Prisoners Pioneer Sustainable Moss Harvesting Program

prisoners sustainable moss program photo

Photo via tutor2u

What comes to mind when you think of prison work programs? Making license plates, carpentry and woodworking, hard manual labor, right? Well, conventions and/or prison movie stereotypes be damned—prisoners at the Cedar Creek Corrections Facility in Washington grow and harvest moss sustainably.The program was implemented by the International Canopy Network, where participating prisoners help pioneer a method of growing moss for use in the horticultural trade. Believe it or not, moss is in high demand right now—more on that later.

sustainable moss prisoners photo

Photo via ICAN
The Objectives of the Prison Moss Growing Experiment
According to ICAN, the objectives of the program are as follows:
1. Investigate optimal ways to grow mosses for the horticultural trade by developing techniques of growing mosses and measuring their growth rates.
2. Develop value-added products (e.g., small "moss gardens") that prisoners can create that could build vocational skills once they return to the outside world.
3. Communicate our results to the ecological community so that our experimental farming efforts might lead to reduced pressure on natural habitats.

Working with moss could potentially benefit the prisoners, too:

Working with plants can be beneficial for incarcerated persons. Exposure to growing plants can be therapeutic, and the skills learned in growing plants can be applied to earn money once prisoners are released . . . Mosses lend themselves well to the prison environment because their small stature requires the use of no sharp implements and they are extremely hardy.

Why Sustainable Moss Harvesting?
Sustainably harvesting moss may be more important than you'd think, too.

In Oregon and Washington, moss that grows on branches and trunks of trees on the forest floor has become a prime material for use in the horticultural industry. But the way that it's being collected is far from sustainable, and could deprive old growth forests of a vital component of its ecosystem. According to ICAN, there's an urgent need to " There is a need to develop ways to grow mosses under non-forest conditions, i.e., to "farm" them in order to reduce pressure on natural habitats."

More on Green Prison Initiatives:
Norway's "Green" Bastoey Prison
Biogas: Poo-Powered Prison in Rwanda
Strange But True: Norway Announces First "Ecological Prison"

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