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South Seeds’ low-carbon solutions help residents act local, and think global

15 October, 2021
By Lucy Gillie, South Seeds general manager

One person dies every day in Glasgow due to the effects of air pollution, and many more suffer chronic ill health and a reduced quality of life, says Lucy Gillie, general manager of South Seeds.

Mounting evidence is linking particulate pollution to impaired cognitive ability, damage to babies still being carried in their mothers’ wombs, and conditions including dementia, cancer, asthma and heart disease. Road transport alone also accounts for 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This picture is being repeated around the world, and it is often the poorest and most marginalised citizens who suffer the worst effects of pollution, while being the least responsible for creating that pollution in the first place – a clear case of climate injustice.

With Glasgow gearing up to host COP26, South Seeds recruited a team of young volunteers to capture accurate air pollution data used bicycle-mounted monitors over several weeks.

Led by Dr Daniel Thomas of the University of Strathclyde, and with input from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, South Seeds’ study revealed pollution hotspots and “pervasive levels of air pollution” across its project area, which covers south-central Glasgow and includes some of the city’s poorest wards, as well as some of its wealthiest.

“Crucially, our study also enabled South Seeds to share evidence-based solutions to the issue of damaging emissions and patterns of behaviour with our community,” says Lucy.

“We did this by publishing and sharing a free newspaper that detailed our findings and a range of practical, healthy and money-saving alternatives to private vehicle use.

“With young researchers at its centre, our study also meant young people – facing lives in which climate change will play an increasingly damaging role – could voice their hopes, fears and solutions for reducing pollution and making the COP26 host city a healthier and more sustainable place to live, work, learn and play – both now and moving forwards.”

“South Seeds' study found pervasive levels of air pollution across our project area but crucially it also allowed us to share evidence-based solutions to damaging emissions and patterns of behaviour”

Active travel can play a huge part in increasing personal health and wellbeing, and creating a healthier environment. It’s a win-win solution, just one of those you can learn about by accessing South Seeds’ pioneering research and range of resources at southseeds.org/category/resources.

Community-led solutions to local issues have been at the heart of South Seeds’ work since it became the first Scottish charitable incorporated organisation in April 2011.

Taking the fight against climate change to the high street, more than 13,000 people from across its diverse community have come to them for help and advice over the last 10 years. South Seeds’ dedicated energy officers and handyman service have helped residents cut their bills, and secure warmer and more efficient homes, through initiatives such as draughtproofing and insulation.

Its tool library has lent out more than 1,000 tools – saving more than one tonne of carbon being emitted, and more than £10,000 in tool-purchase costs for the local community.

South Seeds has also published a series of papers looking into energy efficiency, renewable power generation and district heating systems, and were asked to give evidence to Glasgow’s Citizens’ Assembly and Scotland’s Climate Assembly in advance of COP26 coming to the city.

The charity’s five community gardens and adopt-a-plot scheme have introduced residents to localised food production, as well as being vibrant spaces where people have been able to learn, socialise, make friends and enhance their wellbeing while enjoying some exercise in the fresh air.

“Thinking globally and acting locally remain central to South Seeds’ drive to enhance our project area’s wellbeing and sustainability indices,” adds Lucy.

“We’re leading on low-carbon solutions that we hope become the norm, not just on Glasgow’s southside but in communities around the world, as we tackle the interlinked blights of climate change and social exclusion.

“The Glasgow COP must deliver huge emissions reductions, starting right now. It must be the catalyst for immediate international, national and local action to stem climate, social and environmental injustice.

“The COP must enable and embolden local councils, resulting in a big reduction in particulate pollution across the south-central area of Glasgow to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of its 35,000 residents. This could be achieved through bus electrification, increased active travel and further restrictions on petrol and diesel vehicles.”

“We’re leading on low-carbon solutions that we hope become the norm, not just on Glasgow’s southside but in communities around the world”

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