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Clearing the Air, Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality

Traffic, smog, pollution, haze… whatever the cause, the effect is lower air quality in cities across the world. While there are different ways to tackle this problem, researcher Kamal Meattle has come up with a novel solution–to grow your own fresh air. At a recent TED conference, Meattle made an enlightening presentation on how you can transform an indoor space into a living one.

Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality

According to Meattle’s research conducted in Delhi over a period of 15 years, it takes three types of plants to vastly improve the quality of indoor air. The study was conducted on a 20-year-old, 50,000 square feet building which houses 300 occupants and 1,200 plants. The three plants that Meattle recommends are the Areca Plant, Mother-in-law’s Tongue and the Money Plant.


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Areca Plant

The Areca Plant (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) is a common indoor plant that makes a perfect daytime air freshener to one’s living room. Four shoulder-high plants per person goes a long way to enriching oxygen levels in the room.

Areca Plant (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) - Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality)

The plants are relatively easy to care for. In a dusty city like Delhi, leaves need to be wiped daily but for cleaner cities, once a month will do just fine. The plants grow well in vermi manure or hydroponics and need a trip to the balcony or garden for sunlight once every 3-4 months.

Mother-in-law’s Tongue

The Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a bedroom plant. Contrary to what the name suggests, the potted version will be a welcome addition to your home.

Mother-in-law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) - Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Snake Plant – Sansevieria trifasciata (Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality)

These plants take over the night shift and are particularly adept at converting carbon dioxide into oxygen at night. For every person sleeping in the room, 6-8 waist-high plants are recommended to keep you breathing easy. Care and soil requirements are the same as the Areca Plant.

Money Plant

The Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum) completes the triad of recommended indoor plants. This plant is deemed to be an excellent way of cleansing closed environments of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that are emitted from various construction materials and household items. It grows best in hydroponics.

Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum) - Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Money Plant – Epipremnum aureum (Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air Quality)

Results of the Meattle Study

Not sure about needing so many green friends around you? Here are some results from the study that may make the idea grow on you. The study found that there is a 42% probability of increasing blood oxygen by 1% by simply being in the building for 10 hours a day. Human productivity in this building was also 20% higher when compared to other buildings in the city.

But this research had its share of ‘downs’ as well—all good thankfully. Like a 52% drop in eye irritation among workers; 34% drop in respiratory symptoms; 24% drop in headaches; 12% drop in lung impairment; 9% drop in asthma. And a whopping 15% drop in energy costs for the building. So your wallet will love it, too.

The results were so impressive that this has been rated the healthiest building in Delhi by the Government of India. This research has planted the seeds for a green revolution in industrial spaces in India, as well, and the idea is now being replicated on a building that will house 60,000 plants across an area of 1.75 million square feet.

At a time when so many cities across the world face problems with air pollution, the opportunity to clean up your own working and living space feels like a breath of fresh air.


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