How Magpie is using National Clean Air Day to make change happen in Hertfordshire 

Let’s Clear the Air 

National Clean Air Day on the 15th June presents an opportunity for all of us to take a look at our contributions towards air pollution and take steps to affect positive change. 

This year, Magpie had the opportunity to work with Hertfordshire County Council on a game-changing campaign that would provide a breath of fresh air to the county’s residents with support from DEFRA. Using Clean Air Day as a pivotal campaign moment alongside a broad range of tactics and activities, we set out to make change. 

Hertfordshire’s clean air campaign has four key aims: 

  1. Increase awareness of health impacts: increase knowledge within Hertfordshire population on the health impacts of poor air quality, including how people can mitigate impacts. 
  2. Reduce contribution to air pollution: increase knowledge within Hertfordshire population of how individuals can create less air pollution through positive practices and choices. Promote positive behavioural changes around (1) domestic solid fuel burning, (2) transport mode and travel planning, (3) vehicle idling.
  3. Reduce exposure to air pollution: increase knowledge within Hertfordshire population of how individuals can reduce their exposure to air pollution (with a focus on those most vulnerable to exposure impacts). Reduce personal exposure to air pollution.
  4. Promote interest in air quality information: increase sign-up to an existing air quality alert system, and encourage traffic to bespoke clean 

Certainly no small task… 

The opportunity and the obstacles 

Through a comprehensive COM-B analysis, which led the way for all campaign messaging and activities, we built a clear picture of how we could affect and influence genuine change among the Hertfordshire population. 

Through our analysis we found that awareness of indoor and outdoor air pollution throughout the region was low, with residents having very little understanding of the harmful health implications of low air quality. In fact, 93% of survey respondents did not know where to look to check air pollution in their local area. Residents also didn’t know how to reduce their exposure, and contribution to, low air quality. 

As a result, we were presented with a significant opportunity to educate residents and to empower them to drive positive change in their communities. 

However, the analysis also presented key challenges. Among other obstacles, residents considered themselves to be time poor and had concerns about financial implications of making lifestyle changes. What’s more, there was a clear belief that having a car and using it to get around frequently was a necessity, so we anticipated some resistance to behaviour change. 

The approach

We knew from our COM-B analysis that messaging should communicate the wider benefits of reducing air pollution, including improvements in health as well as financial savings. Our research shows us that providing evidence for positive outcomes is much more effective than simply asking our audience to carry out an action. 

Tackling the time-poor residents meant activity had to meet them where they are and become a part of their daily life. Digital activity saw us develop targeted ads for audiences around log burners and active travel, as well as a comprehensive campaign pack for stakeholders such as councils and boroughs. 

Out of home advertising was key to tackle the anti-idling issue and public transport elements of the campaign. Back of bus ads worked to persuade drivers to switch the engine off when stationary, while side of bus ads pushed the public transport messaging. 

Using our analysis as our guide we also developed audience specific messaging and activity, to target key groups and community influencers which would help to meet our goal. 

Working with Stevenage FC on its Green Football Weekend, we helped to encourage the club’s supporters to make more climate-friendly decisions on match weekends and in their daily life. We also developed toolkits and social media packs for local neonatal units and councils, alongside a comprehensive outline of awareness days teams could use to amplify the campaign messaging. 

Clean air image from Magpie's campaign with Hertfordshire Council

National Clean Air Day – 15th June 

The campaign culminates in a key moment for National Clean Air Day on the 15th June. We’re working with schools across the region to develop messaging and lesson plans, which will encourage communication between schools, pupils and parents. 

We’re also working with community groups and sports clubs on a unique event targeting those who are idling in cars, to deliver campaign messaging and communicate the benefits of making more conscious choices. 

Tackling something as significant as air pollution is certainly no small task, which means our campaign is ever-evolving with multiple strands. To find out more about Hertfordshire County Council’s work, or to find out how you might improve air quality in your area, visit Let’s clear the air.