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Children in Sheffield help to create the UK's first air quality garden
Children in Sheffield help to create the UK's first air quality garden

UK’s first air quality garden established at Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Monday 13 June 2016

The UK’s first air quality garden, containing plant species that are sensitive to ozone pollution, was planted in a dedicated area at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens today, with help from 21 Sheffield children.

The project – a pilot in Sheffield – is in collaboration with the universities of Sheffield, York and Leeds and is funded by the White Rose Universities Consortium.

The garden will show the effects of air pollution on plants and their ability to absorb the air’s harmful chemicals, and, together with the council’s Air Aware campaign and educational materials, will raise awareness about the effects on health and how people can make a difference.

21 Sheffield children – 14 students from Porter Croft Primary School, and 7 who are home-educated – aged between 8 and 10 years old helped create the garden and surveyed existing plants for signs of pollution damage.

Air Quality information packs, including badges and notepads, were given to the children to encourage the message that ‘what you do makes a difference’.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport at Sheffield City Council, said: “Creating this garden allows us to demonstrate the effects of pollution on plants, and on our own health.

“These plants absorb chemicals in the air, going some way to protect us from their harmful effects and we’re lucky in Sheffield because we have more than 2,000 green open spaces, but that’s not enough to tackle the problem.

“We are working hard to establish ways to reduce air pollution and there’s a lot that people in Sheffield can do to improve our environment, so that’s why we launched our Air Aware campaign to help people realise how they can make a difference.

“I look forward to coming back towards the end of summer to see how the garden has progressed.”

Dr Maria Val Martin, Lecturer in Environmental Protection at The University of Sheffield, is one of the brains behind the garden. She has worked with Dr Steve Arnold and Dr Catherine Scott from The University of Leeds and Dr Patrick Bueker and Dr Alison Dyke from The University of York to establish the garden, based on similar projects in the USA, also known as ‘ozone gardens’.

The air quality garden will include species that are sensitive to ozone pollution, such as snap beans, wheat, clover and perennial plants, such as common milkweed and cutleaf coneflower. The project will also identify species already grown at the Botanical Gardens that are sensitive to nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Dr Val Martin said: “We are very excited to establish this garden in Sheffield. We want to show the community what polluted, bad air can do to the local plants and explain how harmful it can be to our health. Having clean air in Sheffield requires planning to help reduce traffic, but also needs individual actions. We hope this project will raise public awareness of air pollution effects in a tangible manner and changes people’s behaviours.”

The air quality garden is now established and can be found just to the left of the Brocco Bank entrance to the Botanical Gardens. People can expect to see the effects of pollution on the plants within two months, when the growing season finishes at the end of August.

500 ‘I’m Air Aware’ badges and notepads have been produced and will be used in ongoing educational projects throughout Sheffield.

More information about Sheffield’s Air Aware campaign is available at www.sheffield.gov.uk/airaware, there’s also a dedicated twitter account @AirAwareSheff and Facebook page Air Aware Sheffield.