The eco guide to the Christmas walk | Environment

The post-lunch Christmas walk is a family tradition in many households. What’s not to like? You get to walk off one of the biggest meals of the year. Young or old, most members of the family can manage a gentle stroll and you get some fresh air in your lungs.

But how fresh is that air? A new study by British researchers recently published in the Lancet highlights the fact that older members of the family need to be much more choosy about where they take their exercise.

For the study, volunteers walked for two hours at one of two London locations: a quiet part of Hyde Park and a section of Oxford Street, one of the capital’s pollution hot spots. London might not be one of the world’s most polluted cities – according to the World Health Organisation the top city for dirty air is currently Kanpur in India – but its levels of carbon, nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter from diesel fumes regularly exceed WHO air quality limits.

It’s no great surprise that the park walk delivered better air. After this stroll participants’ lung capacity improved and the benefits lasted for more than 24 hours. The walk along Oxford Street failed to yield anywhere near the same immediate benefits, and there was no long-term gain. For those with chronic cardio respiratory disorders (often elderly people) a walk in these conditions could even make things worse.

So head away from traffic and near to bushes and trees. If you’re in London, type your postcode at Asi Open Data to check for pollution free parks. If you have a pollution monitor that works with your smart phone – use it. If, like me, you’re angry that the care-free Christmas walk now requires rerouting, vow to support NGO Clientearth in demanding clean air for all of us in 2018.

The big picture: the Citu Home, house of the future

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Building blocks: the Secret Garden at Citu’s Climate Innovation District

After years of research with Leeds Beckett University, the Citu Home, a timber-framed housing system which promises to be one of the most airtight and thermally efficient homes in the world, will go into manufacture onsite in Leeds (reducing the carbon footprint in the construction process). The first homes have now been released for sale in the Leeds Climate Innovation District. Watch this space – literally.

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Gilet, £175, Photograph: marija

Well dressed: from eco boxers to a sustainable wardrobe

Sir Plus began in 2010 when brand founder Henry Hales detected a gap in the market for patterned boxer shorts. Realising rather quickly that it was prohibitively expensive to print his own fabrics from scratch, he began using the surplus (clever name!) from London shirtmakers for his boxers instead. The accidental sustainable designer then developed a bit of a passion for surplus materials from the fashion industry. These he now supplements with eco fabrics (those with a lower impact than conventional cotton and polyesters) and the range has grown into a full ethical menswear collection. After six years selling through market stalls at Spitalfields and Portobello Road in London, Sir Plus has also grown to occupy the brand’s first fully fledged shop, at 306 Portobello Road, London W10. We wish them luck (

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