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All Hail the Green Revolution! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheryl Waterhouse   
Friday, 22 February 2013 16:05

Air pollution in the UK’s cities could be reduced by 30% if ‘green walls’ lined the city’s streets.

Research teams from Lancaster University  and the University of Birmingham have found that living 'green walls' of climbing ivy, grass, shrubs, herbs and even fruit provide a quicker and cheaper way of reducing air pollution in cities than more traditional measures such as congestion charging.

Plants are known to purify the air by absorbing pollutants including carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and airborne particulates into their roots. These pollutants are considered to be liable for a majority of the 35,000-50,000 premature deaths in the UK related to outdoor air pollution every year.

Sheryl Waterhouse, Women's Officer for Pendle CLP says: "Personally I love the look of green walls, roofs and tree-lined streets, they really brighten the place up and improve our health and the environment - that's what I call a win-win situation. I would love to see some local initiatives in our area - just imagine how Manchester, Burnley and Pendle could be transformed!

The UK is just starting to get the idea with famous walls and roofs found at the University of Nottingham, the University of Sheffield (who also have a Green Roof Centre of Excellence) and around London. Other countries have also really got behind this and the practice has been established for some time in the USA, Australia, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, France and Germany".

To view some pictures of green walls, click here.

The researchers conducted a number of computer simulations to examine the impacts of different policies on air quality. The study showed that plants in parks and green roofs were beneficial but green walls had the greatest effect on air pollution levels. The researchers also noted that roadside trees were very effective in less polluted streets.

Following the study, the research team published a paper, ‘Effectiveness of Green Infrastructure for Improvement of Air Quality in Urban Street Canyons’. (An urban street canyon is a canyon formed in a street between two rows of tall buildings, which can trap and limit the dispersion of pollutants due to the lack of wind flow out of the canyon). The paper recommends rolling out more plants street-by-street and installing foliage covered ‘green billboards’ in urban street canyons where concrete and glass is prevalent.

Researcher Professor Rob MacKenzie, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Birmingham, stated, "Up until now, every initiative around reducing pollution has taken a top-down approach - scrapping old cars, adding catalytic converters to cars and bringing in the congestion charge - some of which have not had the desired effect. The benefit of green walls is that they clean up the air coming into and staying in the street canyon, planting more [green walls] in a strategic way, could be a relatively easy way to take control of our local pollution problems".

Researcher Dr Tom Pugh, from Lancaster University emphasized the need to use hardy plants to protect against the rigours of the urban environment. He added, "Care needs to be taken as to how and where we plant vegetation in our towns and cities, so that it does not suffer from drought, become heat stressed, vandalised, or interact negatively with other aspects of our urban areas and can carry out the very important job of filtering our air".

Green walls and roofs also have the added benefit of insulation, reducing the need for artificial heating or cooling, and improved biodiversity.


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The articles are written by individual members so do not necessarily represent the view of Pendle Labour Party.

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