Air Quality sensors: first steps to set them up

A previous post announced the arrival of our first two #airquality sensors. These two sensors measure particulate matter (PM); we are still waiting on delivery of two more sensors, which will measure nitrogen dioxide.

Now we’ve got these sensors, the first steps in our project plan are about setting them up before they are ready for use by volunteer participants. We also need to do some proper testing, but more on that in another post.

Below is a picture of our two AirBeams to measure PM:


For the technically-minded the AirBeam is based upon the Arduino Leonardo. In addition to the particulate matter sensor inside the case, there is also a sensor to measure temperature and relative humidity. The AirBeams are battery powered and charged using a USB cable. These AirBeam needs to be used with an Android smartphone and a specific “app” has been developed for their use – the “aircasting” app is found here.

The AirBeam connects to the Android smartphone using bluetooth technology. The Android smartphone is primarily needed to provide a GPS location for the data that is recorded by the sensors. Additionally the microphone of the phone can be used to record local noise levels – potentially providing some insights into local noise pollution levels, although this is not the immediate focus of our project.

The screenshot below shows the aircasting app and the readings from the sensor. So, at this point in time (readings are taken every few seconds) PM was 6 micrograms (one millionth of a gram) per cubic meter. At the same time, relative humidity was 51%, temperature 60F and the sound level was 81dB. The colour coding can be configured and is designed to give a quick idea about current levels.


These readings update continuously and can be recorded on the smartphone for mapping or analysis. More on this in a later post.

Michael has been using this AirBeam for the last year or two and so is very familiar with its use. They are great devices, but of course have their limitations. One limitation is the need for an Android smartphone and so volunteers will need to have an appropriate phone for the sensor to work. This is a constraint, but we feel we can still learn a lot during the project.

More information to follow on the progress of our tests with these sensors and how the data can be used.

The first sensors arrive – unpacking the AirBeam PM Sensors

For our Air Quality project we have ordered:

The PM sensors are called AirBeams and were ordered from Habitat Map in the USA.

We ordered them 31 August 2016 and we’re glad to say they arrived a few weeks later. There were some minor customs charges, but at least we were underway!


Opening up the box and there are two lovely new AirBeams. which we promptly labelled with a Sharpie pen – Liverpool FoE Sensor #1 and Sensor #2 are here!


Next steps are to start testing and configuring these sensors in preparation for giving them to volunteers. We are still waiting on the NO2 sensors as well.


Air Quality in Liverpool


We are looking at air quality within Liverpool as part of our local efforts.

We are currently running a “citizen science” project. To do this we are grateful for funding from the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group.

This is a small-scale project with some simple objectives:

  1. We want to understand more about the different technologies that can be used to support citizen science initiatives around air quality
  2. We want to understand how these technologies, and the data they generate, can be used to help individuals and community groups.

No doubt there will be other learning along the way. For example, we are interested in how this sort of community-level engagement and “hyperlocal” data gathering can be used to supplement and complement city-level and national air quality monitoring and management.

The Gary Mahoney Memorial Bike Ride – a reminder. Sunday 19 April 2015 at 11:00am

Gary’s colleagues at Sefton Council have arranged a memorial bike ride. Details are below. All are welcome we’re sure.

Sunday 19 April 2015 at 11:00am we will be holding a supervised bike ride to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Starting at Southport Eco Centre and finishing at the Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre.

This cycle ride is open to all levels of cyclists and will take approximately 3 hours, covering a distance of 18 miles along the Sefton Coastal path. All donations welcome to

For additional information and to register to take part in the bike ride please contact Chris Carlsen 0151 934 4609

Poster is here: Gary_Mahoney_poster_-_charity_bike_ride_19.04.2015

Friends of the Earth Basecamp 2015

Basecamp is our big (and growing) annual gathering of environmental campaigners. Jointly hosted by Friends of the Earth and its local groups network, this year we aim to bring together 400 campaigners for collaboration, discussion, debate, learning and fun.

We’re returning to the hugely popular Castleton in the Peak District this year, June 12th – 14. 

