Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Polish Smog Alert

A social movement for cleaner air


One grassroots organisation is having a huge positive impact on air quality in Poland

Spotted: With 23 of the European Union’s 50 most polluted cities, Poland is one of the most polluted countries in Europe, largely due to the use of wood and cheap coal for heating. But the situation used to be even worse, with 36 Polish cities occupying places in that list in 2028. What changed? A grassroots campaign called Polish Smog Alert.

Polish Smog Alert was launched by a group of friends in 2012 and quickly grew into a national movement. It is made up of around 50 local groups, including members of the academic community and the church.

The group uses tactics such as enlisting lawyers to draft air quality legislation and medical experts to discuss the negative health effects of air pollution. It also engages the public through education, including touring a giant two-metre model of human lungs made of white fabric around Polish towns. As the lungs slowly turn from white to grey, the effects of pollution become obvious.

Over the past 10 years, Polish Smog Alert has had a tremendous amount of success. Its efforts have led to the introduction of new regulations, including anti-smog resolutions covering nearly 90 per cent of the country, the creation of low-emission zones, and a ban on coal and wood burners.

The group also helped establish important financial instruments, including a €25 billion programme of subsidies and soft loans to support coal boiler replacement and thermal retrofits. Polish Smog Alert was selected as a 2023 Earthshot Prize finalist.

Improving air quality is an urgent public health need. Globally, ambient air pollution and household air pollution combined are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths a year. Recent innovations spotted by Springwise that tackle this pollution include locally-owned networks of air quality sensors and a lampshade coating that transforms pollutants into harmless compounds.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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