Young green leaders roundtable with the Department for Transport

It’s been exciting for me after the Cabinet Office connected me with Ministers at the Department for Transport, and I got to share my views and the development of Perfect Sense AQ. They want to add the voices of young people into decision making about the future of transport and continue these meetings in the run up to COP26.

To mark Net Zero Week, I was invited to join the roundtable by Rachel Maclean MP to give a view on the government’s newly launched Transport Decarbonisation Plan, what’s important to me and a view of using transport as a teenager. We also got the chance to talk about how more young people can get involved in conversations about policy and climate ambition, but also to say what we need now to make progress with our own work. Here are some of my thoughts on the themes from yesterday’s first roundtable.

On what policy idea or new innovation would best help the UK reach net zero transport

I’d like to see active transport added into the hub for green transport, technology and innovation. With my own invention and user stories for people who want to protect their health including asthmatics, I see science, technology and particularly data as being the enablers to make changes in our daily lives. 

Providing better data and information helps people to make better decisions about their journeys and everyone deserves the healthiest start to each day. For me, that meant collecting my own data on my walking route to school because that wasn’t available from the DEFRA monitoring sites in Leeds, or at a hyperlocal level from an app on my phone, for example the air quality index from Apple maps. 

On trends I see amongst young people today that are going to affect how we all travel and get around in 2050

For me and my friends in the city at the moment, public transport is expensive so we tend to walk as much as possible. The bus is a more viable option for getting into the city centre, but the infrastructure isn’t in place today so that I can use more direct routes to go across the city. At the moment if I want to visit my friends or go to the cinema in another part of Leeds for example, we tend to have to go into the city centre first and then get another bus out. The public transport system needs to be a lot more efficient. 

The other thing is that we all have bikes, but we choose not to use them to cycle to school or get around the city. On the one hand, it’s great to see more segregated bike lanes in the centre of Leeds, but until we can ride in them where we live, we’re making a decision based on safety concerns not to use our bikes for active travel.  I also think it’s really important that our local council continues this work alongside central government because they know our city best. 

On getting more young people involved in the UK’s efforts to reach net zero transport

Based on the statistic that 98% of 16-24 year olds in the UK, in 2020, personally used a smartphone, I believe that technology can drive progressive changes in transport. Young people are influencers. We model change, set trends, influence each other and can be a big influence on family members at home. I think the government needs to leverage that and link it to the technology in our pockets.

In the same way that tackling air pollution is often talked about as ‘making the invisible visible’, we also need to share examples of how the UK will look in 10, 20 and 30 years from now if just a small percentage of the population make changes today to decarbonise. This is a country-wide effort that needs immediate action and everyone needs to make changes for a sustainable future.

Some people find it hard to imagine a future that is decades away, and my latest work is to immerse myself and others in the future using extended reality. Aggregating different datasets lets people see what their community will look like if they DO, or DON’T, make the necessary changes today. More to come on this work!

taken from Perfect Sense AQ and XR

What innovation means to me

I’ve been asked about this a lot recently, so here are some of my thoughts. Innovation to me means doing something different. In the context of climate action, I believe it starts with science and technology. However, this is just a catalyst to help people understand how changes they make now will accelerate overall progress. Empowering everyone to turn their own data into information, instead of being reliant on information shared by governments or other central organisations, is my preferred and novel approach.

I have found that inciting efforts from everyone to change their behaviours today is a difficult concept to grasp. Some people find it hard to imagine a future that is decades away and this is an important problem that needs to be addressed immediately. In the same way that tackling air pollution is often talked about as ‘making the invisible visible’, we need to use data and build models of how the planet will look 10, 20 and 30 years from now if just a small percentage of the global population make the changes needed now.

Climate change is an energy issue. Decisions taken today by the world’s population will be the making of all our futures. On a personal level, the energy that we put into our everyday lives and a commitment to make changes now will affect future generations immensely. Personal energy, pledges and action are crucial to preserving our planet, as well as addressing issues around the consumption and production of energy as a commodity. Innovation to me is helping people to understand their own impact on the climate crisis by collecting personal data to tell their own story, helping everyone to become change-makers and contributing to the collective effort needed to make a difference.

Speaking at the November countdown to COP26, Boris Johnson noted the urgency to act as “climate change will remain the most enduring threat to the futures of our children and grandchildren”. This is my generation. We can catalyse the rate of response. We have the power to change the world therefore helping everyone to innovate and do things differently in their everyday lives. 

Leeds in Conversation podcast

The next episode in this podcast from Leeds City Council is about innovation and I’m excited by the invitation to contribute with my own experiences as an entrepreneur. My age has made a difference at each stage of my journey so I’m hoping to share the best bits as well as some of the challenges that I’ve had to overcome.

Update: the recording is now live and available here.

Development Funding

I’m really thankful to the group of people who give me confidence to make my ideas happen and giving me links to organisations like The Prospectory.

Now Alison and the team have shown their belief in me to develop my use cases so my walk to school has just stepped up a pace to help even more people make healthier choices. It’s another exciting phase coming up for me and the pin badge!

The collage on the header is made from images on Unsplash

International Women’s Day 2021

This year I’ve been invited to contribute to an online event organised by Soroptimist International on 8th March. I’ll be joining a local club and talking about how Perfect Sense AQ can empower everyone to learn about the ethical use of technology, and how we can all turn data into information to protect our health and the environment.

Promoting STEM for all young people

Youth voice at the Climate Emergency Advisory Committee – Leeds City Council

Thanks to an invite from Leeds City Council’s Climate Emergency Advisory Committee, I was able to participate in January’s meeting and share the impact of a pin badge made with graphene. Great to watch it live in a break from online lessons!

Header image is by Markus Spiske from Pexels