If you’re interested in attending from Liverpool then get in touch with the local Liverpool group.

Celebrating Gary Mahoney

Liverpool Friends of the Earth invites you to join us in celebrating the life of Gary Mahoney.  The venue will be the function room of The Pilgrim pub in central Liverpool:
Date and time: 6.30-11pm, Wed 17 December.  It’s when we would have had our pre-Christmas social meeting anyway, and we’re sure Gary would have wanted us to carry on with that.*
Dave Morgan, who formerly ran the Green Fish cafe where Liverpool FoE held its meetings and Christmas parties for many years, will provide his renowned vegetarian catering.
* We do appreciate that many other groups will be getting together at this time of year, and it may be a difficult day to come, especially if you’re not already in Liverpool.  While we’d love you to join us, if you can’t, perhaps you’d propose a toast to Gary wherever you are that night.
We’re also hoping to set up a Gary Mahoney memorial event, to be held annually in the area, perhaps in conjunction with national FoE and we’d love your company then, too.
Once again, I’m sure I’ve not reached everyone who’d want to know…please do help to spread the word!
Thanks and best wishes,

Gary Mahoney tributes from Friends of the Earth

Gary Mahoney, in the words of Friends of the Earth members and contacts who knew him over the years….


After a Liverpool FoE group meeting in 2010; L-R: Val, Frank, Gary, Katie, Cllr Colin Eldridge, Rachel, “Hidden Man” (?Alan ), Rebecca 



Marching through Bonn during the International Climate Summit (Kyoto Protocol negotiations), July 2001.  Lifeboat t-shirts were given to stewards (asked to volunteer on the day!)

Gary was an utterly principled caring person. A great environmentalist, trade unionist and all round good guy. He was one of the best people I’ve ever worked with – principled, thoughtful, caring, unambitious and sensible. When Yvonne and Gary got together, Katy and me both thought it was a match made in  heaven and were so happy for them. Please pass on to Yvonne our deepest sympathy. Gary is someone who should be remembered and cherished with love and respect. Maybe, because he was such a good guy, we should all use him as an example to think about how we manage our differences in working to further our values, while recognising the things we have in common – I include myself in this.

Steve Munby, Liverpool Riverside Labour Councillor

So difficult to find something positive to say about such a loss.  Steve has done so, however, and I agree completely.
John Coyne, Liverpool St Michaels Green Councillor

Gary was passionate about the environment and Friends of the Earth as an organisation. He loved the fact that it was run in a very democratic way. Once a year all local groups would meet at the local groups conference and he would enjoy the motions debate where all the members voted on the issues the FoE would work on.  He was held in high regard within Friends of the Earth with many in the higher management of “Foe” seeking his advice.   You would often hear someone in the bar come up and say: “Gary, we were thinking of announcing this – how do you think that would go down with the local groups?”

He was knowledgeable and approachable to all – a very gentle man, able to make all members of the group feel they had equal importance.


Mark Anders, Liverpool Friends of the Earth


Raising a glass to Gary with two of the bike group. We found a Camra pub in Bradford.

Gary was something of an icon when I was at FOE. An environmentalist of my (our) generation, grounded in grassroots politics and social action the likes of which Labour have long forgotten. Maybe not a natural fit with FOE centrally – their issue, not his – he brought a valuable dose of reality for the rest of us, always putting his views forward with charm and confidence I think. I’m glad that he didn’t suffer but undoubtably he’s gone way, way too soon.

Donald Ritchie, ex-Local Groups Development Coordinator, Friends of the Earth

We can’t afford to lose people as good as Gary. He was one of the good guys who helped you believe better was possible and we can make a difference, individually, and especially together. I hope he knew how much he was loved and respected. The mug was given to me by a dear friend, Tiah Niagwan, who chose it specially for both its design and its words – ‘Listen to the world’. I chose it for this photo because that was what Gary did.


Val Walsh, Liverpool Friends of the Earth

Such sad news. I heard from my sister who was a work colleague of Gary’s. He was so well liked by all a really genuine bloke, down to earth, solid, committed and dependable when it came to environmental matters he knew so much. When I worked for FoE he was one of my best local group leaders and always brought so much to debates at National Conference. A true loss. I last saw him about three years ago and we always meant to catch up. We never did and I am sad about that. His family have lost a very good man. All my very best wishes to them.

