What do you get when you mix art, beauty, health and sustainability together? Urban Blooms.
In May 2014, Tyler Wolf and Lily Turner co-founded Urban Blooms as a 501(c)3 non-profit operating to raise capital and support for two overlapping causes: first, environmentally minded beautification projects; and secondly, education on sustainability.
Through Urban Blooms, Wolf and Turner design and create living wall gardens to promote sustainability and ecology in Cincinnati and Columbus. “We all grew up in Cincinnati, we are incredibly proud of our city and we would like to see it become the most beautiful and sustainable city in the country,” Wolf says. “There is incredible energy and investment taking place in Cincinnati recently. We are introducing a new technology to our city and by doing so, becoming a part of the urban renewal and lifestyle shift currently taking place in our city which makes our work extremely rewarding.”
The gardens are entirely customizable to fit a space and the needs of the consumer. In fact, Wolf says, by increasing oxygen and remove cancer-causing compounds, living walls improve indoor air quality and offer other health benefits such as stress reduction and increased immune function.
“Our living walls are essentially fully automated vertical hydroponic systems which utilize the latest materials and technologies, in order to offer systems which virtually take care of themselves,” Wolf says. “Physically these space age materials are light weight and extremely durable, allowing us to construct walls of any size, in almost any shape, that will last for decades. These materials are sustainably sourced through our local suppliers and our growing medium is even manufactured from recycled plastic water bottles, meaning it can be installed on walls for up-to 50 years without decomposing or needing to be replaced while also removing waste from our landfills. We offer a wide range of technologies at varying price-points, there is an option for everyone.”
For the home, Wolf says, living walls can provide 15-30% lower energy costs because the greenery contributes anywhere from a three to six degree temperature drop in a space. The air filtering ability of the greenery can also lead to a 15% lower ventilation cost for the space. Exterior living walls can purify air from cancer causing chemicals, remove 1.3 kilograms per year of harmful particulate matter for every 100 square feet of vertical wall and they can also act as an extra layer of insulation reducing heating and cooling costs by 35%.
Urban Blooms has built three living walls in Ohio thus far. Those locations include: outside Findlay Market, on The Ohio State University’s campus and inside the Cincinnati-based E+O restaurant. In addition, they will be showcasing a living wall in April at the Cincinnati Flower Show. The living wall at Findlay Market is the first outdoor living wall installation, which exists at 115 square feet. The wall took two days to install and captivated the community members who occupy the market and the surrounding areas, according to Wolf. The living wall located inside E+O stands at 18 feet wide by 8 feet tall, and includes 366 tropical plants from 22 different species. The E+O Living wall is currently the largest permanent living wall installation in the state of Ohio.
Urban Blooms works in partnership with schools in Ohio to promote sustainability. North Avondale Montessori, Walnut Hills High School, The Ohio State University and The University of Cincinnati have all been a part in growing the ideals of horticulture, design and environmental engineering.
“We are also in talks with ‘the Eddy,’ a new co-working space opening up the old Neusole glassworks building,” Wolf says. “The mixed-use space will be hosting March madness parties this month in order to raise money for the installation. We are in talks to do another living wall at OSU and possibly our first at UC. We hope to complete at-least six new living wall projects this year, as well as continuing to grow our East End Veterans Memorial Garden and the Hilltop Community Garden in Avondale. We would like to create new relationships and partnerships in the Cincinnati Nonprofit and Arts communities.”
Urban Blooms has various volunteer opportunities including constructing community gardens or living walls, and irrigating planter boxes. Urban Blooms has a recurring volunteer opportunity every Thursday from 9-12 p.m. at the East End Veterans Memorial Garden where veterans from the Cincinnati VA participate in three hours of horticultural therapy. The nonprofit also accepts donations to assist with beautification projects, educational opportunities for Cincinnati’s youth and the building of public living wall installations.
“We believe, in just a few short years, with hard work and through some support from our partners and sponsors, we can make Cincinnati internationally-known for its living wall displays and overall sustainability,” Wolf says.
To learn more, visit www.urbanblooms.org or “like” them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UrbanBlooms.