The inhabitants of the Pays du Mont-Blanc Community of Municipalities (CCPMB) participating in the "la captotheque" experimental device, also tested in Grenoble and the Clermont metropolitan area, met on June 25th in Sallanches to discuss the various results of the BB-Clean citizen experiment.

The call for applications was launched last December 12th: the citizens of the CCPMB are invited to participate in an unprecedented experiment in Haute-Savoie based on the Mobicit'air experiment tested in 2016 in Grenoble to measure air quality. From January to mid-April, more than 150 residents borrowed micro-sensors free of charge to measure fine particles and participate in thematic workshops on air quality with experts and elected officials.

This time of discovery seems to have allowed them to refine their knowledge, to implement good practices in favor of air quality, but above all to initiate dialogue between experimenters, experts and elected officials.


To the (re)discovery of the air quality in the valley

Thus more than 150 sensors moved over the whole territory, at any altitude, generating 3800 measurement sessions which were carried out by the participants. That's 2000 hours of particle measurements and more than 4,000,000 data!

But beyond the figures, the interest of the experiment, according to the participants, is the discovery of the real impact of certain sources of particles on the air quality of the valley:

"I wanted to find out [the pollutants] in relation to traffic, to the factories, to the wood. I really wanted to make up my own mind... And I learned a lot, especially about wood heating," said one experimenter. The (re)discovery of the impact of wood heating is invariable in the testimonies...but the analysis of other sources of pollution was not forgotten, such as road traffic: "The measurements of vehicles interested me. I realized that there were really differences with old vehicles. Modern vehicles are finally rather good in PM10 and PM1".

I wanted to find out [the pollutants] in relation to traffic, in relation to factories, in relation to wood. I really wanted to make my opinion

On the other hand, few measures have been taken on the industrial side, except in the field of bar turning, leading some experimenters to open up dialogue between employees and plant managers to raise awareness of their personal exposure.

In terms of indoor air quality, too, the measures taken by citizens reveal some surprises: not all cooking methods, or cooking practices, are equal in terms of emissions. An example is the toaster, which has been measured by a large number of experimenters, and which is a strong emitter of particles.


Here is the Airbeam 2, the particles micro-sensor lent last winter to the inhabitants of the CCPMB

Beyond the sources, it is finally their perception of the context and its influence that is refined thanks to their measurements, particularly the meteorological context: "I learned the variability according to the weather, altitude, geographical position ... I also learned that the inversion ceiling was moving ... That all this was dynamic".


You tell me, I forget. You teach me, I remember. You involve me, I learn.

This award, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, could summarize the benefit of this experience. For the experimenters, regardless of their motivations or level of prior knowledge, the use of the micro-sensor and participation in the workshops made it possible to learn to approach the complexity of understanding air quality in the valley more serenely:

 "It really helps to ask the right questions about individual behaviors, [...] It's real-life experience, it's local. It allows us to realize that we have certain thoughts about [the sources of] pollution that are wrong.

 It really helped me to change my behavior, like proposing more carpooling...

Reflection and upgrading that brings new questions... and seems to push strongly towards individual or collective behavior change :

"It really allowed me to change my behavior, such as proposing more carpooling... I was already doing it, but not often enough" assures an experimenter.  Further than oneself, it is also by talking about their discoveries to others that the experimenters encourage changes in behaviour, as here on wood heating: "I don't heat with wood but if I had a wood stove, I would start my fire from the top... I would change a certain number of practices. I would change a certain number of practices... In fact, I talk about it to those who heat with this method of heating" or even with the children: "The change was to talk about it with our children... We were able to talk with them about the clean air, the dirty air... [the micro-sensor] allowed us to talk about it more easily with them".


Meeting between experimenters and experts during the workshop "Pollution episode management" at the CCPMB


An experiment to imagine the future of the observatory

For Atmo Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the experience also brings a sum of tracks to improve its observatory by integrating the citizen via the micro-sensor. Even if the idea of multiplying the number of measurement points thanks to micro-sensors seems to be a good idea, the regional association still has many questions: How does the citizen take ownership of the micro-sensor? How are individual air quality measurements interpreted? What methods are necessary for a better interpretation of the data? What is the contribution of the micro-sensor in the global reflection on behavior change? 

Some of the answers were provided by the experimenters under the watchful eye of sociologist Louise Michelin, from the MyUsages firm, who is in charge of analyzing the contribution of this type of experimentation for citizens but also the methods of success for the observatory. These conclusions will be the subject of a report and will feed into the reflections of the observatory and the project partners.

The BB-Clean project is a project of the INTERREG Alpine Space program, funded by the European Union with the participation of the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes :


BB-clean, the continuation
The future will be written very quickly for the BB-Clean project, realized within the framework of the European program INTERREG Alpin Space. Indeed, from the end of the year, the experiment carried out on the territory of the community of municipalities of the Mont Blanc countries, will be transposed to the other side of the Alps, in Austria and Italy.

In our region, the Captotheque device, which allows the free loan of micro-sensors and offers a platform for data visualization and exchanges between participants, will be adapted and improved based on the feedback from the experimenters this winter 2019.