Inside Green City Solutions' CityTree: Moss Structure Cleans the Air as Much as 275 Trees
"It’s always worth to start exploring your ideas or hypotheses and see how far you can take them." CMO of Green City Solutions discusses the early days of a private company working to solve a huge public problem: air pollution.
What Happens When One Startup Learns that Moss Plants Have as Much Cleaning Power as an Entire Forest
The German startup, Green City Solutions, invented the CityTree air purifier after researching the idea that moss plants can capture pollutants and greenhouse gases as much as an entire forest of trees can. The CityTree is a public furniture structure that acts as an urban forest, and its technolog has as much power as 275 full grown trees can -- all for just 1% of the space.
Founders Peter Sänger and Liang Wu invented the CityTree as an ideal solution for congested cities with very little space because their moss reduces particulate matter and improves air quality within a 164 foot radius. Their wall-style design is perfect as a public art piece or advertising space, and the device is solar-powered to run the CityTree moss irrigation system and optimize air purification.
With particulate matter being the most dangerous pollutant to human health according to the American Lung Association and with over 91% of people living in areas with air quality that exceed the World Health Organization's limits, Green City Solutions' moss air purifier is critical for urban areas to reduce their pollution levels.
Green City Solutions aspires to expand their CityTree design into other public installations that grow from existing city skyscrapers and buildings. We interviewed the Green City Solutions Chief Marketing Officer, Felix Mann, on the company's story of how moss and a common goal to clean the air can be enough motivation to get a social impact startup through tough times.
What It's Like Working at Green City Solutions: Q&A with CMO Felix Mann of Green City Solutions
What were some moments that inspired the creation of Green City Solutions' CityTree innovation, and how did it first start out?
"When Peter Sänger and Liang Wu (our two co-founders) got together, they realized right away that they had something in common. Both firm advocates in the fight against air pollution, they believe that if you can’t measure it, you can’t beat it.
That’s why they founded Green City Solutions: “The solution to quantifiably improve city air.”
Their invention, the CityTree, acts as both an air purifier and a spectacular plant display. Rooted in science, the vertical flat-paneled “trees” dotted around cities across Europe eat air pollution and double up as seats for pedestrians.
Sänger and Wu’s vision is for a world in which people in cities can live healthily. They aspire to create living conditions that allow all people around the world to permanently have cleaner air to breathe.
Green City Solutions is based on a long-standing friendship. On travels to Asia and southern Europe independently of one another, they experienced the negative consequences of polluted air and the massive build-up of heat in metropolitan regions and began searching for ecological and economic solutions. They founded Green City Solutions in March 2014 with a team of experts in architecture, informatics, engineering and horticulture.
Our ambition was and still is to improve air quality in urban environments with a highly efficient and sustainable solution to improve the quality of life for people in cities."
Green City Solutions requires some big tech to solve a big problem for the world - in very simple, non-technical terms, can you tell me how Green City Solutions' CityTree works?
"Moss naturally filters pollutants from the air very effectively.
Using remote technology, the CityTree combines this moss air purifying factor with remote technology to increase the air flow through the moss. This allows our technology to clean and humidify much more air than normal, and the amount of air that can be filtered can be increased depending on pollution levels at different times of day."
What has been Green City's impact so far, and how did you get through any times of discouragement (feel free to go in detail about some moments that were like this) to get the company where it is today?
"Every day 90 per cent of inhabitants in cities breathe polluted air, causing death and disease. The major components of air pollution are nitrogen oxide, ozone, and especially fine dust, or particulate matter, all of which shorten our life span. At the same time, our global population is moving to urban areas in unprecedented numbers.
We have successfully manufactured and sold 50 units of the first generation of our CityTree to cities and companies across Europe. This has been a tremendous success and provided us with many valuable insights and extremely helpful data. Inventing and introducing a new technology always requires plenty of energy, convincing people and never-ending passion—along with sufficient funding and support from partners and institutions.
This can only be successful when you really believe in your solution and when you have a vision that is big and important enough to carry you and your team. There have been plenty of ups and downs – but that is part of the game. The one thing that is keeping us going is the purpose aspect of our work.
We are all fascinated by the amazing features of the moss and the opportunity to create something really unique that has the potential of making a huge difference in the near future – a biological and sustainable air filter to create cities in which people can live healthier."
How have Green City Solutions' mission and values affected the way you look at the world and how you live your day to day life?
"We want our work to enable better living conditions for people in cities.
It therefore goes without saying that we also offer first-class working conditions for our employees. Our team consists of people from various disciplines and of different nationalities. We really appreciate this diversity of cultures and ways of thinking, because our market is the world: our thinking and our actions have a global character.
We want our work to change something. Not just for a moment, but forever. For us, sustainability means that we’re careful with our resources. We live and work ecologically, economically and in a way that is socially sustainable."
What advice do you have for people who want to make a difference in this world?
"Don’t be afraid to get started.
It’s always worth to start exploring your ideas or hypotheses and see how far you can take them. It’s the perfect time to get started with ideas in the area of green- and clean-tech."
What's the best way someone reading this interview can help your company right now?
"Firstly we are always looking for helping hands on our website – permanently or temporarily – so please have a look there.
And secondly, we are searching for companies/clients who want to buy our new generation of the CityTree – every sold unit will help us to continue our research and development into the world’s first biological and sustainable air filter. Let’s fight air pollution – together!"
Find the "CityTrees" and help Green City Solutions spread the word about their technology at greencitysolutions.de