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Artifical Tree does the work of 275 trees! - actually a moss tower

 
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I was dubious of the article title, though apparently they tested it first, then liked the results enough to permanently install a few.

London’s New Artificial Trees Guzzle As Much Pollution As 275 Regular Trees



"Another handy benefit – especially given the scorching July we had last year – comes from the mosses’ ability to store large amounts of moisture, which keeps the surrounding air cooler."

Kind of a plant wall on steroids. I'm imagining the benefits of this, or even DIY versions, in small spaces around a home or office.

 
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I had no idea about the pollution absorbing effects. Now it's got me thinking about beautiful Japanese moss gardens. Or about how much benefit kokedama (hanging moss and string balls) might give.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Ooooh, right? Moss gardens in other more natural or artistic ways is a brilliant take away from this!
 
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I know that different types of plants have been studied to determine which specific pollutants they remove from the air. (For example, the spider plant is known to suck up formaldehyde.) I wonder if the type of moss matters and by how much?

Since moss often does well in the shade, this seems like it would do well inside and maybe help "sick building syndrome"?

I admit I've loved moss ever seeing a beautiful moss garden in Japan. It was like a thick carpet compared to what North American's prized as "lawn" at the time. I would love to have an outbuilding with a moss roof and walls. That's got me thinking... dangerous thing that!
 
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Jay Angler wrote:I know that different types of plants have been studied to determine which specific pollutants they remove from the air. (For example, the spider plant is known to suck up formaldehyde.) I wonder if the type of moss matters and by how much?


Good thing we have loads of spider plants in our manufactured home! I bet the type of moss would matter - that is a good question.

Jay Angler wrote:Since moss often does well in the shade, this seems like it would do well inside and maybe help "sick building syndrome"?


There is shade and then there is indoors...which is often even less light and less moisture. Could be a challenge, though perhaps worth it for the benefits.

Jay Angler wrote:I admit I've loved moss ever seeing a beautiful moss garden in Japan. It was like a thick carpet compared to what North American's prized as "lawn" at the time. I would love to have an outbuilding with a moss roof and walls. That's got me thinking... dangerous thing that!


I think moss and moss gardens are beautiful too! Did you know we have a moss art thread? https://permies.com/t/13614/sculpture/art/Moss-art
It's an old enough thread that some of the picture links are broken but I think there's enough remaining as inspiration for you.

 
Jay Angler
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:

I think moss and moss gardens are beautiful too! Did you know we have a moss art thread? https://permies.com/t/13614/sculpture/art/Moss-art
It's an old enough thread that some of the picture links are broken but I think there's enough remaining as inspiration for you.

I *adore* that thread. I so wish I had the time to do that sort of art, but I'm too busy trying to get edible things growing on my shady property and with trying to stop Himalayan Blackberry from taking over faster than I can discourage it. I wish moss would stop it! At least its berries taste good.

I wonder if I could make a hanging moss ball where it would catch enough drips from dew on the roof in our summer drought season that it would stay alive? That would be a small enough project that I'd be able to sneak in a little time to experiment with it. Thank you for inspiring me!
 
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Thanks for this, Jocelyn. I remember the initial article I read on this. I think the installation I read about was being installed in Tokyo, if I remember correctly.

My first thought was, "We need these everywhere we have cars."

My second thought was, "It's a shame it's so small. I'm sure there must be a better iteration."

And my third thought was the better iteration. I think we need this kind of thing made up into sheathing panels, and to rework urban structural and infrastructural elements to incorporate this idea.

What if raised roadways, concrete medians, and even the sides of skyscrapers could incorporate this moss filter technology? What if we could have the air cleaning capacity of 275 trees for every 4'x8' (though the planted area looks to be more like 10'x10') space we could cover in such panels, and the undersides of roadways and bridges were the filters that cleaned the air where it was being dirtied?

We don't even need the mass-deployment versions to have that kind of air cleaning capacity. If we could only get the simplified system to operate a tenth as effectively, we'd still be cramming in over a dozen trees' worth of cleaning space in spaces where right now there is bare impermeable building material, usually concrete, brick, or glass.

