The Solent Air Watch team has been using maps to raise awareness of air pollution in Southampton. It’s the season for outdoor events and our first stall was at Environmental Rock at the end of May, sharing the space with other organisations working on clean air issues such as Friends of the Earth and the Southampton Cycling Campaign. We talked to festival goers about air pollution in Southampton and tried out a short survey, but it got us thinking – what is the best way of engaging people on the topic of dirty air?
Maps are great tools for enabling people to understand and transform their cities. Southampton’s very own Ordnance Survey has OS Greenspace, a comprehensive catalogue of green spaces across the UK; and Mapping for Change has itself run a project to map community air quality in London.
We want to create an online air quality map, so we thought, why not use a real one at events and ask people to contribute to it? And so our mapping project was born: one large printed map of Southampton, a load of sticky dots and post-it notes, and over 100 conversations later, we have this:
The green dots are where people think that there is an air pollution problem – mostly at roadside locations it seems. There are also a few tiny hearts dotted around – they are where people feel that the air is clean, such as Southampton Common and other green spaces. And the post-it notes are everyone’s comments and ideas!
We set up stalls at Let’s Ride Southampton in East Park and on Clean Air Day in Guildhall Square and asked people to let us know their thoughts on air quality:
- Where do you think air quality is poor in Southampton?
- Why do you think there is air pollution in those neighbourhoods?
- What kinds of solutions could there be for cleaner air?
Some of the comments on poor air quality were:
And here are some of the ideas for tackling air pollution:
Cycling, park & ride, and cheaper bus journeys feature quite prominently.
We also asked children to draw us pictures of their ideas and here is a great example! Has anyone built this machine? 🙂
We are developing the online map to capture all these data points and comments, and also to enable more people to contribute their ideas. Everyone’s ideas about pollution hotspots will also help us to decide where we should start installing ‘Sniffy’ sensors to monitor air quality.
We’re also thrilled that loads of people signed up to volunteer on the project – if you’d like to do the same, please fill out our short contact form. We’re looking for people to help out with all aspects of the project from being a clean air champion or helping out with social media, to learning new skills at our sensor building workshops and helping others to develop technical skills. More details on how you can get involved are available here.
A big thank you to everyone who helped make it happen!