Investigating air quality in your town or city is a great way to find out more about how clean the air is near you. It can also be really useful for raising awareness about air pollution and could also be a great place to start a campaign.

Monitoring air quality could help you:

  •  Spread the word about the problems and get friends and family to support the cause.
  • Help you gain local media coverage.
  • Give you a way in to talking to your local council about the alternatives and solutions.  
     

Measuring pollution

The cheapest and simplest way to measure air pollution is with air monitoring tubes (also called diffusion tubes) that measure nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – one of the most harmful pollutants.
 

How to get hold of air monitoring tubes

If you're a Friends of the Earth local group or affiliate group, we can give you up to 10 free air monitoring tubes to measure pollution. Having lots of tubes means you can place them strategically around your area and build a bigger picture of the air pollution issue where you are. Write to cleanair@foe.co.uk to request your tubes. If you are not part of a local group, but would like to get involved with one, you can find your nearest group here.

If you're not part of a local group, but are part of a community group who want to measure the air pollution around you, we can provide you with some tubes for a donation. Please contact cleanair@foe.co.uk for more information.

If you’re not part of a local group or community group, you can order a Clean Air Kit.
 

Clean Air Kit

The Clean Air Kit is designed to help people find out how polluted the air is where they live, and provide some tools and ideas to take action. 

If you’re looking for a simple way to monitor the air around you, you can order a Clean Air Kit from our website.

The Clean Air Kit includes:

  • An air monitoring tube and instructions
  • An air pollution guide – including top tips on avoiding dirty air
  • Ideas and details of how you can join up with others to take action

Once you get your results, we’ll add them to a map of air pollution created in conjunction with experts at King’s College London, to help build a better picture of air pollution in the UK. 

Order a Clean Air Kit 
 

How to use your air monitoring tubes

When we send you air monitoring tubes, we’ll send you detailed guidance on how best to use them. 

Here are a couple of pointers to help you start planning while you’re waiting for them to arrive.

Air monitoring (or diffusion) tubes look a bit like test tubes and are about 8cm long. They measure NO2 in the air over a period of time. You can attach them easily to lamp posts, drain pipes or railings, and they need to be up for 2-4 weeks before being sent off for analysis.

Remember, the tubes measure average levels of NO2 over a period of time, so you won’t be able to record short term spikes in pollution.

Before you start, think carefully about where you would like to put them. It would be good to check on DEFRA’s air monitoring map to see if your council is already monitoring air pollution near you.

If you’ve got more than one tube then for best results, make sure you put at least one tube where pollution levels are low so you can compare the readings – a quiet road is ideal.

After that, you’ll want to find some useful places for the rest of your tubes. Is there a street with heavy traffic with lots of large vehicles passing through? Is there a school on a main road which often has cars keeping their engines running outside?

Anywhere where the pollution levels are likely to be high and which could also tell a good story is ideal.
 

What do I do once I get the results?

Once you’ve had your tubes up for 2-4 weeks, send them to us and we’ll send them off to the lab for analysis. It’ll take about 3-4 weeks for us to get the results back. When we have them, we’ll put them up on our air pollution map at www.foe.co.uk/page/national-air-pollution-map, and send them on to you with an explanation of what they mean.

There may be other people in your area who have used a Clean Air Kit or some of our tubes to monitor air pollution, so it’s worth checking on the map to see what else is happening nearby.

Once you have these results in your hand, there are all sorts of things you can do with them. 

  • They could be the perfect springboard to raise awareness about the problems of air pollution and find other people to join your cause.
  • You could also use them to help convince your local authority they need to take action to clean up the air in your town.
  • This guide has suggestions of activities you can do, many of which, such as organising a public meeting or lobbying your council to commit to want to go diesel-free, can be supported and enhanced by your air monitoring tube results. 

 

Getting media coverage is one of the best ways to reach people with your message and put pressure on local politicians.

A local paper is read by thousands. Regional radio reaches thousands of homes and a national TV news programme can be watched by millions. 

The trick is to provide timely and engaging stories in a way that they can be easily picked up by local media sources. When you have a story a stunt or an event that you want to share, send copy of your press release to the news desk and to named contacts.

Note: we'll be adding a template press release to this page soon which you can adapt and use. Write to cleanair@foe.co.uk if you'd like advice on working with the media in the meantime.

Follow it up with a phone call to check they’ve received it and ask if they would like any other information. This is a good way to build a relationship with your local journalists.

As a rough guide, the best time to contact a daily paper is in the morning or early afternoon – journalists will be busy writing up stories in the late afternoon. For weekly papers that go out on a Friday it’s best to call early in the week.

Whatever your news story is, draw out any elements that are:

  • Timely/topical
  • Building on an existing story
  • Relevant for the audience (e.g. about your local area for local media outlets)
  • Controversial, unusual, unique or humorous
  • Involving a local celebrity could also help you to get coverage.

