In 2018, we worked with a total of 195 participants (children, young adults, parents, activists and city officials) in neighbourhoods across the EU, including London, Macclesfield, Brussels and Paris to engage in Pollution Explorer activities to improve AQ data and activate communities to change behaviour and improve the quality of air.
Pollution Explorers is a participatory air quality initiative in which people make sense of the quality of air in their environment through their innate subjective perception in combination with wearable tools and air quality sensors. The aim is to explore our collective responsibility and capacity in tackling air quality issues and to develop collective means to tackle air pollution.
Through the engagement, participants make a statement on the air quality with their own physical actions while recording perceptual data using the wearable tools, help to fill in missing air quality data ‘gaps’ (e.g. areas where a local authority doesn’t have data), and try to make sense of the quality of air in their neighbourhood. Through this process, they make collective pledges that they can commit to helping tackle air quality issues for a period of time.
… People easily assume the traffic is solely responsible for air pollution but do not do anything apart from blaming… here people can do the link themselves by seeing what is around them and what the air quality sensor shows, and make the decision whether they want to change their behaviour, that’s how we can change things.
— Participant from Pollution Explorers Brussels, with EU commission & other organisations
In this initiative we focus on how we can harness collective behaviour change to tackle air quality issues through changes in participants’ behaviour (coupling children to their parents) by encouraging them to commit to a specific action for an extended period of time, and relating this to their direct experience (and evaluation) of their neighbourhood. Their actions were tracked over a period of 21 days to analyse the correlation between their level of commitment to air quality improvement.
The initiatve has proven that a high percentage of participants (57%) have shown a high level of commitment to their pledges, and were also the ones who showed higher sensitivity to air quality changes through their subjective perception during the Pollution Explorers walk.
Pollution Explorers is a project led by Ling Tan of Umbrellium with hackAIR, funded by Vertigo STARTS.