Sit Back, Relax, and Fight Air Pollution!

New park benches are fit with pollution sensors, spreading the word on dangerous air in the hopes of moving towards healthier breathing and a cleaner planet.

Park bench in Chicago detecting air pollution

The fight for clean air typically involves rallies, grass roots organizing, and political lobbying, all of which can leave us feeling distant and detached from the very environment we are trying to improve. While the majority of newsworthy developments in the battle for clean air occur on symbolic pieces of paper behind closed doors, there’s much that can be done with a bit of creative thinking coupled with some straightforward information.

That’s exactly what the Environmental Protection Agency is doing with the new park benches that are being installed around the country. Equipped with air pollution sensors, these benches are raising awareness regarding the dangers of pollutants floating in the air we breathe. Part of of the Village Green Project, these benches are new developments in clean air initiatives, and while there are only seven currently active at the moment, one of them is installed at Jane Addams Elementary School in the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois. Marta Fuoco, an environmental scientist for the EPA, had this to say about the bench:

“It’s been great seeing teachers and students interacting with it. It’s an educational tool for the locals to understand how their actions impact air quality in the area.”

By informing children at an early age about the dangers of pollution, the EPA seeks to give the next generation a jump on cleaning the planet’s air. Along with air pollution measurements, the benches collect data on wind conditions, temperature, and humidity in the air – all of which are factors that can affect the quality of outdoor air. These readings can be viewed in real-time via an LCD screen or online.

While there is no definitive timetable for how long the bench at Jane Addams (or those placed elsewhere) will continue their work as pollution gauges, there is certainly an open window for other communities to obtain their own air-monitoring benches:

The EPA has listed the components necessary to construct your own air-monitoring station. The structures are entirely sustainable, constructed from recycled materials and powered by solar panels and a wind turbine.

Though the progression towards a cleaner, less polluted planet has proven to be arduous, small-scale projects, like these pollution benches, may prove to be sparks that spread green living/clean energy knowledge that can make a sustainable impression on the next wave of policy-makers.