I think what we could use in temperate climates and sub-tropical to tropical ones, too, are green window shutters built on this model or that of a climate appropriate green wall, or a mix. The shutters would be positioned, or moved, to block the sun at strategic points of the day, to avoid heating the building when that's not desired, and moving to preserve the view.

Really, I want to build such a facade myself, watering it with household greywater. I think that it might be a brilliant way to clean greywater, passing it through a green wall filter that cleans the air in the space, as well as the water.

-CK
 
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I'm curious what the plants "do with" the pollutants.  Do the plants somehow break down pollutants?  If spider plants remove formaldehyde, what happens to it?  The plants just trap it, or break it down into harmless components, or ?
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Chris Kott wrote:
What if raised roadways, concrete medians, and even the sides of skyscrapers could incorporate this moss filter technology? What if we could have the air cleaning capacity of 275 trees for every 4'x8' (though the planted area looks to be more like 10'x10') space we could cover in such panels, and the undersides of roadways and bridges were the filters that cleaned the air where it was being dirtied?

We don't even need the mass-deployment versions to have that kind of air cleaning capacity. If we could only get the simplified system to operate a tenth as effectively, we'd still be cramming in over a dozen trees' worth of cleaning space in spaces where right now there is bare impermeable building material, usually concrete, brick, or glass.


Oh, I do love this idea! Whenever there are concrete retaining walls covered in ivy, especially the deciduous kind that turns lovely colors in the fall, I so love seeing it covering the bare, sterile gray. Making air cleaning green walls of any kind along as much of the concrete surrounding city and car life is such a smart idea!

Chris Kott wrote:I think what we could use in temperate climates and sub-tropical to tropical ones, too, are green window shutters built on this model or that of a climate appropriate green wall, or a mix. The shutters would be positioned, or moved, to block the sun at strategic points of the day, to avoid heating the building when that's not desired, and moving to preserve the view.

Really, I want to build such a facade myself, watering it with household greywater. I think that it might be a brilliant way to clean greywater, passing it through a green wall filter that cleans the air in the space, as well as the water.


I think these ideas are great, too! Although I do think green shutters or walls - complete with soil, plants and water - could be a design or engineering challenge to be movable. Not impossible of course, just a challenge to overcome the weight (and/or plumbing?) to make it doable.

You know, a green facade that isn't edible, but is for cleaning the air, provides shade, beauty, insulation and noise buffer; and that could also clean greywater - now that IS stacking some functions! I love it!
 
Chris Kott
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I don't know if the farmers' markets around you guys sell a product like this, but I have come to see powdered moss mixture being sold in cartons. The directions suggest that you can pour in buttermilk, or sometimes just water, shake, and apply to any surface to which it will adhere, and it will live with varying degrees of success.

I would love for there to be a powdered moss mix we could take and apply to prepared concrete or brick surfaces, with misters or gravity-fed greywater drippers, where that's all we'd have to do, and it would thrive.

It is on my list of things to do to start experimenting with the stuff.

-CK
 
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This makes me so grumpy. I don't buy it for a second! How can a bit of moss be as efficient as 275 trees? And even if it were true, moss grows on forest floors and up trees too!
I'm pretty sure this isn't calculated properly. Why would this magazine anyway?

I've heard, the cost of planting trees can be gotten to as low as 1 dollar a tree. So for 275 dollars you can plant as many trees as this thing claims to be. I bet maintenance costs easily twenty thousand a year. Just plant trees, why is that so difficult for people to understand?
Of course it's fashionable to cheerlead any green "solution", but fashion comes and goes.. The cities are booming and afloat in money. Why can't they pay for some real solutions? Why are the homeless populations exploding in the same cities that feel great about themselves to splash tax payers money on these non solutions? This feels like a green wash, fancy green feel good candy.

And it's not only cities. It's the whole continent. The EU is burning USA old growth forest, to make "green" electricity.. They get to call it renewable energy because they plant new baby trees. It's utter insanity. And they manage to sell this as a good thing to the people.

 
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Hugo, I'm almost positive they're talking about the cleaning work, not the associated carbon sequestration. I don't see how moss-based systems would do that, unless there was a truly unreal amount of biomass produced. I mean, if they're turning CO2 into oxygen, where does the carbon go?

