Smog-Eating Mural Unveiled by Price Center Starbucks

A “smog-eating” mural was unveiled near the Starbucks in Price Center by members of the environmentalist organization, Greeks Gone Green on Feb. 22. The mural, titled “Ride or Die,” features a superimposed photograph of a bicycle over a car, and is sprayed with a catalyst that absorbs airborne pollutants. Inspired by a similar project installed at the University of Sheffield in England, the project aims to raise awareness of air pollution on campus, as well as to encourage members of campus life to become more involved in environmentalism.

“We must hold institutions accountable for finding methods to reduce waste while maintaining accessibility, so everyone can lead environmentally conscious loves,” Samantha Noel, the research chair for Greeks Gone Green, wrote. “In doing so, we will develop a new norm that will save future generations.”

Greeks Gone Green is a student-run organization comprised of members from both the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council. Founded in 2013, the organization has also spearheaded other campus projects such as an inter-greek recycling challenge, and launched a petition to get single-use water bottles banned from campus by limiting the sale of bottles in campus markets and colleges.

GGG applied a catalyst on top of the mural surface from PURETI Technology. PURETI was initially designed as a window cleaning product, but has expanded its use to an oxide-reducing solution spray in hotels, roadside billboards, and hospitals.

“This catalyst is activated by ultraviolet light and transforms water molecules into oxidizers that break apart pollution particles like nitrous oxide and nitrous dioxide, the primary by-products of combustion,” Noel explained to the UCSD Guardian. “Through this reaction, the mural and catalyst spray will actively break down harmful pollutants from the UCSD environment.”

GGG says they also plan to conduct experiments to analyze the process over time in order to better understand the effectiveness of the catalyst in an outside setting.

The printing of the mural and purchase of the PURETi spray cost around $1000. The University Centers Advisory Board offered to pay for the physical installation of the poster as well as the plaque that accompanies it.

Student artist Shashi Mostafa, whose photograph “Ride or Die” is featured in the mural, told the Guardian that the superimposed photos are intended to denote a choice.

“It’s critical of our daily habits,” Mostafa said. “The two things presented, the bike and the car, both do the same thing, essentially. They take you from one place to the next. It presents a choice and reflects our choices in our daily lives. It reminds people that we do have a choice in a lot of cases about making sustainable practices.”

Mostafa took the photo on film in North Park over the summer of 2018, during her time working on the Zero-Waste event put on by Housing Dining Hospitality Wellness and Engagement.

“A lot of my art is social-justice based,” Mostafa said. “A lot of it is geared around making visual messages for people.”

Mostafa’s photo was chosen from 23 submissions to the Greeks Gone Green’s photo competition.

Uday Govindswamy, Special Projects Director for Greeks Gone Green, told the Guardian, “We went with Shashi’s photo because it’s so outlandish and weird. We thought that it was a nice fit alongside a technology that is so revolutionary and new.”

“Greeks Gone Green is hoping to rewrite our path going forward with the goal of putting together comprehensive projects that have a broad and visible impact on the UCSD community,” Noel said. “We want to provide an outlet for the Greek community to be able to utilize to have a bigger impact on campus. Only two current executive board members of GGG will be at UCSD next year so as we welcome a new executive board and new GGG general body, we will have more concrete ideas for the future.”

The mural is commissioned to stay up for at least a year. Testing and research will be conducted once every six months, in conjunction with chemistry labs on campus. The data from the tests will be posted on the Greeks Gone Green website.


photo by Alexandra Fustei