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Water conservation through rainwater harvesting

A Living Tree of plastic bottles

Actions such as, carpooling, reducing the use of fossil fuels and simply turning off a light when leaving a room can reduce harmful CO2 levels in our atmosphere, but there is also a natural source that eats away at harmful CO2 gases and that source is ‘trees’. Over the course of a year, one tree can absorb up to 13 pounds of CO2 gases. Heavy levels of CO2 gases in cities create thick smog and affect the natural ecosystem of the land, creating a hostile environment for trees and plants too.

Dr Klaus Lackner, Director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University, came up with an innovative idea to reduce CO2 emissions in urban environments. Taking from his daughter’s prize winning 8th grade science fair project, Dr Lackner designed a machine that would pull CO2 from the air and he designed his structure to act like a ‘living tree’.

Inspired by Dr Lackner’s discovers, in Boston, MA, the Boston Treepod Initiative, developed by Mario Caceres and Christian Canonico of Influx_Studio from Paris, France, in collaboration with ShiftBoston, a competition conducted by the Boston Society of Architects, are proposing to use this environment friendly technology to help curb CO2 gases in the city. Influx_Studio developed their tree-like structure to be powered by both solar and kinetic energy. Their artificial tree mimics what real trees do. It scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere and emits O2 and uses its own power to do so.

To make their design more appealing to the eye, the international team drew inspiration from the dragon blood tree, a prehistoric looking tree that grows in arid, dry climates. It has wide branches that form umbrella looking tops and provide wide swatches of shade on the ground below. Influx_Studio needed a wide platform that could hold the sizeable solar panels to help power the tree. To generate kinetic energy they decided to make the tree interactive. The Boston Treepods Initiative also proposed for the trees to be placed in groups or pods joined together by see-saws and hammocks, creating a small urban park. As the hammocks and see-saws are used by visitors kinetic energy is created. When a person plays on the see saw, the power display explains the Treepod’s de-carbonisation process. The solar panels and the kinetic energy station are used to power the air filtration process, as well as interior lighting. The Treepods are made entirely of recycled/recyclable plastic from drink bottles. Based not only on trees, but on the human lung, the design of the “branches” will feature multiple contact points that serve as tiny CO2 filters.

The concept could be easily and cheaply replicated in polluted cities all over the world. The Treepods are beneficial in cities where smog levels are high and curbing respiratory illnesses. Interestingly, the Treepods have been compared to “urban furniture”: sleek yet functional design pieces that would fit into any urban environment. At night, the Treepods light up in an array of eye-catching colours.

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