Every day, you are exposed to all sorts of harmful chemicals that can damage your health. So what can you do about it? You might feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because it is not much you can do since you’re not in charge of how factories are run or making environmental policy for your country.
That isn’t true, however. You can take many steps to reduce the impact of environmental pollution on you and make a positive impact on the environment through your actions. You have more control over reducing pollution than you think.
Each step that you take to cut down on the amount of pollution you’re exposed to and to eliminate activities that produce pollution from your life helps your health and that of the world as a whole. I’ve put together this tutorial so that you can feel more confident in your ability to positively impact your health and to know that every step towards reducing pollution you take truly does make a difference.
The jury is still out on whether indoor plants can significantly reduce pollutants in indoor environments as the situations under which they are typically tested are laboratory conditions where the environment is sealed tight, such as in a lab in space. However, plants can still help produce oxygen indoors and filter toxins and help make a positive impact on health and the state of the environment.
What You Will Need to Follow this Tutorial
This tutorial will offer one solution for reducing pollution. It focuses on a great way to reduce your exposure to pollutants in your immediate indoor environment, and it emphasizes how you can reduce pollution in the world in a broader context.
Materials for Indoor Pollution Reduction – House Plants
- Jade Plant
- Spider Plant
- Caribbean Tree Cactus
- Areca Palm (four shoulder-high plants per person in the building)
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (six to eight waist-high plants per person)
- Money Plant
- Plant containers
- Hydroponics equipment if you want to use this for your plants
- Spade (if using soil)
- Fertilizer (if desired)
There are dozens of houseplants that have been studied and proven to remove harmful pollutants from indoor air and that are great at converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. In this tutorial, we focus on research by Vadoud Niri from the State University of New York at Oswego and another study by researcher Kamal Meattle of New Delhi that offer different perspectives on the best plants to use. Niri found that the best overall plant out of his study at reducing pollutants was the Bromeliad plant, as it reduced pollutants by 80% overall, but the Dracaena plant was the best at absorbing acetone, which is commonly used in nail salons. On the other hand, Meattle proposed using all three of the plants in his study (Areca Palm, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), and the Money Plant to produce the best effect of reducing pollutants.
Depending on your situation, you might want one type of plant over another because it absorbs a certain type of chemical better. I’d use a variety of these plants to get the best effect, like Bromeliad and Meattle’s combination, to produce the most oxygen and to have a strong general pollutant absorber in a typical home environment.
Other plants to consider are Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Rubber Plant, Philodendron, Dwarf Date Palm, Ficus Alii, Boston Fern, and Peace Lily.
1.) Determine Your Situation’s Needs.
Consider the indoor environments you frequent. For example, if you work in a nail salon, you would want to take into account that you’re exposed daily to acetone as you serve your customers. For your home, think about the activities that you regularly do at home, such as painting your nails or if your home was not painted with paint made with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You would want plants that absorb acetone and VOCs well. You will likely need a combination of plants as each one has its strengths, whether it’s absorbing certain pollutants or creating fresh air by converting carbon dioxide well.
One important factor to consider is that your indoor environment is most likely very polluted by VOCs. These don’t just come from paint. They are regularly given off by-products in your house like shampoo, drywall, and just about anything that is made with a scent. The reactions that people have to them can be anything from experiencing an itchy throat to cancer, according to Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic.
When humans are cooped up indoors, they are exposed to VOCs, and these can’t just be filtered out with the help of a high-grade filter. VOCs build up and can cause serious adverse health effects.
Some other factors to consider when selecting your plants are whether the plant needs a certain amount of sunlight and whether it is toxic to humans or plants (such as the Peace Lily). With small children or curious pets around, you don’t want a plant that can harm them.
2.) Determine How Many You Will Need.
While not every scientific study has determined the specific maturity, height, and number of different types of plants you will need to achieve optimum pollution reduction, consider that Meattle’s research suggests using four Areca Palms that are shoulder-high plants per person in the building, and six to eight waist-high Mother-in-Law’s Tongue plants per person. He did not give specifications in his TED talk about how many of the height of the Money Plant. A building’s ventilation system may be able to get rid of many of the pollutants inside, but plants can provide some further help. You might need one house plant for every 20 square feet of floor space, however, according to The Atlantic article.
3.) Buy the Plants that You Need.
Your local nursery probably has most, if not all, of the plants that you’re looking for. So it should be relatively simple to find the plants you want. However, if you can’t find a specific variety, don’t forget to look online if your local nursery can’t order it for you. Many nurseries offer delivery right to your door, especially for more-difficult-to-find varieties of plants. Depending on where you live in the world, this might be the best step. If you aren’t too into shopping for plants, this could also be a very convenient option.
4.) Spread the Plants Around Your Building.
You want your plants to get the right amount of sunlight, so you may not be able to spread them as you would like. If you’re using hydroponics, as Meattle recommends, you may have other needs as far as space goes. However, it is a good idea to spread the plants around the building to help them absorb as many pollutants as possible and to generate clean oxygen for you to breathe.
You may have to make some compromises about where to place the plants, such as if your plants require a lot of sunlight, and you only have one or two good spots in the building with sufficient sunlight coming in through the windows. Consider rearranging furniture or adding plant stands and shelves to help you organize them. You’ll be able to pack more plants into a smaller space if they are organized well.
5.) Care for the Plants Properly.
Learning the best ways to care for your plants is critical. Each type of plant that you get will have very specific care requirements to ensure their longevity. Some plants will grow best in certain types of soil, and you might want to experiment with hydroponics, as Meattle suggests. For instance, for the Areca Palm, he recommends growing them in sterile vermi manure or with hydroponics. Depending on your resources, you can invest in different ways to care for and grow your plants that will benefit your health and that of the plant the most.
6.) Clean the Plants.
Of course, you’re going to have to care for the plants regularly, but this means more than simply watering them and giving them enough sunlight or the right kind of fertilizer. You may not have thought about the fact that these plants are working overtime for you, and they will need a break. These plants are filtering out toxins from your environment, and that is taxing. When they go outside, they can better release the buildup of toxins they have collected from the indoor environment.
For example. Meattle suggests that you clean the leaves of the Areca Palm daily if you’re in a very polluted city like New Delhi, or at least do it once per week. Additionally, he recommends taking the Areca Palms outside for a time every three to four months so that they can regenerate themselves in the fresh air outside.
After reading this tutorial, are you excited about cleaning up the air at home and work with these hardworking plants? We often don’t recognize the power of plants to help us live and breathe in a much cleaner environment. They can help our bodies avoid having to process out all of the toxins that we are exposed to and can thus keep us healthier in the long run. That’s why I think this tutorial can help you to live a cleaner, healthier life. These plants are important to ensuring our health and to creating more oxygen for the entire world to benefit from.
You may feel like you’re surrounded by plants in your home or office, but they can help boost your health by filtering out VOCs and other harmful toxins. Make sure your building’s ventilation system is working properly for the most benefit. Simply bringing greenery into your indoor environment that you provide care for can also help you feel better about daily life and positively affect your mood and health, notes Meyer in The Atlantic.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and share the tutorial with anyone who you think could benefit from it! Here’s to a greener indoor space for you!
American Chemical Society – “Reducing Indoor Air Pollution with Houseplants – Headline Science” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdOibycDIA4
TED-“ How to Grow Fresh Air” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmn7tjSNyAA