The more imaginative or eye-catching your story, the more likely you are to get coverage.

Coming soon: Template Press Release

 

A big part of our work on air pollution will involve working with schools. 

There may be opportunities for you to get involved with your local school in the New Year. This section will be added to this guide in Spring 2017 – we'll update this page then with a link to our online Clean Air Schools webspace.

 

A key player that could help clean up the air near you is your local council - and there are loads of things you could do to influence them to commit to taking action.

We have prepared a short accessible briefing document that can be provided to Councillors and Council Officers to give them an overview of initiatives and schemes they may be able to run. This document also includes examples of best practice from other Councils.

All of the activities in this pack can help with your work aimed at getting your council to act. And there’s loads of ways that local authorities can help. Some councils have already changed their own fleets of vehicles to run on electricity, and some have created 20mph zones for road safety (which can also reduce air pollution by making walking and cycling more attractive). 

One of the most powerful things that councils could do is to pass a motion committing them to tackling air pollution locally and lobbying the Government to give them greater powers to take action.

This section will give you tactics to help win over your council to pass a motion, or commit to taking action in other ways.

Planning your approach to the council

Before you get started, it's a good idea to sit down and do some thinking about a few key things that will help you get off on the right foot. It’s well worth thinking about:

  • What’s actually happening near you? Are there areas where the pollution levels often breach legal limits? Is there an Air Quality Management Plan in place? What has the council committed to doing already?
  • What you want to achieve and by when – e.g. a motion passed by the local authority to want to phase out diesel in the town or town centre by 2025, to be achieved by December 2017.
  • Who you need to influence to make this happen – if it’s local councillors, are there any who hold positions of responsibility and could be influential? Do you know anything about them? Is there anything that might help persuade them, such as having children or grandchildren in a polluted road or school?
  • What kind of things will inspire your local community to come on board – for example if you live in a big town or city it will probably be the impact on health and the number of premature deaths in your town. Or if you’re in a rural area, are there any main roads that are close to your town or village which can become congested, or do they have grandchildren or relatives who live in a big town or city?
  • Which people or groups in your community could support your work and maybe join your campaign? How about raising the issue with a local forum or faith group?
  • Do you know if there are any proposals which would make air pollution worse, for example a new superstore which would generate traffic or a new road scheme? 

A motion to ditch diesel

An effective way to get your council to pledge to take action is through a motion. A motion, when passed and agreed by councillors, commits a council to look into and hopefully take action on an issue. It will depend on the makeup of your council and how bad air pollution is in the area as to what your motion should include.

You'll need to do some quick research if you don't already know what kind of council you or your local group falls under. Information on what type of council you’re in can usually be found on council websites on the ‘About’ page.

We've prepared 5 templates which you can select from, depending on the situation where you live. Thanks to all the Friends of the Earth groups who helped with creating these.

Motion A – For local authorities which are identified as an Air Quality Management Area

Motion BFor local authorities without an illegal air problem (note most will still exceed WHO levels)

Motion C – For District Councils which are identified as part of an Air Quality Management Area

Motion D – For District Councils without an illegal air pollution problem

Motion E – For London Local Authorities

 

HOW TO INFLUENCE YOUR COUNCIL

There are several things you can do to influence your council to take action or pass a motion. All the activities in this pack, from organising a Playing Out day to monitoring air pollution can help. 

Learn More →

WHAT SOME COUNCILS ARE ALREADY DOING

While there’s much to do to get us on the path to a diesel-free, clean air future, there is already lots of work going on up and down the country and some really promising progress in some local authorities. 

Learn More →

Lots of air pollution campaign groups have already formed and have been successfully fighting for clean air for years. It’s possible that there is one near you that you could join up with.  

If you're not already part of one, there might be a Friends of the Earth group near you that you could join. These consist of volunteers and activists who work together on environmental issues locally, nationally and internationally. Many of them are already working on air pollution locally and if not may be interested in joining our air pollution campaign.

You can find and contact your local Friends of the Earth group here: foe.co.uk/get_involved/find_group – they’d be delighted to hear from you! 

If there aren’t any air pollution campaigning groups in your area and you’d like to start a new one or to link up with Friends of the Earth in another way, we can support you to do this: just give us a call on: 020 7490 0210 or get in touch at: localgroups@foe.co.uk and we can talk you through some options.

You can also find out more here: foe.co.uk/community/local_groups/resource/handbook  
 

TOP TIP

If you are part of a community group or social enterprise, you might be interested in affiliating with friends of the Earth. It’s free and it’s a great way to connect with other groups and stay involved with our campaigns. Find out more about affiliating with Friends of the Earth here.