Japanese natural cosmetics brand Shokubutsu Hana and TBWA\SMP have floated an unconventional idea in the Philippines to help clean Manila's grievously polluted Pasig River—an 88-foot-long billboard made of vetiver, a grass that absorbs deadly toxins. Vetiver is often used to treat waste water and landfills, and the billboard can cleanse up to 8,000 gallons a day.
On its website, Shokubutsu Hana says the effort represents the company's belief in "healthy beauty brought about by the restorative power of nature" and commitment to "provide not only a clean message but also a clean future." Additional vetiver signs are planned for the ailing waterway, which was declared "biologically dead" in the 1990s after decades of contamination from industrial runoff and sewage. The Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and Vetiver Farms Philippines are also partners in the project.
A similar concept sprouted in the Philippines three years ago, when Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund created a 60-by-60-foot billboard covered in Fukien tea plants to absorb air pollution.
The notion that social-issues campaigns should not just call for action but also take action themselves or facilitate change is growing. Recent examples include Peruvian billboards that generate clean air and water, a "Drinkable Book" with pages that filter contaminants and a "Blind Book" designed to teach sighted folks how vision-impaired people feel when denied access to literature because it is not published in a format they can read.