Passenger team

Changing habits for Clean Air Day

Changing collective habits is key to a more sustainable future - a fact worth remembering on Clean Air Day 2022.

16th Jun 2022

A beach with the sun setting a nd birds flying through the clear air

Clean Air Day is the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution. Organised by Global Action Plan, it’s a chance to find out more about air pollution and how we can make the air we all breathe healthier for everyone.

This year’s Clean Air Day calls for people to ask local decision-makers to make their area easier and safer for travelling more sustainably. But even with these initiatives implemented, how many people will actually change their ways? It all comes down to individual choices and a collective will to change habits.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, on average, it takes 66 days before a new behaviour becomes a habit. The writer Charles Duhigg states that you cannot extinguish a bad habit, but you can change that habit and still get the same reward from your old habit. The key is redefining what you ‘must’ do, identifying what your ‘cue’ is to do the habit and your ‘reward’ for doing the habit.

With Clean Air Day marked this year on the 16th of June, Alistair Aitken, Head of Sales at Passenger discusses how changing collective habits is key to driving a more sustainable future.

“Travelling anywhere regularly is typically a habit many people don’t even think about. Determining whether something is a necessity or not, or simply a habit, can also be more difficult than you think. People may believe something is a necessity because they haven’t considered other options, and don’t recognise the ‘reward’ for doing something differently. That’s where companies like Passenger come in.

“The key is to promote the ‘rewards’ for changing a habit – and help people realise that some things aren’t really a necessity. Our technology centres around the customer experience and making public transport a convenient alternative to taking a car. Choosing public transport comes with multiple ‘rewards’ – not only getting someone where they need to go, but also helping them support the environment and connect with their local community.

“The most meaningful ‘reward’ may typically be the one which is most immediately beneficial. Arriving at a destination is an instant ‘reward’, but environmental and community benefits are longer-term, and not immediately and visibly beneficial. That’s why we focus on customer experience above all else, to make that instant ‘reward’ more achievable. Then additional ‘rewards’ will follow, and those convinced by the benefits of their habit change will hopefully encourage others to follow suit.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool, so by inspiring one person, we could inspire many others and create a mass movement towards a more sustainable future.”

To learn more about what it takes to change a habit, listen to Episode 9 of the Making Passenger podcast, where we spoke to Dr. Ian Walker, who teaches Statistics and Traffic Psychology at the University of Bath. Ian has undertaken research on road safety, travel habits and the impact of environmental messaging and took the time to explain how people psychologically adapt and react to change, and what it could take to encourage the UK to put down their car keys for good.

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