Everyone loves living walls these days — but not all of us have the time or space to take care of them. What can you do to bring a little sensation of the outdoors inside? Joe Zazzera and Pat Mahan of Plant Solutions struggled with the problem, and developed the Moss Wall Art solution. “It was 2009, the height of the Great Recession.” says Joe, “Our clients loved the living walls we designed, but a lot of them were reluctant to take on the watering and maintenance costs, because their business was uncertain.” Using sustainably harvested and naturally preserved moss, lichens, ferns, and downed wood, they developed a set of proprietary artisanal techniques that bring the sensation of nature into a wide range of interiors — at four-fifths the cost of a living wall.
Today, the Moss Wall Art team designs stunning custom pieces for homes and offices across the country, and they get frequent requests from industry professionals who want to know how it’s done. “I’ve been surprised how hungry people are to connect with nature,” says Joe. “They are really starved for it, and it’s become kind of an obsession for me to satisfy it in some small way. My passion is reconnecting people to nature.”
This desire led Joe on a surprising journey, and one he never expected to take. It started with an eight-month course from with Dayna Baumeister and Janine Benyus‘ Biomimicry 3.8 consulting firm—the organization that brought Biomimicry to the design world. “I thought it would be great for business, to learn about this new field I kept hearing about.” says Joe. “But I just fell in love with it. I couldn’t stop!” He went on to become a Certified Biomimicry Professional—an intense two-year commitment—then received one of the very first Masters of Science Biomimicry degrees in the world, from Arizona State University’s brand new Biomimicry Center. “I didn’t plan on that!” he says. “I just kept on going, wanting to know more. It’s been a wonderful adventure. Now, I incorporate Biomimicry and Biophilia into everything I do, and I teach others as well!” He loves taking folks on Biomimicry nature walks, and his Biophilia and Biomimicry workshops are in demand across the country.
Today, Plant Solutions and Moss Wall Art are at the forefront of sustainable design — pioneers in the emerging disciplines of Biomimicry and Biophila. Their living walls and moss wall art are in high demand, and Joe gets frequent requests to speak about his passion. He’s become deeply involved in the Biophilic Design movement.
“Green architecture is great,” says Joe. “It’s certainly reduced environmental impact, but what it doesn’t do is connect us to nature. That’s really important.” Joe says that need for nature is baked in our DNA. For four billion years, our ancestors sought food and water, and shelter in the wild, and we literally hunger for living things and a piece of wilderness.
But nowadays, of course, we are surrounded by concrete, traffic, noise, pollution, and the constant clamor of modern life. We are bombarded by our chaotic digital lifestyles, and we live in a perpetual state of information overload and attention fatigue. Over time, our physical and mental wellbeing has been profoundly damaged. “Biophilia,” which literally translates as “love of nature,” is our innate emotional need for outdoor spaces, fresh air, green living things, and the trickling sound of cool flowing water.
And it turns out, our innate love of nature has far more than aesthetic value. Patients in hospitals with green spaces and natural vistas heal faster, classrooms with nature have higher test scores, offices filled with plants and natural light are more productive, and communities with green spaces are more connected. All kinds of retail businesses are discovering that the experience of nature increases customer purchases — shoppers are far more likely to enter and explore areas containing greenery or water features. These spaces are calming, inspiring destinations to be visited and enjoyed — and customers spend more because of it. Put simply, feeding our hunger for nature makes us happier, and that translates into confident buying decisions.
Nature is no longer an outdoor luxury reserved for vacations. It is an economic investment in customer satisfaction and employees’ health and performance. Companies that add natural features to their workplace save more than $3,000 per employee per year. With moss wall art, there is no reason not to. These one-of-a-kind handcrafted plant art paintings are an affordable, maintenance free way to bring outdoor beauty and calm into our indoor spaces, creating an atmosphere that connects us to nature—and helps us thrive, collaborate, and be more creative along the way.