BLOG: Breathe you’ve gone green

19 June 2019

We are marking Clean Air Day (June 20) and want to highlight the crucial role that trees and Green Infrastructure play in reducing harmful toxins in the air, helping to make our air 'cleaner' so we can breathe easier.

National Clean Air Day was launched in June 2017 to highlight the dangers of air pollution to our health, and the importance of working together to help clean our air.

Why is ‘dirty air’ an issue?

Air pollution can seriously harm our health .

In Greater Manchester, air pollution comes primarily from traffic, which is naturally worse in built up areas near busy roads. It can increase the risk of asthma and bacterial pneumonia, as well as being linked to cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Air pollution is particularly bad for children and elderly people, as they are more vulnerable.

The Royal College of Physicians has estimated that air pollution causes up to 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK - which would be around 2,000 people in Manchester.

Trees & Green Infrastructure (GI) have a part to play

Scientists have found that planting more trees can help counteract the harmful effects of air pollution. At City of Trees we know that trees and GI aren't the only solution - but they need to be part of the plan to help tackle our poor air quality in Greater Manchester and beyond.

Trees can absorb noxious gases, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, as well as removing pollution by intercepting ultrafine and very harmful particulate matter from the air. In addition to this, trees outside of homes can even reduce the levels of particulate matter inside a house by 50%.

In 2015, a study commissioned by the Office of National Statistics estimated there were 27,000 fewer life years lost and 1,900 fewer premature deaths across the UK, due to pollution being removed from the environment by plants. In addition to this, it also estimated there were 5,800 fewer respiratory hospital admissions and 1,300 fewer cardiovascular hospital admissions. All of these reductions resulted in an estimated £1 billion in avoided hospital costs in 2015 alone.

A study from a US-based organisation found that planting trees is a very cost-effective way to reduce urban air pollution. It studied the use of trees in 245 cities across the world and found that having trees nearby in urban areas can reduce the amount of pollution particles in people's lungs by between 7-24%.

What are we doing at City of Trees?

As well as helping to improve our air, trees and other GI can cool the surrounding temperature, as well as providing an amazing well-being factor for us humans and a home for wildlife.

At City of Trees our mission is to plant one tree for every citizen of Greater Manchester, to help green our city region. To date we have planted 459,929 trees across Greater Manchester. And we're not stopping yet!  

We are the Greater Manchester part of the Northern Forest  a 25 year vision to plant 50 million trees across the North of England from Liverpool on the west coast, across Greater Manchester and stretching right across to Hull on the east coast. The first trees were planted in December 2018 and planting will continue this year throughout autumn and winter.

We also continue to plant and get more trees and GI in not only residential areas, but in our towns and cities across Greater Manchester.

Our i-Tree Eco survey

Throughout the summer and autumn of  2018, we completed the biggest i Tree eco survey outside the US. With a team of 57 surveyors who visited almost 2,000 plots, we recorded a huge amount of data about 6,000 trees.

We found that there are over 11m trees in Greater Manchester and in terms of air quality they play a crucial role.

Greater Manchester's trees act as a filtration system for harmful pollutants, removing 847 tonnes of pollutants each year. In addition they produce 122,450 tonnes of oxygen per year.

Have your say: The Clean Air Plan

Greater Manchester's 10 councils and Transport for Greater Manchester are currently asking the public for their views on a proposed Clean Air Plan to reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide from vehicles across the city region.

You can contribute to the Clean Air conversation by filling out this survey, before Sunday, June 30.  Find out more:

Find out more about Clean Air Day

Download our 'Breathe....' report below.