Plants for the People

Here’s another entry for the 2019 St Luke’s CARES Community Awards, it has been submitted by Ed Carlisle & Katrine Bay Madsen on behalf of South Leeds Alliance for Clean Air. For details of how YOUR community group can enter please click here. But please note entries close tonight (28 February 2019) at midnight.

Air quality has a massive impact on us all. Here in south Leeds, we experience particularly high levels of air pollution – and suffer the consequences. In the Hunslet & Riverside council ward, rates of respiratory (breathing) illness are higher than anywhere – and Beeston & Holbeck and Middleton Park wards aren’t far behind. It is also undoubtedly a factor in the life expectancy of residents of south Leeds: here in the south, we live on average 10+ years less than people in far north Leeds.

In the past few months, a wide range of local people have come together to start to campaign and take action for cleaner air in our communities – under the banner of the South Leeds Alliance for Clean Air. This is set to take many forms, including independent air monitoring, tree planting, local awareness raising, and more. However, the first major project we plan to run – and need your support for – is the South Leeds Plant Project.

We each spend on average 90% of our time indoors. So, whilst there’s much work to be done to improve air quality on our streets, we want to focus first of all on improving the air inside – and we will start with some of the youngest members of our community. Plants not only look nice – but certain varieties are also well known for their air-cleansing qualities, giving us not only oxygen, but removing dangerous pollutants from the air at the same time.

We’re therefore talking with local primary schools across LS10 and LS11, and aim to work with them to see air-cleansing plants in every one of the roughly 250 primary school classrooms within a year. We will also work with 100+ school pupils to teach them how to care for and propagate (ie reproduce) these plants. In time, we anticipate pupils will be able to take plants home for their families, friends and neighbours to benefit from – and also see the plants heading into secondary schools, workplaces, and elsewhere. We hope to start a plant revolution, and see these fantastic plants in homes across south Leeds!

The £1000 top prize would enable us to buy 150 ready-to-go air-cleansing plants, at £5 each. (This wouldn’t cover every classroom in the first instance, but would offer a solid start.) Plus seeds and compost, to start growing more – £200. Plus a further £50 to cover costs like printing (we aim to run a competition in the schools for kids to design branded stickers to stick on their plant pots). We don’t foresee any volunteer costs, as we are all happy to do this in a free capacity.

This project sits within the newly-named South Leeds Alliance for Clean Air, which isn’t yet its own constituted group, but which is run by local residents who collectively have a long track record over 15+ years of community development work.


This post was written by Ed Carlisle & Katrine Bay Madsen

Photo: Rubber Plant via Wikimedia Commons

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