Indoor plants make any office space feel more inviting, but did you know that they also improve the physical and mental health of the people working around them? Many indoor plants are very effective at removing indoor air pollutants. Modern building materials, paints, appliances and office furniture emit indoor pollutants called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Repeat exposure to VOCs can make you sick, with symptoms such as dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and irritation of the skin, nose and throat. Long-term exposure to some VOCs can lead to cancer. No wonder your boss has a wooden desk!
Top picks: Here are just seven of many indoor plants proven to improve air quality:
- Kentia Palms – very good at removing n-hexane
- Dracaenas – excellent benzene and xylene removers
- Boston (and other) Ferns – top-ranked formaldehyde removers
- Rhapis Palms – great at ammonia removal
- Zanzibar Gems – very good benzene and toluene removers
- Wax Plants (Hoya) – superior removal of octane and trichloroethylene
- Peace Lillies – efficiently remove a wide range of VOCs
Plant selection: The key to plant selection is diversity, since different indoor plants are better at removing certain VOCs than others.
How many? An experimental study in Sydney showed that 6 plants (a mix of desk and floor plants) was enough to remove 50-75% of VOCs in offices 10-12 m2 in area.
The good dirt: Potting mix harbours beneficial bacteria and fungi. Research suggests that microorganisms in potting mix do much of the ‘heavy lifting’ in VOC removal… in fact, the plant’s main role may simply be keeping the hard-working microorganisms happy. If you want clean air, leave your potting mix exposed.
A clear mind: Beyond physical health, contact with plants is known to reduce stress. Humans are hard-wired to react to leafy surrounds in a way that has a profound restorative effect. Research in the UK and Holland showed that green offices improve worker satisfaction, productivity and concentration. Greenery in your office helps you breathe better, cope better, focus better and be better. Can’t do better than that!