Trees for Cities

Planting Healthy Air in Schools

Every year in London 9,500 people die prematurely because of air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution as their lungs are still growing and developing. Yet, 25% of all London schools are in areas that exceed legal air quality limits, according to a 2017 report.

Trees for Cities’ Planting Healthy Air in Schools programme is tackling the problem of harmful air pollution by improving schools’ outside spaces. The programme plants trees and vegetation and installs green screens. These typically involve growing ivy around the school perimeter, which acts as a barrier to some of the nitrogen dioxide from diesel vehicles. The leaves and hairy stems also trap some harmful particles from the air.

In partnership with Mapping for Change and Lancaster University, Trees for Cities will also install diffusion tubes in the schools’ grounds to measure air pollution levels. Pupils will change the tubes each month, helping them learn about the impact of air pollution. The programme will also include research into the effectiveness of green infrastructure to mitigate local pollution.

  • Air pollution in London is responsible for 9,500 premature deaths per year. Children are particularly at risk because of their smaller lung capacity.
  • London’s trees remove 2,241 tons of pollution per year, making them a particularly effective barrier to the flow of toxic air.
  • Planting Healthy Air in Schools is helping improve the air quality in areas around some of London’s most polluted schools.

New skills, knowledge and green spaces

Planting Healthy Air was first launched at St Paul’s CE Primary School in Hammersmith. Our grant of  £15,000 will benefit pupils from two more schools: Christ Church Bentinck School and Tudor Primary School, which are both near busy A-roads.

Through assemblies, education and tree-planting workshops the whole school community will develop skills and knowledge to care for their new green spaces.

With summer temperatures rising year on year, the trees will also offer much-needed shade for the children and create new habitats for wildlife. Teachers will be able to take lessons outside and teach the children the value of trees, wildlife and nature.

Improving air quality

This grant comes under one of Kusuma Trust’s priority areas: Community and Environment, helping to bring communities together and improving air pollution by building green spaces.

We also worked with Trees for Cities on an Edible Garden project in West London, which transformed a disused churchyard into an inspirational space for teaching children about growing and eating healthy food.

“Planting Healthy Air gives schools the tools to take positive action so that they can help protect their pupils from the devastating health effects of exposure to air pollution whilst in the playground. We’re under no illusion that trees will solve the problem, but they certainly help, and bring a whole host of other benefits besides.”

Kate Sheldon, Deputy Chief Executive at Trees for Cities

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