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School opens 'living wall' to counter air pollution

The crowd-funded, biodiversity-improving project was opened by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, at St Mary's Catholic Primary in Chiswick

Posted by Julian Owen | July 17, 2019 | Sustainability

A group of parents at a London school have taken the issue of air pollution into their own hands, installing a ‘living wall’ of more than 12,000 plants in the playground of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Chiswick. 

After successfully crowdfunding over £90,000, the wall was officially opened by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who also pledged £32,000 to the Chiswick Oasis project. 

Bringing an old, rarely used space back to life, it is hoped that the 126m wall will reduce air pollutants and improve air quality, after surveys revealed the school – located next to the six-lane A4 - is among the 50 most polluted in the capital. 

The project has received support from the local community, businesses, parents and celebrities, including Jeremy Paxman, Emma Thompson and Claudia Winkleman. 

Supporters had the opportunity to plant their own piece of the living wall at the launch event. It is planned that children will be able to use the facility to learn about nature and biodiversity as part of their curriculum. 

Crowdfunding efforts are also continuing with hopes to extend the wall and surround the whole playground. 

“Our toxic air is a public health crisis that increases the risk of dementia and asthma and damages the lung development of our children,” said Khan, as he opened the wall. “I’m doing all I can to tackle it but I can’t succeed without the support of my fellow Londoners. 

“Chiswick Oasis is a brilliant example of what can be achieved when communities work together to find innovative solutions to local problems, and exactly the sort of project our Crowdfund London initiative was set up to support.”   

With proven air-purifying qualities and featuring plants found in the local area, the living wall was provided by ANS Global, which will be maintaining the wall for free for the next five years. The new green space will also be open to the public, as well as playing host to future community events, such as markets and fairs. 

ANS Global has provided training to teachers and parents at the school, teaching them about how the living wall works and how to maintain it. 

The Chiswick Oasis project was launched by parents last year, with the aim of creating cleaner, greener air at St Mary’s. As well as the wall, the team are tackling air quality by adding more plants, painting the school’s ground floor in air-purifying paint and installing air purifiers. 

In addition to a ‘No Car Friday’ initiative, the school plans to create an edible vegetable garden. 

Andrea Carnevali, the man behind Chiswick Oasis, said: “We are not just transforming one of the most polluted schools in London into one of the greenest, but I’d like to think that we’re also creating a model for all the other schools to be inspired by and to follow.” 

Steve McIntyre, urban environment consultant at ANS Global said: “It is fantastic to be involved in the St Mary’s Chiswick Oasis project, which addresses the very important issue of improving air quality in urban environments. Specifically designed to thrive for the long term, and requiring minimal maintenance, the wall features thousands of plants indigenous to the area that have been carefully selected to not only clean the air, but also support biodiversity and local wildlife, while also being an interactive learning tool for the children. 

“Research has shown that just one square metre of vegetation can provide enough oxygen for a person for a year, which demonstrates the true power of plants in our environment. We hope that Chiswick Oasis is the catalyst for more schools to learn about living walls, which have the power to transform urban spaces, while making a positive and measurable impact on people’s lives.” 

To donate or to find out more about the Chiswick Oasis project visit: chiswickoasis.com

 

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