A car-free world?

Can you imagine life without a car?

What would your street, your village, your town or your city would be like without cars? As I listen to the neighbourhood traffic, it would certainly be quieter, but what would it really be like?*

On September 22nd, it is World Car-Free Day – an opportunity for people around the world to leave their cars at home and use a greener method of transport such as walking, cycling or use public transport instead.  Some cities such as London are embracing the day with free events .

People started to build and use powered vehicles around 250 years ago, first harnessing the power of steam and then later the development of internal combustion engines – including a hydrogen-powered engine in 1808!  

However, as we have all known for a long time, the trouble with cars and other vehicles that burn fossil fuels is their emissions; carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides, hydrocarbons, benzenes and particulate matter (PM) or what you and I would call ‘soot’. All of these substances contribute to environmental change and can affect our health.

Teams participating in the 2018/19 Big Ideas Competition were keen to tackle a wide range of sustainability and environmental issues, including two teams from Biggar High School in South Lanarkshire who decided to address vehicle emissions in creative and innovative ways. 

The EcoFumes team designed a car exhaust filter, that could be fitted to a range of vehicles, which used a simple chemical process to capture the carbon dioxide. The team worked with mentors from  our partner SGN to develop their business plan and made connections with mentors from our partner Tarmac to learn more about the LEILAC (Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement) project, which is working to reduce emissions across the industry. 

The Plant Co team took a different approach, harnessing the power of plants to capture carbon dioxide emissions on roads. The team designed lightweight aluminium bridge frames which were then hung with ivy; a hard plant, that absorbs high levels of carbon dioxide, is aesthetically pleasing, and also could provide habits for invertebrates and birds.

EcoFumes made it all the way through to the National Final held at the Palace of Westminster in June, with judges awarding them a special commendation for picking a challenge that industry is finding almost impossible to solve, and using scientific experimentation to inform their product development. 

*Sometimes we don’t have to imagine anymore! In Edinburgh, where I am based, the city has joined the Open Streets movement, closing a number of central streets to traffic on the first Sunday of each month. There have even been yoga classes and games of badminton taking place in the now quiet roads! 


Written by: Kate Kirkwood, S4TP Programme Coordinator, Scotland

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd