Gallery: TREEPODS: Carbon-Scrubbing Artificial Trees for Boston City St...


Trees naturally filter and clean our air, but in today’s heavily polluted world, it’s just too huge of a task to expect Mother Nature to take care of herself. Taking this into account, designers Mario Caceres and Cristian Canonico have designed a set of beautiful air-filtering trees for the SHIFTboston urban intervention contest. Called TREEPODS, the designs harnesses biomimicry to efficiently emulate the carbon filtration qualities of trees.

The TREEPOD systems are capable of removing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen using a carbon dioxide removal process called “humidity swing,”. In addition to their air-cleansing abilities, TREEPODS will also include solar energy panels and will harvest kinetic energy through an interactive seesaw that visitors can play with at the TREEPOD’s base. As passersby play on the seesaws they power displays that explain the TREEPODS’ de-carbonization process. Both the solar panels and the kinetic energy station will power the air filtration process, as well as interior lights.

The TREEPODS themselves will be 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 proposed design, giant white and translucent canopies of trees, can be installed among existing trees or on their own. 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 colors.

Caceres and Canonico hope that these “trees” will function not just as examples of gorgeous urban design and sources of sustainable energy, but also as meeting places, allowing citizens to have an air purifying tree to sit under with friends and enjoy the day.

+ SHIFTboston


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  1. Jon Carry January 31, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Plastic trees scrub CO2 from the air that real trees need to grow? Only an idea this idiotic could spring from the fevered minds of so many taxpayer funded government agencies as this one.

  2. jmlomax May 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Interesting, artistic, and fun. But it is no tree. I am a designer, so I will not poo-poo on anyone’s desire to design for the good of the environment. But what has been done here is silly…misinformed. Mother Nature is not over burdened. We have taken away Mother Nature’s ability to take care of herself. For the cost of one of those contraptions, you could plant as many trees and plants as you need in the city of Boston to curb the carbon issue, and make the plantings part of a plan to become carbon neutral. Trees and perennials do all the things the contraption does naturally, and for free. Trees have no maintenance costs, they don’t break down, and if they do need to be cut the carbon inside them stays stored forever. If the problem was the need for a larger canopy, get trees that grow faster naturally, like RPM trees. or for more info.

  3. pat72 July 26, 2012 at 2:50 am

    the cost of building materials to filter is no more polluting than the result?

  4. Ainnur Alyaa Zaini April 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Wow…. it’s beautiful!!

  5. the dinosaurs February 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    saying “it’s just too huge of a task to expect Mother Nature to take care of herself” seems terribly misinformed. Mother Nature can take care of herself just fine, as she has for the past x billion years. Its humans that need taken care of.

  6. bcbiradar July 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    It is very interesting,and unbelivable ? Can you provide technical tie-up to manufacture Faux Trees in India.

    Contact: Basvaraj Biradar
    Cell :+91-9869185452

  7. SHIFTboston April 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    “This design concept was created and organized by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Massachusetts Chapter’s Emerging Professionals Committee. . .”

    This statement is incorrect. This design concept was created by designers Mario Caceres and Cristian Canonico in collaboration with SHIFTboston as the article mentions above. HOWEVER, the Inhabit article is incorrect; there was no “SHIFTboston Urban Intervention Contest”.

    In addition, the “first-place prize and the winner of the Ideas category” was designed by Anthony Di Mari in collaboration with SHIFTboston. SHIFTboston recruited, sponsored and worked with Anthony on the winning design. Anthony was selected based on his designs as a repeat finalist in a number of our competitions.

  8. sabbott April 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    This design concept was created and organized by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Massachusetts Chapter’s Emerging Professionals Committee in collaboration with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and Youthbuild Boston. ShiftBoston recruited the Treepod designers with the intent of competing in the competition. The idea of the biomimicry of trees installation came after many long hard hours of volunteer work and a team collaboration led by the EPMA Committee. Here is the original release below:


    Contact: DiAnn Mroszczak or Michael VanZandt Collins
    Email:; or,

    USGBC 2011 Design Competition

    The Emerging Professionals of Massachusetts are a USGBC MA Chapter committee of students and young professionals dedicated to the sustainable design movement in regards to building design, planning, policy making, and green technology. Among the programs planned by the EPMA, the Design Competition provides students and young professionals an opportunity to be recognized for their work and innovation.

    The “New Urban Tree” – this year’s design challenge – represents an opportunity to address the shrinking tree canopy in our urban landscapes and to provide solutions for this urban planning dilemma for our municipalities and the cost it takes on our ecosystem. The competition was orchestrated in conjunction and partnership with Youthbuild Boston and The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

    On March 26, 2011, the competition winners were announced. Receiving the first-place prize and the winner of the Ideas category is Anthony Di Mari for his submission, “Urban Field.” The team comprising Cordelia Dawson, Rebecca Maisch, and Hiromi Tabei, are the winners of the second-place prize and the team whose entry was selected in the Design-Build category for the construction of a prototype. The location and date of the installation is in the process of being determined, with the hopes of it taking place in the early summer.

    If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with members of the EPMA, please call DiAnn Mroszczak at (913) 683-2047 or Michael VanZandt Collins at 617.913.6378 or email at You can see the winning boards at:

  9. scrubadubdub March 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    instead of coming up with a new artifical type of tree how about coming up with a faster way to plant the real one’s.

