The air we breathe in the UK could be cleaner. The WHO thinks the UK has the 59th most polluted air in the world — but this still leads to around 40,000 premature deaths every year. As COVID-19 hits transport, work and business across the world, it would be reasonable to guess that air pollution had improved in cities. In reality, air pollution has only dropped slightly. The pollutants have mostly changed, rather than absolutely reduced.

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Some pollution decreased, but other pollutants actually rose. The most common components of air pollution are ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulpur dioxide, and particulate matter (literally, anything microscopic in the air, like dust and bacteria). DEFRA maintains 150 air quality sensor stations across the UK, and this data shows reductions in lockdown. Nitrogen dioxide comes mainly from vehicle emissions, like diesel cars, and is linked to respiratory diseases. …

It’s a daily habit which I hadn’t really thought about. Coffee is the fuel for the modern office world, and consequently one of the most important crops on Earth. Small activities can often mean a large cost for the planet, though. Should we reconsider coffee?

Coffee, despite Nescafe’s best efforts, is not all the same. A cappuccino is milkier than a latte, and an Americano is probably black. Plus, different regions grow coffee beans much more efficiently than others — a lot less intervention is needed in Ethiopia than India, for example. Any estimate is prone to some variation. …

Ed Maclean

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