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Wed, 06/27/2012 - 10:08 — Sarah Martinez
Houseplants: More than a pretty accent
Indoor plants encourage healthy living
Today’s guest blogger is Suzi McCoy, founder and president of the Garden Media Group.
Nothing says “soothing” like the color green. And the granddaddies of all things green are certainly the members of the plant kingdom, the lungs of our environment.
Perhaps it’s the calming rustle of leafy branches in the wind or a wavy sea of grass that draws us in. Either way, people and plants are universally connected and share a natural symbiotic relationship. Emerging research suggests indoor plants are more than just a pretty face: They’re good for our mind, body and soul!
Why are indoor plants essential? Here’s a short list of benefits:
- Remove carbon dioxide and airborne toxins;
- Supply oxygen that improves concentration and our sense of well-being (allowing us to be more focused, creative, attentive, healthier and happier);
- Provide humidity to dry rooms; and
- Add natural glamour to any space.
The more time we live and work indoors, which is most of the day, the more we need houseplants surrounding us for our health and well-being. Call it a healthy “codependency” that benefits the environment and helps to improve the quality of our lives.
Most of us spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air typically contains two to five times more pollutants than outdoor air and can be up to 10 times more polluted, especially if you’ve recently installed carpet or painted!
Back in the ’80s, Dr. Bill Wolverton, a retired NASA scientist and author of “How to Grow Fresh Air,” conducted a landmark study to find ways to clean air in space bases and vehicles.
Wolverton discovered how plants improve air quality by naturally “filtering and absorbing” up to 87 percent of airborne toxins called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene, as well as tobacco smoke, all of which are found in many homes and offices.
“Indoor plants help purge the air of airborne toxins with the same efficiency as the rainforest in our biosphere,” Wolverton says.
Houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of airborne toxic gases emitted from these products including the degreasing solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), which can get trapped in airtight buildings and accumulate over time.
Wolverton discovered, through his more than 30 years of research as an environmental scientist with NASA and Wolverton Environmental Services, that indoor plants and their root microbes are destined to play a major role in improving indoor air quality in homes and buildings.
Houseplants clean the air by absorbing toxins into the root zone, where they’re turned into nutrients for the plants. “Good” microbes found naturally in and around plant roots also play an integral role in breaking trapped chemicals down into a source of food for the