Moss Poles

Moss Poles

It took a walk in the local forest to notice that moss had not only adhered to tree bark but, over time, crept its way upwards towards the canopy. Could this hardy, soft non-vascular flowerless plant be a tool in our battle with carbon?

Regardless of the politics of "climate change" i've always felt that burning things to power or move humanity was a particularly Human 1.0 endeavour. The son of an asthmatic mother, i've seen first hand how these awful pollutants can effect British lives. If we can - we absolutely should move away from digging stuff up and burning it. Don't you think?

I'm in the innovation arc of the insurance industry, often exposed to new thinking and needs. I also have the odd idea and enjoy pushing my comfort zone and learning! Thus, I found myself falling down a bit of a rabbit hole recently exploring organic carbon sequestration.

Now, as with many of these ideas, be assured I don't intend to day-job this - I just want to build a cohort of people and be involved to the degree the ship is underway. It often confuses people that I have a wide lens of focus. My war is vs. risk and helping insurance - any battle that could help me win that war is always within focus.

You may have read my piece on plankton - this planet is blessed with hardy life that photosynthesises. These lifeforms (and their planty counterparts) breathe out what we breathe in. I mean, worship that! Our very own symbiants - harmless, friendly and breathing in what we breathe out. How lovely.

It took a walk with my two little dogs in the woods in my village to notice moss. I've always known of moss - but it's not something you really think of until it turns up on someone's lawn and you're all, like, "ah - that's comfier than grass", and they're all, like, "I hate moss". Beyond that, i've not given it much thought.

Until I saw this magical little plant creeping up a tree trunk - and it struck me. Could we make vertical carbon sequestration pillars adorned with our friend, Mossy. The short answer is YES. Yes we can do this.

Moss loves Carbon

The idea i'd had - whilst scooping up my terrier's deposit by the moss - was to adhere moss to telegraph poles. To work out their carbon capture value, and mass produce them with nurseries in the UK - lining roads, golf courses and even suburbia with them. Perhaps even reverse engineering them onto existing spaces.

The first tidbit I discovered was that there's already a German Company, Greencity, exploring moss brilliance. In fact, they claim that a small driveway sized patch of moss can absorb as much carbon as a 275-tree copse! I joke you not.

Pleased that i'd stumbled into a proven and researched (and funded!) concept, I charged on. The best ideas are those where you augment orthodoxy. Disruption is as much about reinvention as it is invention. Whilst there was a lovely bench/carbon model, it all looked quite expensive to me, and required quite a bit of carbon to put in place. It wasn't so scalable and, well, numerous potential homes for a moss-sequestration model would be ruled out by it.

Their intellectual property also seemed overly complex and required carbon input of its own. Did I have an angle?

Highland Moss experts

I find that when you are undertaking feasibility study, it's a wonderful opportunity to meet people. To explore our brilliant society. Sometimes you find a supergeek expert that has dedicated an unusual amount of time to something you've not given much thought to. Thank god for these people!

Such a person existed in the form of Craig from Highland Moss. He's an expert in his field and someone I absolutely intend to speak to again. We established that he had experience adhering moss to various things. And, whilst I won't give away the solution(s) we explored, I can tell you there lies a good heart who's probably unlucky he isn't from Oxford or Cambridge - where capital would surely have supported him.

I am therefore determined to help Craig get more resources to continue to do what his heart wants - which is to use his moss expertise for the climate challenge. Oh, and if you need moss for your garden or something aesthetic - he's your guy!

Viability Established - motive confession

I confess, continuing my mantra of "Selfishly Unselfish" (blog to follow), I had a motive for pursuing my moss day dream.

In the insurance sector, we're beginning to notice that Carbon Credits are not only critical to the energy transition (again, forget about the politics, it's happening, use the wind), but also often in peril. That means there's emergent an "insurable interest". Now, personally, my interest has always been in consumer cover - so i've been giving thought to how carbon credits will be needed by consumers and whether insurable interest follows.

Typically, insurance's job is to indemnify... But some classes of insurance have realised it might be cheaper to use their "buying power" at scale to offer the thing that was lost back again. We call it "new for old".

Moss, for me, offers an avenue for a potential "new for old" carbon credit indemnity. Not only could my Moss Poles originate carbon credits, but they could also be quickly used to substitute carbon credits that have been killed, damaged, broken or lost. So it was a claims play.

Moss grows faster than a tree. It's also an enhanced carbon store. We have experts in the UK and they have already gained experience in adhering moss to other things. There's a venture funded business doing this all alone - and they could probably do with some good ol' British competition. So, onward?

I've therefore satisfied myself that moss growing/attached to a vertical telegraph pole represents a viable carbon sequestration/credit model. So i'll poke around a bit more and join some people together.

If there's a chance to introduce insurance or distribution of it into that, brilliant. If not - done something practical, at least, right?

James York

James York

"James, do you ever fell like you need to come back down to Earth" - They asked. "No, I just want to find people to fly with me".