces of research:

  • Sustrans published YouGov data in March which showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of teachers would support a school gate vehicle ban during drop-off and pick-up times and that more than half (59%) want urgent Government action to improve air quality near schools
  • Public Health England called on local authorities in March to limit transport emissions urgently, banning idling car engines around schools and investing in foot and cycle paths.

NOx can cause breathing problems, reduced lung function and damage teeth. CO2 is a major contributor to climate change. In Cornwall, children travelled 127,345 miles actively during the challenge, which equates to more than five trips around the world. The reduction in CO2 and NOx was calculated by comparing this to the amount generated if all these journeys had been taken by car.

Children at Berrycombe School in Bodmin and Threemilestone School near Truro have won special recognition from Sustrans for their Big Pedal achievements. Berrycombe had the highest percentage of children travelling actively across the county and also won the small primary schools category; while Threemilestone near Truro won the large primaries category and had the largest number of children travelling actively in any Cornish school.

Pupils enjoyed a trophy presentation this week, attended by Councillor Geoff Brown – Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport and Dulcie Tudor-Cornwall Councillor for Threemilestone.

Geoff Brown said:  “It’s been brilliant to see the results of the Big Pedal. So many children in Cornwall got involved and showed us what can be done to help get us moving. Working in partnership with Sustrans meant that we were able to do much more than simply getting pupils excited about being active. “

Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for climate change and neighbourhoods Edwina Hannaford adds: “Huge congratulations to these inspiring children who were able to change the way they travelled to school, showing that it can be done. I hope this, and our young people’s growing awareness of the importance of changing our behaviour to address climate change,  will inspire them to carry on. It’s the responsibility of all of us to act so getting the community involved is so important.”

Lexi Lobb, Active Travel Champion at Threemilestone School, said “Threemilestone School really values sustainable journeys to school and we’ve been promoting cycling, scooting and walking to school for approximately 15 years. We are delighted to have won the Cornish prize in the large school category, at last. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole Big Pedal experience this year, as we have for all the previous Big Pedal competitions.  We are so grateful to Nick Ratcliffe and the rest of the Sustrans organisation for their tireless support and encouragement.

Claire Johnson, Parent Support Advisor at Berrycombe School, said: “The Big Pedal has got the whole school working together and we have seen a big rise in pupils actively travelling. It has improved congestion in the front of the school gates and pupils and families have enjoyed walking, cycling and scooting as a great way to begin their day.”

A variety of activities were run during the two week challenge, these included Dr Bike visits, playground scooter and cycle skill sessions, treasure trail, a pedometer challenge, mass walks to school and sessions on a smoothie bike and pedal-powered electricity generator.

Across Cornwall 21 schools took part, from a potential 270. While we can’t say what the impact would be if it was replicated across Cornwall, even just for two school terms these findings raise interesting questions.

Sustrans’ Regional Director for the South, James Cleeton, said: “The children, families and schools of Cornwall have shown how individuals can dramatically improve the world around them, by replacing cars with human power for just part of the daily routine.

“These children haven’t just prevented the emission of dangerous, invisible pollutants around their schools, but they’ve improved their mental and physical health, giving all of them a better start to the school day.

“At Sustrans, we’re so grateful to every local authority, school, teacher, parent and child who has helped make this possible. What a great start to summer – and a glimpse of what school mornings in Cornwall could be like in future.”


Story posted 24 May 2019