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Moss Cow mooves the conversation on to environmental themes

13 Jul 2021

A moss-covered sculpture on the Cows about Cambridge art trail is not just turning heads – it’s turning pollutants into fresh air.

Moss Cow is clothed from head to hoof in living moss, which has an udderly extraordinary ability to clean the air by filtering out and absorbing particulate matter – soot, dirt, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants. These particulates are digested by bacteria living on the moss, and the moss then digests the bacteria.

An air quality sensor, mounted inside the cowbell, measures pollution levels every 10 minutes and sends this data to be displayed at cambridgemosscow.org and broadcast on the @cambmosscow Twitter feed. It tracks the concentration of PM2.5, particles that are smaller than 2.5microns, because these are the most hazardous to human health.

To keep the Cow looking moo-vellous, the moss is watered from a 30-litre tank hidden inside the sculpture. Computerised pumps, connected to a rechargeable battery powered by solar panels, squirt water out along Moss Cow’s back during the day and overnight.

The sculpture has been developed by a collaboration of environmental groups in Cambridge and is sponsored by Stagecoach; the air quality sensor was provided by open-seneca, a Cambridge-based citizen science organisation.

“Moss Cow represents the importance of plants in urban environments,” explains team lead Chris Pointon, “and also the key role that current, local data has in empowering communities to make changes that improve their own health, and that of the planet. Moss Cow, like our other work on the Cambridge Climate Charter and Cambridge Carbon Map, aims to inspire people to work together to achieve a sustainable way of life.”

Darren Roe, Managing Director for Stagecoach East, comments: “We are delighted to be sponsoring Moss Cow. Sustainability is incredibly important for us: in recent years we have surpassed some brilliant milestones in our mission to improve air quality and reduce harmful carbon emissions.

"We are proud to have introduced the first electric buses in Cambridge, which have covered thousands of miles with zero tailpipe emissions. Swapping your car for a bus is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint, combat road congestion and enjoy greener travel, as just one full double decker can take up to 75 cars off the road.”

Moss Cow is one of 90 sculptures on the amazing Cows about Cambridge art trail, which has been brought to the city by event producers Wild in Art in collaboration with Break charity, principal partner Cambridge BID and official travel partner Thameslink.

Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Wild in Art, says: “We want all of our sculptures to make people smile, especially given the year we’ve all had. But some of our sculptures, such as Moss Cow, also have an important role to play in starting conversations about the environment and how we look after it. We’re delighted to have Moss Cow on the trail.”

Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre, says: “Cambridge City Council is delighted to be an Official Supporter of Cows about Cambridge. We are particularly pleased that Moss Cow is both cleaning the city’s air and helping residents find out how to reduce their carbon emissions through the embedded link to the Cambridge Climate Change Charter - which has been developed by Cambridge Carbon Footprint with funding from the City Council.”

Located at the Hills Road entrance to Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Moss Cow also has her own social media channels. Find out more at www.cowsaboutcambridge.co.uk

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