St. Margaret Mary study aims to reduce pollution

Record Staff Report

Cars sped past St. Margaret Mary School during rush hour on Shelbyville Road earlier this week.  The school is beginning an experiment to naturally filter air pollution on its campus.

Cars sped past St. Margaret Mary School during rush hour on Shelbyville Road earlier this week. The school is beginning an experiment to naturally filter air pollution on its campus.

St. Margaret Mary School is responding to Pope Francis’ call to “care for our common home,” by joining in an experiment to reduce air pollution in Louisville.

The experiment is being coordinated by the Louisville Green for Good Project, a collaboration between the University of Louisville, the City of Louisville and the Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil.

About half of St. Margaret Mary’s front yard, located along the busy Shelbyville Road corridor across from Oxmoor Mall, will be planted this fall with deciduous trees and pines to act as “a living filter for roadway air pollution,” according to a press release issued last week.

Levels of air pollution at the school will be monitored — with the help of students — before and after the planting, the release said.

“This project has the potential to improve the health of nearby students and residents for years to come by improving local air quality,” said Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Center.

“St. Margaret Mary was chosen due to its location, which is close to a high traffic roadway,” he said in the release. “The school also includes a spacious lawn that allows for the addition of foliage, which will act as an air-cleansing barrier between the school and the street.”

Wendy Sims, principal of St. Margaret Mary, said the project will serve as a lesson for students and parishioners. And it will provide an opportunity to respond to Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for creation, she said.

She noted that Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si’, “Social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a ‘culture of care’ which permeates all of society.”

Sims said, “This project is a wonderful lesson for our students, faculty and parents about how to foster such a culture of care, now and for future generations.”

Air monitoring around St. Margaret Mary will begin this summer. In addition to air quality, the project will also track data related to traffic and weather, the news release said.

Funding for the project was provided by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. Matching grants were provided by the Owlsey Brown Charitable Foundation in the amount of $50,000 and an anonymous donation of $25,000.

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