Green, mean planting machine: Eco group help polluted Manchester turn over a new leaf

A Manchester environmental group are hitting back against smog after the city was branded the third-worst in England for air pollution  – and their plans are blossoming.

The recent Saharan smog covering the city with level 10-ranked air quality and that’s where A New Leaf MCR come in – a group made up of Manchester residents who want to  improve, promote and expand greenery in the city centre.

The group, which think ‘it’s about time’ Manchester became greener, brings people together with different skills and experience to help the city turn over a new leaf.

MM spoke to A New Leaf MCR co-founder Beth Knowles, 26, who is also a Labour candidate in the local council elections for Manchester city centre, to tell us more about the project.

Beth told MM: “Everyone wants greenery and greener space but there hasn’t really been the vehicle to do it through the city centre, so we have brought everyone together to help provide that.”

The group has already been working on several projects with fellow environmental group Red Rose Forest and is now starting work on their own homegrown schemes.

As well as promoting greenery, the group also has a strong focus on reducing the rubbish in Manchester’s streets.

The group has been campaigning for a cleaner city centre as well as highlighting the need for more recycling facilities for residents.

Beth said: “Because of the public sector cuts, the street cleaners were cut from a team of 80 to 40 within a couple of months, so this has caused the city to look dirtier.

“So you should be seeing quite a few things and a cleaner and greener city in general.”

Not only content with sprucing up surroundings, A New Leaf want to help Manchester folk feel better too.

 “It all contributes to a better environment and it just makes you feel better inside,” continued Beth.

“I think it’s not only good for us in terms of climate change adaptation – but it’s good for us human beings to be in a greener environment.

“That’s what it means to me, to look out my window and have some trees and green space to eat my lunch in – we don’t have that at all at the moment.”

The group is hoping to plant more trees in Piccadilly and Oxford Road in the next six-to-12 months. 

Despite forming 18 months ago, the group has only recently started to flourish as a lot of planning and fundraising has been involved to ‘get it all together’. 

One form of fundraising the group has created is PRINT FORWARD, which is a collaboration between the Manchester Print Fair and A New Leaf Manchester.

The first project and event will be in the form of an exhibition called ‘Urban Jungle’ where creative’s were asked to produce and submit a poster on the theme of urban jungle.

 The posters will be available to purchase at the May Day event and proceeds will go towards planting new trees in the city centre and future green projects, the event will be held at Takk coffee shop at 7pm.

 “Everyone is being really supportive and wanting to help in any way, which is great,” continued Beth.

“The fundraising has been fantastic and people have been really supportive from local businesses to residents.

 “People are helping us in a variety of ways such as collaborative projects like PRINT FORWARD with Manchester Print Fair, social media, urban design and illustration.

This is not the only campaign Labour candidate is working on at the minute and she recently began a campaign to deliver better broadband service to residential properties in the city centre, following complaints from residents about the current speed.

The campaign has proven to be very successful as Beth confirmed: “We had between 300 to 400 signatures in a couple of days.”

In addition, Beth has also been working on another project called the Good Neighbours Policy to encourage a better relationship between residents and local businesses in the city centre.

The 26-year-old has adopted an alternative approach towards her campaigning for the local council elections and has kicked the traditional canvassing, due to the logistics of urban life..

She said:”My campaigning is different to the traditional approach of knocking on doors as it’s difficult to do that in the city centre as everyone lives in flats.”

For more information or to get involved with A New Leaf MCR visit their website or find them on Twitter or Facebook.

Picture courtesy of **Mary**, with thanks.

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