Living Green for July 19, 2012

For Weekly SurgeJuly 17, 2012 

Planting ideas for cleaner indoor air

Who doesn’t like to breathe clean air? When you are stuck working in an office, a breath of fresh air is what you need to get through the day. However, some of us aren’t so lucky, especially trying to endure the Southern summer heat and humidity. Who can enjoy fresh air when it’s so sticky and sweaty?

An alternative to stepping outside may be found simply with something natural and green in your office or home. A plant. Indoor plants are great for adding beauty to a sad corner, but also producing oxygen and enhancing a positive environment. However, did you know that plants also have tremendous health benefits? Here are just a few:

Help fight colds – Indoor plants may reduce cold-related illness, due to their effect of increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust. Plants are also natural humidifiers for softening the air.

Remove airborne contaminants – Especially in an indoor environment, we breathe the same air over and over again, possibly inhaling harmful substances and germs. Indoor plants can help remove pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that cause headaches, nausea and more.

Stop headaches – With plants you can decrease or eliminate headaches because plants remove stuffy, stale air that can contribute to temples pounding.

Brain power – Caring for a living thing, such as a pet, helps improve your mental health, when you are depressed and lonely, giving you a purpose in life. Plants improve your mood and give you some brainpower.

Provide clean air – Plants work as a filter by taking in carbon dioxide and putting out clean oxygen, which in turn improves the air quality.

Be Happy – Plants make people happy, feel calmer and less stressed. A study in Rehabilitation Literature says that a company added plants so that no employee would be more than so many feet from plants. They noticed that employees were more creative at work and were more productive.

Apparently, NASA did a study to find out the best plants that filter the air at the space station. I figured if it’s good enough for cleaning the air on a space station, it’s definitely good enough (if not better) for your home or office. The study also found that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. Here are just a few:

English Ivy

Spider Plant

Peace Lily

Heartleaf Philodendron

Red-Edged Dracaena

Cornstalk Dracaena

Gerber Daisy

So, if you are thinking about adding plants to your home or office, consider adding more than one to really see a difference in the benefits. At home, do some research on houseplants, especially for the safety of pets and children, otherwise, place plants high enough so they can’t be reached.

While some of us may not have a green thumb, including yours truly, there is a plant that is the easiest to keep alive, especially indoors without natural light. The philodendron is a tropical American climbing vine plant that never seems to stop growing. In fact, I’ve had mine since elementary school and that’s no joke. At the end of the school year, my fifth grade teacher gave every student a sprig of the plant on his desk. My mom found the sprig in my pocket and placed it in a cup of water to start rooting. That sprig grew into the mature plant that still grows in my office at work. As its vines get longer, I clip off sprigs and share them with others at work. I recently left a sprig surprise for my co-worker’s newest office space. Philodendrons are able to grow in just a cup or vase of water, but as the roots get longer, you will eventually want to transfer it to potted soil. Keep in mind that the philodendron likes cramped roots, so no need to repot into a gigantic pot.

For those of us that already have plants sprinkled throughout our homes and offices, consider a plant for a friend, instead of cut flowers. Eventually those cut flowers will wilt and die, but a potted plant will live on if properly cared for. Plus, it makes a great green gift and its much more sustainable.

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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