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Cows about Cambridge: How eco-friendly Moss Cow is cleaning the air

There are many extraordinary things to see on the Cows about Cambridge art trail – but this moss-covered sculpture’s greatest attribute is not immediately obvious.

Moss Cow with Chris Pointon and Darren Roe. Picture: Richard Marsham
Moss Cow with Chris Pointon and Darren Roe. Picture: Richard Marsham

For while it is clear that Moss Cow is covered in living moss, from head to hoof, what you may not appreciate is that this helps to clean the air by filtering out and absorbing particulate matter, such as soot, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants.

Bacteria living on the moss digest these particulates and the moss then digests the bacteria. An air quality sensor is mounted inside the cowbell, measuring pollution levels every 10 minutes. The data can be seen at cambridgemosscow.org and broadcast on the @cambmosscow Twitter feed.

The ingenuity does not stop there. 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, developed by a collaboration of environmental groups in Cambridge, is sponsored by Stagecoach, while the air quality sensor was provided by open-seneca, a Cambridge-based citizen science organisation.

Moss Cow. Picture: Richard Marsham
Moss Cow. Picture: Richard Marsham

The firm’s team lead, Chris Pointon, said: “Moss Cow represents the importance of plants in urban environments, 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, added: “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.

Moss Cow. Picture: Richard Marsham
Moss Cow. Picture: Richard Marsham

“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 of the road.”

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

Moss Cow. Picture: Richard Marsham
Moss Cow. Picture: Richard Marsham

Charlie Langhorne, co-founder of Wild in Art, said: “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.”

Located at the Hills Road entrance to Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Moss Cow has her own social media channels.

For more information, visit cowsaboutcambridge.co.uk.

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