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'Keeping it clean' with the wonderfully inspiring Sara Sloman

The third of a blog series, which features interviews with a variety of experts within the world of sustainability, clean tech and future mobility.

After seeing Sara in the EV cafe, we began chatting some weeks back, and here is what went down in our most recent conversation.

It is safe to say that Sara is one of the smartest, most passionate and kindest people I have had the pleasure of meeting in the world of mobility. She is currently the Zero Emission Mobility Lead at Foot Anstey LLP and has a background in public and private sector consultancy and business development roles serving Local Authorities. She has been involved in delivering project management for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and leading the Go Ultra Low West project in the West of England Team for North Somerset Council.

Sara is a big believer in supporting all modes of transport for a sustainable future and her passion lies is in clean energy and zero emission mobility. Named as EV Champion in 2018 and featuring on the GreenFleet “100 Most influential” list in 2019 and 2020, she is a bit of a superstar in the world of EV!

Sara, when did you first decide that decarbonisation of transport was your chosen career path, and what was the main driver for you?

For me sustainability started as one of my earliest memories; wanting to stop acid rain. I even made posters for the village! That drove my chosen education and chosen career into sustainability.

My father worked as a Civil Engineer designing road layouts and I found the huge impact on a city, which can be made by one individual incredibly inspiring. I always believed that transport is the lifeblood of every town, city and rural area, and it often doesn't get enough attention

The main decision was made during my time at university because I realised that there wasn’t enough support for local authorities who wanted to make a difference. I volunteered to design a cycle path to link the university to the city, and amazingly that ended up getting me my next job!

What in your opinion are the most important factors for us to consider in ensuring the crucial growth in zero emission mobility and decarbonisation of transport?

It boils down to three things; policy and planning, education and collaboration.

Empowering local authorities who know their area and the needs of their area, to make their own decisions and have their own funding to make the changes they need. In order to do that, those local authority officers require the opportunity to learn from one another, and to collaborate and engage with the private sector, who can bring the education piece on things like technology adoption, future scenarios and learning from other countries. Ultimately local authority officers have a BAU day job which doesn’t allow for that innovation in normal circumstances; we need to talk to our residents, our businesses and our visitors to understand what they need from the region. Essentially, helping people to change their lives and they way that they travel, and the finance to fund the infrastructure that is needed for it to happen.

How can individuals do their bit to support this?

They can be open to change, to putting their health and the environment ahead of other needs. People will allows change when they have to, but it would be great if they saw benefits of clean air, commuting with no car etc. and began to make these changes through choice.

Being open to change, taking the time to make the decisions on the way they travel. I also appreciate that people need to plan to change, and it can’t happen overnight, but being open to that change is the biggest thing we can ask.

What would you like to see post CV19 and before the 2050 carbon deadline?

Behaviour change requires significant time and always starts with a trigger, in this instance CV19 has been that trigger. More people than ever are enjoying their local area; walking, cycling, working from home, prioritising children, friends and family and leaving the car where it is. Whilst I understand that this can’t carry on, lockdown will lift and people will want to move again; even if we can hold on to half of what we want to achieve with clean air, reduced miles and increased physical activity, we will have taken a huge stride towards that 2050 target.

Have you seen any recent initiatives launched in the last few weeks, which could be replicated nationwide and have a significant impact on the environment?

Yes! Necessity is the mother of invention, and we need to see initiatives being shared across urban and local authority areas, allowing them to learn from one another and access the same opportunities and incentives that they have. Schemes such as ‘benefit in kind’ have driven forward the interest in electric vehicles and funding for more charge points will also support that.

Electric vehicles are the immediate answer for cleaner air in cities, which is obviously a good thing, but we cannot simply replace every ICE vehicle for EV if we are to solve the bigger climate crisis, it must be part of a wider solution. I am delighted that funding has been announced for walking and cycling, and I have faith that we will meet our 2050 target, provided the younger generation are shown our mistakes. Harnessing the opportunity to educate the future generation to become skilled in sustainable development, so that it is default and the norm for every industry is key to this success.

Anyone who follows you on LinkedIn will know that you have a passion for Micro-mobility; I believe a recent quote was ‘Micro-mobility to the rescue’. Let’s chat Micro-mobility…

This is all about the right tool for the job, this is my call to action, that everyone needs to consider their travel choice daily. If we can redesign our streets and cities to support E-bikes, E-scooters, E-peds, E-tuktuks, people cargo bikes and good old-fashioned feet, we may find less interest in using single occupancy vehicles naturally.

We need to free up our streets for essential travel, which includes those who rely on a vehicle based on their specific needs, service vehicles, deliveries/logistics. This should be about choice and we need to give people that choice.

What advice would you have for people considering a career in mobility?

Welcome aboard! We need more and more great minds applied to this problem. We need scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians and artists to create connected mobility around the world that will not cost us the earth. This is one of the most accessible career options out there, because it is a very broad subject, which welcomes all experiences and backgrounds; everyone has a part to play.

If we have a think about the future of our planet, what would you love to see change over the next decade?

Within the next decade, we will see teenagers become adults, those adults will be our future, and they will govern how we live and move about. Within this decade I would like to see policy and regulation support innovation and technological growth to embrace cleantech and sustainable living. Behaviour change is at the heart of everything we do, and the new normal should not be about survival and saving the planet, it should be about coexisting symbiotically in a respectful and balanced way.

I am very excited for the future, I feel it is within our grasp.

Posted by: Brightsmith Recruitment