Session 2: Phytoremediation: Pollution Purging Plants!

Wednesday, May 20th at 1pm ET

Summary: So you’ve had the soil, water or air tested and it’s not good news.  Can plants help remediate your project's contaminants? Cost-effective phytoremediation (phytotechnology) plantings can be effective in mitigating pollutants.   This session will provide the tools to create sustainable interior and exterior ‘PHYTO’ landscapes that enhance environmental conditions. 

Full Session Description: Contamination of waterways, pollution of drinking water, air pollution and soil/ groundwater contamination impact the health of our urban environments. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there are 450,000 - 600,000 brownfields (contaminated vacant sites) in the US and traditional engineering and remediation strategies for clean-up are often expensive to implement and energy consumptive.

Are there other natural systems-based strategies to clean-up environments (both interior and exterior) in a less expensive and more sustainable way? Phytotechnology, the ability of plants to uptake and remove contaminates from the environment, is gaining attention in the fields of sustainability and green building. From poor indoor air quality, to brownfields contaminated with heavy industrial toxins, cost-effective, natural cleanup methods can be an effective strategy in mitigating pollutants. Phytotechnologies have the capacity to play a significant role in transforming contaminatedurban land, providing a more sustainable choice for land planning. The can be less than 10% of the cost of traditional remediation technologies, and the information on this field needs to be disseminated to the public. Managing the environment responsibly today is a challenge that requires productive landscape interventions based in science.

The science of phytotechnologies is often misunderstood, and currently available documentation on the subject is difficult to understand. This lecture will present inspiration for how plants can be used to clean up contaminated land, air and water and interior building water and air, white providing habitat for animals and pollinators, capturing carbon, as well as creating aesthetically evocative environments for people. Examples illustrating these plant-based systems will be reviewed to assist in the recovery from the twentieth century’s industrial and chemical interventions and ongoing pollutant challenges. The lecture content will be derived from the speaker's recently published book: PHYTO: Principle and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand best applications for phytoremediation and phytotechnology when contaminated soil, groundwater, air pollution or stormwater is present 
  • Understand horticultural opportunities and limitations of plant based remediation, and strategies for future integration in green building design including example case studies of precedent projects. 
  • Describe how sustainable planting designs can be enhanced to have preventative 'phytobuffering' capabilities, to prevent contamination from roadways, dry cleaners and other potentially contaminating land uses. 
  • Understand history of phytoremediation and best current resources for finding out moreinformation on the field. 

Speaker: Kate Kennen 
Landscape Architect/ Owner at Offshoots, Inc.


Contact the Greenbuild Program team at [email protected] for more information regarding registration and/or getting involved in Greenbuild's Digital Education Series as a Sponsor or Speaker.