Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:07 pm

Introducing trees and plants to polluted urban areas could be better and cheaper than using technology to reduce air pollution

Research has found that greening landscapes near factories and other pollution sources could reduce air pollution by an average of 27 percent.

The study shows that plants – not technologies – may also be cheaper options for cleaning the air near a number of industrial sites, roadways, power plants, commercial boilers and oil and gas drilling sites.

In fact, researchers found that in 75 percent of the counties analysed, it was cheaper to use plants to mitigate air pollution than it was to add technological interventions – things like smokestack scrubbers – to the sources of pollution.

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We can learn from nature

“The fact is that traditionally, especially as engineers, we don’t think about nature; we just focus on putting technology into everything,” says Bhavik Bakshi, lead author of the study and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The Ohio State University.

“And so, one key finding is that we need to start looking at nature and learning from it and respecting it. There are win-win opportunities if we do – opportunities that are potentially cheaper and better environmentally.”

Calculating the power of plants

To start understanding the effect that trees and other plants could have on air pollution, the researchers collected public data on air pollution and vegetation on a county-by-county basis across the lower 48 states. Then they calculated what adding additional trees and plants might cost.

Their calculations included the capacity of current vegetation – including trees, grasslands and shrublands – to mitigate air pollution.

They also considered the effect that restorative planting – bringing the vegetation cover of a given county to its county-average levels – might have on air pollution levels.

They estimated the impact of plants on the most common air pollutants – sulphur dioxide, particulate matter that contributes to smog, and nitrogen dioxide.

They found that restoring vegetation to county-level average canopy cover reduced air pollution an average of 27 percent across the counties.

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This is critical

Reducing air pollution is critical as poor air quality leads to health issues including asthma, lung cancer and heart disease.

So, if you live or work near a busy road or an industrial area, it would pay you to get involved with tree planting initiatives and help green your surroundings.

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Source: Ohio State University via

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