Mobile “Living Wall” Makes Debut at Local High School in Plainfield

Mobile “Living Wall” Makes Debut at Local High School in Plainfield

EcoWalls®, a Rutgers-incubated business, offers decorative, vertical planting “classroom”

EcoWalls®, a company that manufactures a sustainable living wall of plant material that uses no soil, has debut a mobile version of its vertical planting system at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield.

EcoWalls is an innovative and decorative vertical planting system that serves as a natural air and water purification system. It is the brain child of Michael Coraggio, who graduated from Rutgers in 2006 with a degree in landscape architecture, and Ryan Burrows, a current graduate student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers. After successful and, in some cases, ongoing collaborations to create living walls for Walt Disney World, Atlantis Resort, The Palmyra Resort and The Philadelphia Flower Show, the company has expanded its “green” footprint into the urban classroom as well, thanks to the integration of fish and plant materials to create a mobile classroom.

EcoWalls

From left, Michael Coraggio, Mary Greeley and Ryan Burrows in front of mobile living wall.

"EcoWalls is now not only creating functional gardens in tight urban spaces, but by adding an aquaponic system and integrating fish alongside the plants, we are able to literally add tools through which teachers can use our living walls as an educational component to discuss air as well as water purification with students,” said Coraggio. Aquaponics is the science in which aquatic livestock produce effluent that is used by a crop of plants as nutrients for growth, and, in turn, the plants purify the water before it’s returned to the fish.

"Through this small but vital innovation, we now have a broader educational tool—the first mobile classroom of living, breathing fish and vertical plant habitat that can move to where the students are,” added Coraggio.

After the initial apprehension, the students were really excited to get their hands dirty, said Mary Greeley, a teacher at Barack Obama Green Charter High School. “Having a mobile living wall classroom allows teachers so much flexibility to talk about connections to nature in composition class or can be utilized by a teacher in the sciences to instruct students in the nitrogen cycle,” she added.

This unique collaboration that led to the first mobile living wall classroom began with a visit in June to the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown, NJ, by Bridget Greeley, David Wegner and Melissa Foley, students at Lafayette College. The Lafayette students visited the EcoComplex as part of a Davis Project for Peace Grant proposal they were developing that focused on using agriculture as a teaching tool and ways to better integrate environmental sustainability into the school curriculum.  Bridget Greeley, one of three Lafayette students to win the Davis Project for Peace Grant is the daughter of Barack Obama Charter High School teacher Mary Greeley.

“Bridget shared with me how the science behind the living wall they saw at the Rutgers EcoComplex made the product perfect for what they were looking for—‘something that could educate while getting the students involved and interested,’” recalled Mary Greeley. This meeting sparked the development of the first mobile living wall classroom unveiled this semester by EcoWalls’ founders at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School.

EcoWalls is one of several small businesses located at the EcoComplex, a state-of-the-art business incubator that assists start-up companies, including "green" businesses.

Burrows, who has an extensive research background in environmental toxicology, embraces the living wall concept for its aesthetic value and well as its practical use as a tool to improve the environment.

"Our dual focus in design and science has been instrumental in creating a unique sustainable living system that will not only visually enhance a space but can also be used as a useful tool to accomplish goals of improving water and air quality or creating habitat and corridor space for native wildlife,” said Burrows.

The students in Mary Greeley’s class at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School paid their first visit to Rutgers EcoComplex on October 18 to tour the EcoWalls operation and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the vertical living walls.

For more on EcoWalls®, the proprietary soil-less, living architecture that integrates renewable resources to create a “living” wall, visit greenecowalls.com.

Media Contact: Paula Walcott-Quintin
848-932-4204
E-mail: quintin@aesop.rutgers.edu