But for purposes of cleaning pollutants, I completely buy the idea that something like moss, with a much greater surface area for any given unit of measure, could be better than trees are at that specific thing, especially if it turns out that the filter part of the moss is like all of its mass, where only the green bits, for instance, were active air filters.

I think the concept could be a very useful city-healing tool. Imagine the same concrete jungle, but covered in mosses, and higher up, perhaps lichens. Imagine every concrete surface covered in a lush green carpet of living fuzz, if not more elaborate forms.

I am not saying that these should be used to replace trees and forests; that's ludicrous. But in spaces being overtaken by development, or spaces previously overrun with industrial activity that are being reclaimed, this seems like a brilliant way to approach it. Oh, perhaps not the green monolith design, but rather the moos uber alles overarching design idea that could be taken from it.

-CK
 
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Chris Kott wrote:I don't know if the farmers' markets around you guys sell a product like this, but I have come to see powdered moss mixture being sold in cartons. The directions suggest that you can pour in buttermilk, or sometimes just water, shake, and apply to any surface to which it will adhere, and it will live with varying degrees of success.

I would love for there to be a powdered moss mix we could take and apply to prepared concrete or brick surfaces, with misters or gravity-fed greywater drippers, where that's all we'd have to do, and it would thrive.

It is on my list of things to do to start experimenting with the stuff.

-CK


Chris if you look on YouTube there are lots of folks describing how to make this "moss paint", generally seem a like a blend of local mosses with some kind of cultured dairy to the desired consistency. I think ill add this experiment to my winter to do list.
That said, what you're describing earlier I envision as more of a separate lattice sitting just off the wall to create air flow and so that if any work needs to be done on the covered infrastructure it can be moved without being destroyed
 
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Yes, that's pretty much what I'm thinking, or else a system designed to be an external sheathing, but within its own structure, it promotes airflow, dew trapping, and perhaps a hook-in for grey- or rainwater. If it could add being a living UV and solar gain barrier for the building to its list of stacked functions, all the better, I say.

-CK
 
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Chris, i think you are right. Strictly speaking it's a filter. The article speaks of CO2-filtering structures.
It's still a very inefficient filter in an economic sense. Just plant trees, moss grows up it without maintenance. You can harvest wood afterwards, biodiversity increases, it takes up CO2, it support a mycelium web and attracts rain at the same time.
If this thing costs 20 thousand a year and you can plant 20 thousand trees a year for that amount, and we take 2 thousand trees a hectare. Then you can plant ten hectares of trees instead.
If the city of London would really like to do something, that would make sense.
But they don't really want to do something, they just want to look like they're innovative and hip.

Don't get me wrong, i'd love green cities, damn, i would love to have a wall or a bed of moss. But it's a crisis, the world's forests are on fire. We won't have cities left if it continues like this.
 
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This is something to be done in addition to planting trees, in spaces where you couldn't possibly grow trees.

What's wrong with also culturing moss-scapes?

-CK
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Chris Kott wrote:This is something to be done in addition to planting trees, in spaces where you couldn't possibly grow trees.

What's wrong with also culturing moss-scapes?

-CK


This! Trees are rather amazing, and we need more and more and more of them, I agree.

And yet, there are some places where trees just do not work, or there is no room for their roots. (I was told years ago by a professional landscaper how street trees are extremely challenged because the conditions make it like trying to plant a full sized three in a bath tub.) I love the ingenuity of using multi-pronged (multi-species or multi-plants!) approaches to a problem. And as Jay shared above, too, I love the idea of "moss-scapes." That's a great term for it, Chris.
 
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Hugo Morvan wrote:This makes me so grumpy. I don't buy it for a second! How can a bit of moss be as efficient as 275 trees? And even if it were true, moss grows on forest floors and up trees too!
I'm pretty sure this isn't calculated properly. Why would this magazine anyway?