Alison Ball, former Northern Groups Development Officer

I am so sorry to hear the news. What a shock . Gary was a tremendous force for FOE across Merseyside for many years, a lovely man and truly committed to the environment and environmental justice.   I’ve alerted the activism team and ask that we pay tribute.

Helen Rimmer, current NW Campaigner, FoE


Thanks for letting us all know Frank, I had known Gary for many years (25-30?) and we always got on well. I hope we can all fill the big gap that he leaves in the environmental movement in Merseyside.

Lawrence Brown, Secretary, Liverpool Green Party


Gary was one of those larger than life figures, a quiet unassuming guy but when faced with a challenge took it on with commitment and enthusiasm.  Gary had been a long standing member and supporter of the Trust. He gave so much time and effort  primarily to FoE over many decades but his support to  other environmental causes was second to none.  Our condolences go out to his wife, daughter and family.  Rest in Peace  our  friend.

Don Thompson, Chair, Merseyside Environmental Trust

I’m so sorry to hear this and for your loss such an awful shock for everyone, though I didn’t know Gary well at all he made a difference even I could see and was hugely respected.   Go gently in sad times.

Sarah Dewar, NHS

Gary was one of the people we in the Croydon local group in the mid 1980s (so last century) saw as a model local activist.  We’d return from each annual Local Groups’ Conference asking ourselves how we could be like ‘that Gary from Liverpool’.  We were in awe of how Gary made his point and debated respectfully with others while fully mastering his case, drawing on local examples of need to illustrate national or global issues.


In particular I think we thought Gary kept Friends of the Earth ‘real’ by reminding us of the realities of life for many people in communities the organisation was, at that point,  rarely working for or trying to reach. Since then, we have sought to address what we now called justice and rights issues. I relate much of that back to how Gary pricked our consciences then.  We were on annual nodding terms for a few years of Conference encounters before our Saa-rf Larn-don mob ventured to get to know him better.   Needless to say we benefitted more from this than he did.

Paul de Zylva, former Head of England Team, now national campaign leader, Friends of the Earth

Well said Paul; Gary was indeed a star of the local groups network, a local group conference regular and very adept at using the motions process. A sad loss indeed, best wishes to all.

Chris Crean, W Midlands Regional Campaigner


I knew Gary in the mid 1990s when we moved in the same circles, particularly when he did his Masters and through Liverpool Environmental Forum.  Here’s a photo of me drinking a toast to his life.  Please pass on my sympathy to his wife and daughter.

Julie Hotchkiss, Liverpool


There are some people you wish you knew longer and better: Gary is definitely one of them for me. For the limited few years I knew him, I can look back on laughs and good times. I will miss him…

Michael King, current Coordinator, Liverpool Friends of the Earth

I was terribly shocked as I’ve known Gary for over 20 years and worked with him closely on the Liverpool air pollution project with the Vauxhall Health Forum (I think) when we got their concerns up on a giant billboard opposite the then Department of the Environment in Westminster back in 1994/5.  He was a thoroughly nice man and a campaigner of great integrity. I always used to enjoy his interventions at Conference and it was great to catch up with him regularly at different venues around the country. He was one of the stalwarts at Friends of the Earth and we should definitely honour his memory by raising a pint or three in his honour.

Please pass on my sympathy and condolences to Yvonne and Cathy. We will miss him greatly but he will leave a giant hole in their lives which only time will heal.

Joanna Watson, Events Coordinator, National Friends of the Earth

Terribly sad. I knew Gary through various organisations including as a fellow environmental health worker. He sometimes stayed with us in London.  Always looked forward to catching up with him for a few beers at FOE conference.  Hadn’t seen him for a few years. Do pass on my condolences.

Quentin Given, national Campaign Coordinator, Friends of the Earth


That is sad news indeed. Gary was such a lovely man. As you say no one ever had a bad word to say about him.

