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The Green Life: Green Innovations Inspired by Trees

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June 24, 2009

Green Innovations Inspired by Trees

Forest When it comes to sustainability, trees have got it down. Not only do they make their own energy, but through that process, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

So it seems natural that scientists have started basing their clean-energy innovations on nature's own carbon cleaners. For instance, Columbia University scientist Klaus Lackner has invented a plastic tree able to capture 1,000 times the carbon dioxide the living versions can.

The synthetic tree costs about as much as a car to manufacture but has many advantages: It can capture carbon dioxide from the air without the sunlight a living plant requires, and that trapped gas could be used to create fuel for jet engines and cars, says Lackner.

Meanwhile, "solar trees" have begun illuminating Europe’s streets. Solar Tree is a type of streetlight whose structure is inspired by trees. Designer Ross Lovegrove said he created the structures as a celebration of “design, nature, and art” that will bring sustainability and a natural feel to cities. So far, the trees have appeared in Vienna, Paris, and Frankfurt.

As exciting as these innovations are, they also highlight how greatly we need to conserve the real thing.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness,” wrote John Muir. And it’s for such clarity of mind, as well as the fact that they cleanse the atmosphere, that we love them.

--Jamie Hansen

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