Whether you spend your days in an office cubical or hospital, and whether you live in an expansive manor or cramped apartment growing plants will benefit you. They are not only beautiful, but also clean our air; feed us and make us healthier–and it is easier than you may think to grow them.
Indoor Plants clean the air
Studies, such as this one by NASA scientists, demonstrate the ability of plants to remove a variety of toxins from the air. This is in addition to the ability of plants to use CO2 and release oxygen as a basic function of photosynthesis.
Many human-made products gas off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which organizations, such as the US Environmental Protection agency, warn us to be careful of. VOCs even at imperceptible levels can cause headaches, nose and throat issues, eye problems and loss of concentration. According to research by Dr. Fraser Torpy et al., plants reduce VOCs by absorbing them through their leaves and bringing the VOCs down into their roots. In the rootzone naturally occurring bacteria break down the VOCs into harmless materials.
This appears to be a process that is universal among plants, so any plants grown indoors will help reduce VOC levels. Their studies in offices showed that as few as 3 plants per office could reduce these pollutants by 80%, carbon monoxide by 90% and carbon dioxide by 25%. Other researchers, such as Thomas Pugh, have found that plants also reduce particulate matter by up to 40%. Although his studies were looking at outdoor air quality, these same particulates enter our homes and offices and need to be removed from the air.
Indoor Plants can feed us
So much of our food is transported from other, often distant, places. Why not grow plants that we can eat? It might be difficult to grow an indoor tomato plant in the winter outside of a greenhouse, but herbs, lettuces, and even strawberries can be grown year-round in your household indoor garden. Imagine how much food a city with almost everyone growing even a few edible plants would produce! Although most edible plants currently require too much light to efficiently produce food away from South-facing windows, it is possible to breed plants for lower light conditions. Also, it’s quite possible to grow a small kitchen herb garden in most households.
Indoor Plants make us healthier
By cleaning up air pollution plants reduce our exposure to harmful substances that can make us ill, but did you know that being around plants will actually make us healthier in and of itself?
Controlled studies and healthcare outcome studies, as Dr. Roger S. Ulrich explains here, clearly show that patients heal faster and with less complications if they have even just a view of a garden while recovering from surgery. He argues that hospitals should include gardens in their facilities for better, quicker recovery of patients.
Two other scientists, F.E. Kuo, and W. C. Sullivan, argue that vegetation appears to reduce crime in core neighbourhoods (possibly because the vegetation has a calming affect on potential criminals) and that the areas they studied had a measurably decreased crime rate directly proportional to the amount of plant life in the area.
Many authors argue that exposure to plants reduces stress, and in the current rat-race culture of industrialized society who couldn’t benefit from reduced stress? For example, V. I. Lohr, C.H. Pearson-Mims, and G.K. Goodwin conducted a study of people in a computer lab and found a measurable reduction in stress (they measured systolic blood pressure to determine stress levels) when plants were present.
Planting plants indoors can significantly affect the lives of the people who live and work there. Plants not only an aesthetic addition to our indoor lives, they also remove CO, CO2, VOCs, and particulate matter from the air all of which help people to get sick less often. They also can produce food for us, an often-overlooked benefit of edible houseplants. And finally, studies show that plants help us to heal faster and appear to reduce our stress, calming us down and possibly even producing a calming affect on people to the point that they can reduce crime in urban settings.