I've heard, the cost of planting trees can be gotten to as low as 1 dollar a tree. So for 275 dollars you can plant as many trees as this thing claims to be. I bet maintenance costs easily twenty thousand a year. Just plant trees, why is that so difficult for people to understand?
Of course it's fashionable to cheerlead any green "solution", but fashion comes and goes.. The cities are booming and afloat in money. Why can't they pay for some real solutions? Why are the homeless populations exploding in the same cities that feel great about themselves to splash tax payers money on these non solutions? This feels like a green wash, fancy green feel good candy.

And it's not only cities. It's the whole continent. The EU is burning USA old growth forest, to make "green" electricity.. They get to call it renewable energy because they plant new baby trees. It's utter insanity. And they manage to sell this as a good thing to the people.



Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning
Just find someone who's turning
And you will come around.
-Neil Young

How are you defining "old growth" as it pertains to the states? There are very few original stands left, and I would wager those would be artificially scenescent, the only part of the system still actively sequestering carbon being the mycelia keeping those old trees alive. While the integrity of the natural systems that allow trees to thrive needs to be preserved, meaning little to no ground disruption/destruction, and that selective logging would be best, trees that live past their peak growth are best harvested, to be replanted, or if the natural system is intact, to allow for a monitored renaturalisation, where younger individuals' rapid growth will once again sequester carbon at appreciable rates.

And yes, I would prefer to see lumber turned into, for instance, the next generation of skyscraper building materials, or into dimensional lumber for use in homestead construction, where the pieces cut from the trees would be sequestered in the form of a house or barn until such time as it rotted away or burned. But as long as appropriate reforestation and replanting are a part of the harvesting process, burning cut lumber is carbon neutral. In addition, soot particles from woodsmoke can be instrumental in the formation of cloudcover in ways that other combustion exhaust simply isn't.

So I think we need to focus on how trees are harvested and used, and what is put in their places. Adding moss-scapes is just another layer in this air-cleaning cake. I would love to see more below-grade electrical infrastructure in cities, simply because it would make it more practical, in an area prone to seasonal thunderstorms, blizzards, and the occasional ice storm, to increase the density of the urban tree canopy, planted not in concrete root tombs, but with connections to the deeper subsoil where possible, and being a primary sink and store for normal precipitation events, taking the burden off of overtaxed sewer systems, where excess rainwater from modern rain events can cause untreated sewage to overflow the system into some local rivers, planned reed bed overflow lagoons, and into Lake Ontario.

The moss-scapes, which could actually be used to create murals, should different moss species be used for different colours or textures, would take care of many pollutants that aren't CO2, including nitrogen oxide from car exhaust. And in climates where such a thing couldn't really escape into the wild, spanish moss might actually be able to be grown for its biomass. I am not well-versed in all the different types of moss, but it may well be that, using greywater and rainwater systems and the effort and creativity of people, we might be able to create aesthetically pleasing moss mosaics that leave the air cleaner than before it blew into our cities.

It also occurs to me that, while we have been discussing moss, lichens might also fit the bill. Imagine the sort of insulative retrofitting you see on some old buildings, where foamcore insulation is installed on the outside of the building envelope and stuccoed to finish, but instead of the stucco being the last step, it's applied more thickly and formulated to the specific mineral needs of one or more species of lichen, which are then sprayed on in a thin coating on the exterior of the stucco. Several species of lichen could be used, and also applied together to suggest designs or patterns. It would do much of the work of other living plants, and it would act as a living UV barrier.

I have less information about the abilities of lichen vis a vis carbon sequestration and air cleaning, but I think it also has potential for spaces, like right up the sides of buildings, where there might not even be more than ambient moisture to support life, where short of building tree root coffins in the air and watering them, nothing can live. I could easily envision a scenario where every tall building in every city, the urban analogue of an extreme alpine environment, is capped with a living sheath of lichen, designed not only to trap and sequester environmental pollutants from the air, but with air quality indicator species included that thrive as the air gets progressively cleaner, and seeded in aesthetically pleasing patterns that Nature would take Her own direction.

I have gone down the rabbit hole here, I'm afraid. Gimme a second, and I'll start talking about how sewer systems should be colonised with the appropriate moss, fungi, and lichens that would turn them into bioreactors, cleaning not only air, but the sewage before it even gets to the treatment plant. Now that would be the way to start healing cities. We use our wastes, and our waste heat, to fuel natural processes that clean the environment, so that human urban activity is a net environmental benefit.

