The Ottawa Sustainability Fund is a granting program that supports local environmental initiatives. The recipient of the 2019 grant is Ecology Ottawa with a project called Breath Easy.
Supported by the Ottawa Sustainability Fund, Ecology Ottawa will be launching an innovative air quality monitoring campaign in Ottawa in 2020. This campaign aims to provide residents of the city with a frame of reference as to the quantity of harmful pollution particulates in the city’s ambient air. Common air pollutants come from various sources such as factories, cars, trains, and large delivery trucks.
Ecology Ottawa will use the results of the monitoring to engage residents, city staff and elected representatives of City Council. The results will illustrate with clarity where the air quality is worst in the city as well as at what hours it is particularly concerning. The goal of the project is to use the results as a tool of engagement. Although data regarding pollution will be collected, we mostly hope to see this campaign as an opportunity to increase public participation and collaboration. In fact, Ecology Ottawa will be reaching out to resident volunteers to gather data themselves. With portable, GPS tracked monitors, individuals will be asked to strap monitors to their wheelchairs, strollers, bikes and backpacks while they travel in different areas of the city.
The specifics of particle pollution (or particulate matter), which includes acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, microscopic bits of soil, pollen, and dust, will be made available on an interactive map online. Individuals will be able to locate highly polluted areas in order to avoid them during their commute.
There are many nonprofit organizations in cities around the world who are leaders in air quality monitoring initiatives, such as GASP (Pittsburgh, USA), Hamilton Air Monitoring Network (Hamilton, CAN), London Air (London, UK), and AirCasting (Brooklyn, USA), to name a few. Ecology Ottawa has been working closely with the Toronto Environmental Alliance and Environment Hamilton to learn from their experiences with monitoring air quality in Canada.
Further research will be conducted in the coming months – you can stay in touch with the initiative by subscribing to Ecology Ottawa’s mailing list or following them on Facebook. Air quality affects us all!