  10. March 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    So wait… why don’t they just plant trees?
    I think this design highlights the underlying problems in our society that are creating these problems with pollution and so much waste more than it solves them.
    THe constant need to produce something (anything!) and have and display what is new and chic.
    The underlying assumption that man trumps nature.
    Passive solar design with good insulation and well thought out building orientation will always save more energy than flashy new age green gadgets or even solar panels and wont end up in the garbage heap spewing toxic chemicals.
    These scrubber things will ultimately share that fate when the park is redone or the airpollution tarnishes their white finish

  11. piru March 18, 2011 at 12:29 am

    useless! please take environment seriously… design after talking to experts, learn from them and then design with them. Watching avatar and knowing how to use its 3d software is not enough to solve things.

  12. Curious User March 8, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Are these more efficient than real trees? What sort of projected data do you have? It seems that you’ve created an artificial tree. What does one do with this machine if and when it stops working?

    It seems like a cool idea, I’d like to see you incorporate more ways for nature to benefit from it though. Try to not only think of human use, or sustaining only human life. Maybe it can support some type of animal life too by providing habitat. If the proposal is to make trees more efficient, do so in a holistic way… keep thinking Nice work

  13. Doustyarrotly March 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    The majority of people who I come to see or visit us automatically catch their shoes off when entering the house. I have undivided attendant on who refuses to do it when she visits. Do you cogitate on we are unfair to ask her to deprecate her shoes off. She makes areall bustle everytime and rain

  14. Erik van Lennep March 5, 2011 at 4:53 am

    They look like fun. But only as some sort of conceptual art installation. Beyond that it’s an artists’ wank.

    But this discussion shows how little people understand of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of life and the integrated systems we depend on. That’s OK though; at least there IS discussion happening. However the industrial technofix delusion is a dangerous one.

    Plant more real trees, drive less polluting cars, make the cities nicer places to live, and talk to your neighbors. Make all that sexier and we won’t need to recycle plastic bottles into fake trees just to breathe.

  15. Hering March 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Its easy to be a cynic, with anything. There is inventive chemistry and engineering behind this. If a “modicum” of intelligence is all it takes to design this, then I’d love to see what an intelligent person could do.

  16. herpaderp March 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    amazingly, there’s already another product on the market that beat these designs to carbon removal. They’re approximately the same size, function in much the same way, and have a timeless design. They’re called trees, and best of all, the manufacturing process is completly free of carbon emissions.

  17. hr_rezazadeh March 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

    i am Enthusiastically keen on know about new invention all around the world

  18. kevanrmatthews February 24, 2011 at 6:18 am

    … The city could plant more trees….?

    Maybe we could demolish all the cities and replant the forest and all go to live in that, in small tribal groups based around family ties, etc, etc, etc…?

    For goodness sake, I never cease to be amazed when the archetypal traditional “Greenie” opens their mouth and out spews their usual retrograde, unhelpful, guff.

    There is soon to be 9 billion people on the planet and the majority of those people are going to live in cities… whether the traditional green lobby like that or not, its going to happen… So, we need new thought, lateral thought, “new” solutions. OK, so this exact design might not be an ideal solution, but at least its opening the door for “new” investigation, not simply banging on about returning to nature, living in the green-wood, etc, etc… yawn… Perhaps if global population were to plummet to that of year “one” (CE), for example. which was apparently, approximately 2 million, then that might be an option, but it can’t/won’t, thankfully, so lets get on with “progress”. Lets help find new solutions, lets forget about wearing flowers in our hair and praying to Gaia, and realise we have to rely upon our own ingenuity and teamwork…

  19. ConiAnn February 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    If the ideas is to use plastic and have a flat base for people to gather on, then consider the comments made before this one. A base the would collect water and allow slow release back into the environment should be another concern.
    I believe we could already make scrubbers and then sequester and/or reuse the results as fuel. The government and the petroleum-gas-oil industries has and will control the price of gas so that this does not become economically viable.

  20. oneperson February 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Or the city could just *gasp* actually plant more trees.

  21. gazzrenn February 21, 2011 at 4:48 am

    If it’s that easy to remove Carbon from the air, why aren’t we doing it already on a massive scale?

  22. Cynops February 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Interesting concept but the first thing that came to mind was pigeons & seagulls. Like any tree they look to be excellent roosts. Will they function when it is below freezing? Given the urban realities of black snow & birds how are you going to keep them clean enough to function?

  23. architecturehate February 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I can’t believe I’m the first one to say it. Maybe all the other cynics have been edited out.

    ‘Trees naturally filter and clean our air, but in today’s heavily polluted world, it’s just too huge of a task to expect Mother Nature to take care of herself.’


    So obviously the answer is to invent NEW TREES made out of PLASTIC. And please. Plastic water bottles…? Any 3rd grader can tell you that plastic degrades in quality and the sort of structure required by these TREEPODS is far greater than what you will get from recycled bottles…

    Powered by THE SUN (mass awe-struck amazement)…
    and probably with an ultra-thin glass LED DISPLAY to show everyone just how much carbon they’ve sucked from the air.

    It gives me a migraine just having to say that.

    It’s unfathomable how any one with a modicum of intelligence could mistake this for good design. I can only hope it was posted as an example of how not to design.

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