I think that there's a lot of potential for good to be done, simply decorating with moss-scapes, lichenscapes, and anything else that will grow in spaces we otherwise consider sterile. What could we call that? Viviscaping?

-CK
 
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Chris Kott wrote:

Now that would be the way to start healing cities. We use our wastes, and our waste heat, to fuel natural processes that clean the environment, so that human urban activity is a net environmental benefit.

Toby Hemenway, among others, have specifically spoken of the benefits of urban life. The trick is to do as you've suggested and "do cities right". There is an artificial wetland in southern Ontario that is the prime sewage treatment for a small city and it has become a tourist attraction due to the birds who have made it their home. Most of our modern problems have no one perfect solution but require a "guild" of solutions that support and work with each other. A green roof will not replace a poly culture forest and is far more "expensive" to build, but it can still provide food and nesting sites for birds, bugs (which are globally in decline - not just bees are threatened) and amphibians. So yes, it would be nice if trees were planted as well as moss towers, but often if an idea takes off, people find cheaper ways to accomplish the same thing. If we can find acceptable cheap ways to grow moss in many of the highly polluted cities in this world, I see that as a net gain that would not only help the people, it would help city trees as well!
 
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Chris wrote :"How are you defining "old growth" as it pertains to the states?".
Just very old forests. I've read in the Guardian that they are cutting that down in Oregon, to transport across the ocean in huge gas guzzling ships to burn in incinerators. They call that CO2 neutral, because they plant new plants.
That's appalling. Calling cutting down trees alright, because it's CO2 neutral. Who would kill their grandmother, because she produces CO2. Like if that CO2 overproduction is our only problem! How about desertification, biodiversity loss, forests are cooling the planet, they attract rain. They don't look at that.
I care about old growth forest because it's rare, it got the most species in them. We're entering mass extinctions. We shouldn't touch any old growth no where. There might be species in there we don't know about. Because we don't know everything, even if scientist say there are no endangered species in there, i don't trust them.. Scientists cannot be trusted anymore if corporate interests are at stake, they will side with them. I have science in high regard, but most scientists i find so close minded and so sure they know everything, even while they've been proven wrong so many times the last ten years.
 
And there is a sentiment, the older a forest is, the better it feels. Why that is, i don't know. Ancient religions say everything is connected. Turned out with the mycelium webs that is true. Trees communicate like ancient religions prophesied. Although scientists would have you locked up in an insane asylum if it where up to them when you proposed that. Just like when people proposed animals have feelings. Or planets are abundant.
Because old religions were right about trees communicating and everything is connected i respect these old religions. They say as well these trees have souls and are old and we must respect them. Unlikely scientists are going to prove them right tomorrow, because they are not looking at proving souls. But my guess is these religions might well be right. So cutting them down is criminal in my eyes. We don't know everything yet.

Dream all you want Chris. It's great, the world needs dreamers and do-ers alike.

And what Jay says is true too, that people will find cheaper ways once stuff has been put in place and free markets will force prices coming down, often the government has to start things, so i overreacted indeed. My apologies if people feel disheartened after reading my rant. 3 of those moss sculptures cost nothing in comparison to all the money going to the military for instance.

I get very annoyed because the whole financial aspect is overlooked by "green" people. Leading to bad policy. Like they want to stop using gas in Holland. Great idea in itself, but if we do the price drop in the worldmarket, which the people in third world countries will take advantage of, they will use more when prices are lower. Annoying , i know, but it is like that. So i think whatever we do, we're going to use all the oil and gas, might slow down the rate a bit, but we're going to use it. I'm not saying we shouldn't do nothing. I say we should do a lot, plant a lot of trees and forests and foodforests. We create habitat for bio diversity, stop desertification, actively cool the planet down and create rain to fall. Or am i dreaming and should we just have moss in cities? And leave it up to our great leaders to cut the oldgrowth down and burn it because scientist say it's the best thing we can do because it's CO2 neutral.
 
 
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