Air pollution is an issue that affects us all but is especially damaging to children. The Mayor of London’s School Air Quality Audit highlighted the worrying pollution levels that pupils are exposed to. These audits included recommendations on how to reduce pollution. One such recommendation was to increase green infrastructure around the school grounds.
This is because plants and trees help to absorb and block some of the pollution coming from the busy roads nearby. Mapping for Change has teamed up with Trees for Cities and Lancaster University to plant healthy air in primary schools across the capital.
Trees for Cities have raised enough funds to work with four schools in the first year. They have strategically redesigned the outside space to introduce more plants and trees to the playground and install green screens to block some of the pollution. Trees for Cities are consulting with experts at Lancaster University so that they can select the most effective vegetation in reducing pollution. In tandem, Mapping for Change and Lancaster University are monitoring the effects of this greening-up on the air quality. We are also running school workshops and sharing the results in order to encourage behaviour change.
Mapping for Change is working with pupils and teachers to monitor nitrogen dioxide levels around each school using citizen science. Together, we have installed diffusion tubes at 10 locations around the school which will be changed over by the EcoClub every month for 12 months. The results will be added to a bespoke map, along with where the new planting has been introduced and where the pupils spend their time playing or relaxing. Visualising this information on a map and sharing it with pupils, teachers and parents will help to enable better decision making. The map can show cleaner areas where parents should wait at pick-up time or where the children could be more active. We also hope to start the discussion around how parents and pupils can play their part in improving air quality, such as walking to school and not idling in their cars.
Trees for Cities is a UK charity which works to improve lives by planting trees in cities. Dr Kirsti Ashworth, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University is an expert in how the use of our land impacts on air quality. The four schools we are working with are: St Paul’s CE Primary , Christ Church Bentinck C of E Primary, Tudor and Woolmore Primary
Trees for Cities continues to seek funding to work with more polluted London schools because the demand for such a project is overwhelming.
D-NOSES is a three-year EU funded research project which aims to provide a solution to the largely neglected issue of odour pollution, changing the traditional top-down approach for a bottom-up one. The lack of regulation from authorities around odour pollution is mainly due to it being difficult to reliably measure and the potential solutions being costly to implement.
Breathe Clean will be providing Tower Hamlets residents with the materials & training needed to monitor nitrogen dioxide levels around the places that matter to them. Participants will measure the air quality at a number of locations over a period of six months, to get a more granular picture of the situation in the borough. The data from the Breathe Clean project will be made available on Mapping for Change’s community maps webpage.
In 2012, the Big Lottery Fund in England invested £1 million in 150 neighbourhoods for its Big Local initiative. Northfleet, Kent, was one of the first 50 to be selected. The grant aimed to equip local communities with skills and tools to identify key areas and issues where action was reqiored in their area.