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INNOVATOR Q&A

R.I. engineer is creating live wall art that breathes

A patent pending design for living moss art and walls scraps that doesn’t require maintenance or upkeep.

Jamie Mitri with some of her framed moss artwork.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Less than three years ago, Jamie Mitri was just discovering the potential health benefits of bringing live, green moss into her home. Mitri, who was born in Lebanon and raised in Rhode Island, found that moss acted as a natural air filter that could also provide therapeutic relief to indoor and outdoor settings.

With a background in engineering and environmental compliance, Mitri competed in a three-day startup competition at MIT’s Lebanon Challenge in 2020 under the company name “Biyati,” and presented a moss-based system that could take on air pollution and reduce its harmful effects on the population in Lebanon. Her design was one of the teams selected as winners.

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Back in a studio a few blocks from her childhood home in Smithfield, Mitri founded Moss Pure, which designs these “living” pieces of moss art and walls for individuals and businesses.

Hands of Jamie Mitri, right, and her mother, Charlotte Mitri, left, finish up a Moss Pure project in their Smithfield studio.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Q: Why moss?

Mitri: Right now, there’s a huge market for green walls. But when I looked into it, I found that living moss has amazing health benefits. Our own certified analytical lab results showed within two minutes, our products captured 42 percent of carbon dioxide and 1.5 million pollutants [such as dust, allergens, volatile organic compounds, metals, and certain bacteria].

A study out of Harvard showed that biophilic design, which is centered around having nature in your physical space and around the visual sense, can provide therapeutic relief and increase productivity. Moss can also improve air quality. So these designs are not only engaging sight senses, but also touch and smell to increase the effects of biophilic design.

What is it typically like to have to care for a moss wall or moss art?

Most of the companies in the market aren’t using live moss. They’re using preserved moss or dead moss, or moss that is completely artificial. I wanted to know why they wouldn’t use live moss, but when I spoke to different companies or experts in the space, they said they couldn’t figure out how to keep the moss alive without all the maintenance. A lot of the moss art out there requires a lot of watering, a lot of electricity, and are really bulky so they aren’t aesthetically pleasing.

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Jamie Mitri with one of her framed moss projects. This moss in this wooden frame is from Kentucky. MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

How is yours different from your competitors?

I created an aesthetically-pleasing air filter made of moss that anyone could purchase — from individuals who wanted to put these in their homes to businesses who wanted to place them in their lobbies or offices. My design is patent pending. It does not require any watering, sunlight, or maintenance.

What options do customers have?

I have a few different products online, which we are selling on our website, Wayfair, All Modern, and on Amazon. But I also work with a lot of businesses for custom orders. For example, I recently worked with [the all-vegan restaurant] Plant City X in Warwick for an exterior moss wall. Dr. Russell Babbitt of the Plastic Surgery of Southern New England recently wanted a moss wall with his logo on it.

Where are you sourcing your moss from?

Across the US. We also try to find as many materials from Rhode Island as possible for all of our designs.


The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at alexa.gagosz@globe.com.

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.