The move to city-living has given us great benefits, but at some costs to our health and wellbeing. Urban air pollution is a growing health concern, as is indoor air quality. Since we are indoors 90% of the time, we are constantly breathing contaminated air, which is generally more polluted inside than outdoors. The journey for good health has thus, unavoidably added the pursuit for a healthy built environment, and especially a healthy ‘indoor living environment’. However, relatively few know of the role Plants can play inimprovements to people’s lives both outside and inside the home.
Plants, including ‘indoor’ species, have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. Conflicting to what many people assume, urban indoor air is generally more polluted than outdoors, even in the city centre. Sources of pollutants include components of furniture, fabrics, fittings, paints, glues and varnishes, computers, printers, solvents, detergents, shampoos, cosmetics, etc. Basically large and important aspects of our indoor lives are potentially subjecting our health to unknown risks. Although great efforts are being made to finish and fit out new buildings with low-volatile organic compound materials, it is impossible to remove it altogether.
Indoor plants are already coming to be recognised as a vital element in enabling sustainable urban communities. It’s expected that, along with lighting, air-con, plumbing, etc., interior foliage plants will be utilised as a convenient, natural, beautiful, useful, effective and relatively low-cost, standard method to improve and transform our indoor living environments. Our ancestors also recognised an essential role for plants in providing pleasure, perfumes, peace and glimpses of ‘paradise’. We still have the same requirements today. As City-dwellers, we lack the continuing emotional and physical links with nature similar to that from which we have evolved.
We are now taking steps to combat this environmental detachment, from open green pockets of parks and gardens to pot-planted forecourts and building entrances, office staff, residents and visitors in our CBD’s and built environments are being provided with the natural oases of yesteryear. So, not only do plants absorb air pollution, they also offer coolness, shade and time enjoyed in an environment capable of reducing stress and anxiety, such an important quality now in an otherwise pressured filled life for most.
We have vital need for constant connections with plants – for cleaner air, calmer spirit, lighter mood, improved concentration and performance, and productivity. One way of maintaining that people-plant linkage is by the use of interior foliage plants as a standard part of our indoor spaces. This can only result in a win-win situation – so let’s all start greening the great indoors by adding some nature to our homes and offices.