Tag Archives: Air Pollution

A Birdhouse That Gives Out Free Wi-Fi When The Air Quality Improves

2 Jun

There is something really cosy about a birdhouse isn’t there? Well an Amsterdam based start-up company called TreeWiFi agree and are planning on combining it with a much loved technology around the world…Wi-Fi!

They are planning to build bird houses that can measure the amount of pollution in the air, and make them levels visible through an LED status light. The birdhouse will measure when the air is clean and when it is, will give out free Wi-Fi. The roof of the birdhouse will then light up green to show people that the air is of good quality and that Wi-Fi is available on the street.

The technology works by the treehouse sending air quality data to a server where it is analysed and made public for everyone to see.

The brilliance behind the TreeWiFi is its ability to measure air pollution around the world in a much cheaper way than regular government owned air quality measuring stations. The more birdhouses installed means we can get a much more realistic idea of the air pollution around cities and towns.

Currently in Amsterdam air quality is not measured locally and thus local citizens tend not to get involved in improving air quality. The Wi-Fi element will not only offer researchers a better understanding of the workings of air pollution, but also motivate citizens to get involved in reducing air pollution. TreeWiFi also aims to encourage people who live in a city to use their bikes and public transportation more often, and to organise car-free days in their districts.

The project began with funding from the Awesome Foundation Amsterdam in March 2016, since then the team has grown from founder and designer Joris Lam to five in total. TreeWiFi is now hoping to raise €6.500 to further support the development of the prototype and to be able to build five units that they can place in the city of Amsterdam for testing.

Founder Joris Lam hopes to install at least 500 units in the city of Amsterdam, or other European cities who want to tackle air pollution. Due to the project’s fun and relatable approach to a subject otherwise hard to bring attention to, the reactions have been positive from local citizens.

We think it’s a great idea all round – Who would love to see the TreeWifi installed in your local towns and cities? Would they make you more aware of your carbon footprint and air polluting ways? Or are you just here for the free Wi-Fi? (We had to ask!)



Milan Plans To Pay Commuters Who Cycle To Work

23 Mar

In December last year, the city of Milan in Italy had to ban cars from the city centre due to such high levels of smog in the air. The city also had to ban their traditional end of year firework displays and so they decided to offer discount to commuters in the way of “anti-smog” tickets on public transport. While last year’s smog was unusually heavy, air pollution is nothing new to the residents of Milan. In 2008, Milan was named Europe’s most polluted city, and it has continued to be one of the worst on the continent since then.

Milan’s geography means that the city is particularly likely to suffer from smog. Due to it being in a valley, air pollution often gets confined in the city. With the past winter being especially dry and warm, the smog will have worsened. The city could experience an emerging pattern as climate change deepens. Milan is already routinely ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the EU.

With this in mind the city now plans to take another step closer to getting people out of their cars on a more permanent basis by paying commuters who choose to ride a bike. The plan to promote cycling is borrowed from a similar system tried in France in 2014, where employees were paid 25 cents for each kilometre they pedalled to work. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom have all also tried paying commuters to bike, at rates equivalent to about 30 cents a mile, tax-free.

Milan’s idea is to pay a higher amount to provide an improved incentive for commuters, but because of the money involved, the city needs a way to validate that people who claim to be biking to work are telling the truth. A possible answer may lay within our smartphones. They plan to implement an app that will track the speed of a commuters trip to work but the problem with this is the heavy amount of traffic on Milan’s roads. Bikers could potentially move faster than drivers anyway.

Milan is currently weighing up all of the options. “We are planning to do something similar,” says Pierfrancesco Maran (Milan’s mobility councillor). “To give direct money to those who go to work by bike, or to give them some other sustainable-mobility incentive.”

Even though there’s an obvious cost involved, Maran argues that it makes sense to encourage people to bike the same way that the government supports options such as public transport. “If we look at mobility all together, for example, even half of the cost of public transport is contributed by national funds,” he says. “So we will give a little money as an incentive for citizens to know that cycling is healthier than cars, and can be a good alternative in a flat city like Milan.”

Over the last few years change has been at the forefront as the city has seen a 50% increase in bike lanes and a doubled number of bike sharing stations, which more and more people are riding. A congestion charge for drivers in the city centre has been enforced which has led to a 20% increase in public transport use over the last four years. Paying people to bike on its own may not make a huge difference, but it’s part of a larger plan that does seem to be working. “Something is changing in the behaviour of citizens,” says Maran. “We want to help it change faster.”

Experts are however sceptical that the financial incentives will do much to change the way people in Milan commute. Although more cycling routes are being built, it is argued that the city is not necessarily bike friendly in all areas.

milan, italy, cycling, bicycle infrastructure, commuting, air pollution, smog, europe

Delhi implements a two-week car ban in attempt to clear air pollution

22 Jan

With air pollution at an all-time high in major cities around the world, Delhi are the latest to take action. Following in the footsteps of Paris and Beijing. The experiment has been launched to reduce car traffic that contributes to the poor air quality. More than a million private cars were banned from Delhi’s roads on Friday, as powers that be began an experimental scheme to battle smog in the world’s most polluted capital.

The city of nine million cars is the latest to implement an odd-even system which restricts driving rights for privately owned vehicles based on the last digit of the license plate as it corresponds to the date. On even days, only vehicles with even numbered plates are allowed to drive in the city. On odd days, odd numbered vehicles can be used. All of this is an attempt to reduce the emissions from car traffic that contributes to the worsening air pollution in India’s capital. Delhi officials have been battling with air pollution for years, and this isn’t the first attempt to slash car traffic. Despite previous efforts, the pollution problem hasn’t considerably improved.

To help subside the inconvenience commuters may face, the city added 3,000 additional buses for the two week experiment. A large number of the buses were borrowed from local city schools. Both officials and environmentalists claimed the public had accepted the emergency action plan and so it was put into place. Many government officials set an example taking public transportation, while Uber and taxi rides increased as well.

The experiment began on Monday 4th January 2016, the first full working day of the New Year. The restrictions continued for a two-week period, after which officials evaluated the results. In a city with approximately 3 million private cars, less than 200 motorists were stopped by police and fined 2,000 rupees (£20) for disobeying the Indian capitals first-ever licence plate driving ban. A large sum for most Delhiites.

 “What I saw today all across Delhi was very encouraging,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the thinktank Centre for Science and Environment. “There were very few even-numbered cars on the roads, and my overall sense is that people have accepted the need for such action.”

“But the biggest achievement today relates to public road transport. Not only were there more buses on the road, but due to less congestion the journey time of buses was much better. If Delhi is to succeed in this mission, only the metro is not enough. We need to augment and improve the bus system also.”

On the final day of the two week trail, air quality levels remained “very unhealthy”. Although Delhi commuters were nonetheless positive about the scheme, which the government may adopt on a more permanent basis, although mostly because it freed up traffic on the city’s usually clogged roads.

“The traffic situation in Delhi has really improved. Earlier, it used to take me nearly one hour to commute to work and back (home), but now the time has cut to half. It’s such a relief,” said Mr Rohit Srivastava, a 32-year-old bank executive who had been carpooling with his colleagues and taking the metro every second day.

In a city where road rules are routinely flouted, most drivers appeared to be obeying the restrictions and many said they viewed the scheme positively. The Delhi government said the trial resulted in a “more than 50% drop in air pollution primarily caused by vehicular traffic” at 18 locations in the city it had been monitoring.

A recent study by the Indian Institute of Technology, in Kanpur has shown that two other major sources of air pollution are road dust and goods truck emissions.

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