Liz Gould, Greenpeace


Really sorry to hear this. I only met Gary briefly but have heard so many good words about him.  We’ll be putting an obituary in the next Change Your World magazine.

Rachel Hubbard, FoE Activism Team

So sorry to hear about Gary – I didn’t know him all that well, but I know every time I did meet him or hear from him there was great chat and great points made – he was definitely one of the local group stalwarts and stars. Sorry for you, his family and all those that were close to him.

Karen Leach, Birmingham  Friends of the Earth


Sincerest condolences to Gary’s wife and family from all of us at Central Lancashire Friends of the Earth.  Liverpool FOE have lost a fine and dedicated campaigner.

Dot Kelk, Preston


Incredibly sad. I knew Gary from when I started at Friends of the Earth in the Water, Waste & Toxics team in 1990. Gary was a star activist of course. And it was a please to provide him & Liverpool FOE with some support when I was a LGDO. He was a man who personified justice and sustainability.

Mike Childs, Head of Science, Policy and Research, Friends of the Earth


Shocking news, Gary was instrumental at the start of Hazards on M/Side and several other organisations. Really sad new for his family, friends and the movement.

John Flanagan, Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group


This is really sad news. Gary was a committed environmentalist with a strong sense of social justice, but most of all he was a really nice person.

Tania Sayer, South Cheshire FoE (and national Board Member)


Thanks for letting me know – desperately sad news. Gary was a great activist for whom I had huge respect, and a really nice guy as well.
Tony Bosworth, National FoE Campaigner

Shocked to hear this.  A big loss to Liverpool as well as to his friends and family.  Thanks for letting me know, will pass on to other (ex)Lancaster people who may have known him.

Jon Sear, North Lancs FoE


Such an interesting, knowledgeable, dedicated man – but always seemed to have so much time and quiet patience for everyone.  I remember how friendly, warm and welcoming he always was – specially at my first meeting, when I was very shy and very nervous about meeting lots of new people – Gary made me feel right at home, and was very kind. The memory of that – and his integrity and dedication to FoE and environmental work – will always stay with me.  I do hope Gary knew how much he was cared for, and how much good he did.

Cate Simmons, News From Nowhere, ex-Friends of the Earth NW volunteer


That is such sad news. I remember Gary as being always very kind and supportive – a gentle giant with all these years of knowledge behind him letting me take the reins on Liverpool FoE for a short while. I imagine in all walks of his life he will be very sorely missed. Wonderful man, someone who was a great role model to everyone really.

Rachel Penfold, former Coordinator, Liverpool Friends of the Earth

I’ve not seen so much of Gary these past few years but still I caught up with him often enough to catch up and see that he was the same quiet, thoughtful, caring person .  Thanks for the details about his funeral. Unfortunately I will be teaching that afternoon so  I won’t be able to go but I should be able to make Dec 17th if a celebration for Gary is organised for then. I think that an event would be a very good thing and I can help to get things ready if you need a hand so just let me know.  Best wishes,

Rebecca Lawson, Liverpool Friends of the Earth

Liverpool Friends of the Earth plan to host a party to celebrate Gary on Wednesday 17 December.  Details will be posted on

He was such a lovely gentle but passionate man.

Anna Watson, Rights & Justice Team, FoE

Gary Mahoney was the first real contact I had with Friends of the Earth, in Liverpool around 1991.  I thought that if he was typical of its membership, then this was a campaign group I definitely wanted to be involved with.  It was thanks to his support (moral, practical, tactical, knowledge-based, always friendly and so under-stated) that I went on to work as FoE’s North West Campaigns Coordinator for eleven years, and have remained a local group member.  He was well-known and hugely respected in national Friends of the Earth circles, and across boundaries of interests and politics on Merseyside.  He never set himself on any kind of pedestal.  We all simply looked up to him.  He wouldn’t have wanted the fuss of being told that, I just hope he knew.  Thanks, Gary.  We were lucky to know you, we’ll miss your immediate presence, but will always have your positive influence.


Frank Kennedy, Liverpool Friends of the Earth