The Ricoh Technology Portal
© Native Bergen
The Ricoh Technology Portal on 43rd and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.

Ricoh’s Bitchin’ Green Wall

The quest for alternative green in the New York tri-state area has led me to a spot right under my nose. Just east of Grand Central Station in New York City, the copier and camera company Ricoh has built a green wall.† That’s right, a room-sized wall of living plants; one the highlights of Ricohís technology portal in the heart of Manhattan. The green wall was installed at the beginning of 2011 as a focus point for some of the greener alternatives that Ricoh was pursuing in its product components. Okay, full disclosure time:† I work for Ricoh. This web site is not sponsored by Ricoh nor is it affiliated with Ricoh. This post is editorial and in no way represents official statements or viewpoints of Ricoh. (Had to crowbar that in.)† Pay my bills or not, this green wall is a sweet example of taking the office plant gimmick and knocking it on its ass.

The Ricoh Green Wall
© Native Bergen

What trumps the banality we see in a good portion of our outdoor landscapes? †Indoor office landscapes, of course.† A couple of Ficus trees, overused but unexploited snake plants; plastic plants in the reception area and inside the cubicle maze its nothing but those variegated philodendrons, money plants and spliced cactuses.† Just like that, I’ve described the horticulture strategy for a million offices and cubicles in Americuh.† Although Ricoh might downplay their green wall for not being green enough, I give them kudos for doing something creative with green plants, many of which are the typical plants you’d find in the produce section of an average New Jersey super market.

Green Wall Plants
© Native Bergen
The plants in the green wall include: Variegated Arboricola (Schefflera arboricola ), Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) †Heart Leaf Phildendron (Philodendron hederaceum ) and Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata).

The plants flourish with the help of lights, pumps, tubes, nutrient pools and growing medium. Thereís also a plant ninja who comes to the tech portal once a week to keep the wall looking good. I think he’s called the plant ninja because one minute you see him, the next minute heís whippiní indoor plant ass; then like that (Poof!) heís gone. All this effort translates into tangible amounts of energy and human effort to maintain the green wall. Ricoh offsets some of the energy needs of the wall and tech portal with solar panels on the roof. Itís not enough, however, to break even energy-wise.† Ricoh takes their environmental efforts very seriously and is careful to avoid bootleg eco-activities that would get them pegged as ‘green-washing’.† This may explain why they are modest about their living wall in the Big Apple.

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) growing on a sound barrier on I-80 just east of Saddle Brook, New Jersey
© Native Bergen
Invasive Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) making its own green walls on the sound barriers that line I-80. Fossil fuel impact? Zero. Benefits to indigenous plant diversity? Also zero.

Practical benefits of the green wall in include the kind of facts that we all know to be true but for some reason just kind of shrug at. The green plants in the wall clean the air of toxins; this isn’t just a rumor NASA proved it in a studyÖ shrug.† The living wall helps to regulate indoor humidity through the plants innate ability to regulate moisture via transpirationÖ shrug. ††The green wall creates the illusion of a temperate climate which intern causes the people working within the space to ease up on the thermostatÖ shrug really? Seeing all of those plants makes people think the temperature is perfectly adjusted? That’s kind of primal, dude.† What else does the green wall make people think/do?

For a company like Ricoh, I imagine environmental initiatives have to translate into cost savings, revenue generation or measurable positives. They can’t put, "It gets people talking and thinking about green" on their progress reports. But everybody who sees that green wall, at least while visiting the tech portal, is going to think differently about indoor plants. †I found myself wondering about how I could incorporate plants in my own dwelling in a way that was both environmental and kick-ass too. Those two components are what this website is striving to be.

The green wall holding its own amongst all of our made stuff.
© Native Bergen
The green wall holding its own amongst all of our made stuff.

The bold and straightforward presentation is remarkable considering the odds: Ricoh may be known as a quiet giant in the office equipment industry, also as a manufacturer of "Big in Japan" high-end cameras.  In either arena Ricoh usually opts for understated design coupled with industrial strength feature sets.   So far so good, but eco-themed design is too often an assault victim of the fraternal twins sanctimony and lousy.  Subtle refinement mashed up with eco-designís usual suspects should result in something with visual appeal of a tofu turkey. But aesthetically, at least for this effort, Ricoh threadís the needle for the win.

The conversational value of the green wall is its greatest and probably most underappreciated benefit.†I think it gets people focused on the environment but its execution gets people thinking about taking the mundane things we are used to and transforming them into something provocative. †††If you add that to the solar panels, Ricoh is definitely doing more than breaking even from this vantage point.† A living wall made out of plants that looks way cool or even bitchin’ will tap into human tendencies (impression, imitation and competition) that often go hand and hand with destroying the natural world but in this case could lead to living more in tune with it.

At some point one of Ricoh’s B2B clients is going to see that wall and not only want to duplicate it but to up the ante, as well. Maybe they’ll say, "We’ve got to get a green wall like that on our business campus," and hopefully, "—but ours has to be bigger!" or, "—completely solar powered!", or, "—created entirely from indigenous plants!"† If we are lucky, maybe it will be all of the above.December 2, 2011|Posted in PLACES, THINGS|Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments|Permalink to Ricoh’s Bitchin’ Green WallTrackback URL for this item

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  1. Green Walls Are Catching On, I Hope To Do Mine Soon... Thanks Mr. DIY March 25, 2013 at 7:18 am

  2. Great article... No authors name attached? Anyhow feels good to be RIGHT doesn't it? :-) One other key roofs have been hyped for 20 years but never got much further than fulfilling LEED required ( tax benefits)...Why ? Because we can't SEE them of course and who cares alot about a a field of seedum trays really? Give me Green Beauty in Design and I'll show you green beautiful behavior. It doesnt work the other way around! FireDean January 15, 2015 at 7:51 pm

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