Cleaning Urban Air, One Moss “Tree” at a Time

Across Europe, pollution-eating moss is cleaning the air. Part-nature and part man-made, the CityTree combines the purifying factor of moss with remote technology to increase the airflow through the “trees” to maximize their ability to filter air pollution. Two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050 thus cleaning up the air in urban centers is really critical in protecting human health. 

Why Is This Necessary: As UN Environment explained

  • Every day 90% percent of city dwellers breathe polluted air, causing death and disease.
  • The major components of air pollution such as nitrogen oxide, ozone, and fine dust, or particulate matter, all shorten our life spans and can cause disease in humans. 

A Bright Idea: Founded in 2014, this German green-tech enterprise is being funded by the European Commission to set up 15 brand new units in Berlin’s pollution hotspots next year on a trial basis. Already, CityTrees can be found in Norway, France, Germany, Belgium, Macedonia, and even Hong Kong.  

How It Works:  As Treehugger explained, the CityTree is not really a tree but actually a densely packed moss culture, vertically housed in a unit that blends in with its urban surroundings. In an area of 3.5 square metres (37.6 square feet), the CityTree does the equivalent job of 275 trees of filtering the air of fine dust, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide (up to 240 metric tons per year). Moss was chosen over other plants because it has a much larger leaf surface area than any other plant. That means we can capture more pollutants.

Why This Matters: Air pollution kills more people than smoking and 9 out of 10 people around the world breathe polluted air. While greening our energy generation and transportation sources will go a long way in reducing particulate matter we also need solutions to help in the interim. That’s where relatively simple solutions like CityTree can make a big difference. 

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