Plant Parent? How to Make Indoor Plants Eco-Friendly!
Indoor plants are truly blossoming these recent years.
The pandemic and increase in employees having a work-from-home setup made house plants more popular than ever. Nowadays, about a third of American households own at least one indoor plant. And the trend with houseplants is the more, the merrier.
In Canada alone, around 995 million dollars worth of houseplants were sold, even more than what was spent during 2020. The love for indoor greenery is seen worldwide. In the UK for instance, average sales of houseplants are up by as much as 60% compared to pre-pandemic years.
Social media gave indoor plants solid ground. The hashtag #plantsofinstagram, for example, has over 4 million mentions in posts.UK,
And how can we ignore the cultural moniker that millennials use, the term, plant parents. About 7 in 10 millennials call themselves a plant parent now!
Photo by Chris Lee on Unsplash
Do House Plants Help the Environment?
Studies about indoor plants have mainly focused on lab-based or workplace-based studies. In these experiments, indoor plants have been found to improve air quality, as well as the productivity, mood, and cognition of employees.
These findings may sound too much, but they show that indoor plants aren't just for aesthetics. They can remove up to 87% of airborne toxins.
In the landmark study by NASA researchers, it was discovered that indoor plants can extinguish cancer-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and benzene from the air in just 24 hours.
The researchers note that two factors are crucial. First is the surface area of the leaves. The bigger it is, the better for air cleaning.
Researchers recommend placing at least two "good-sized" plants per 100-square feet can generally remove indoor pollutants. The organisms burrowing in the potting soil also play a part in detoxifying air.
But the thing is, these are lab experiments, a much more controlled environment. Optimal lighting and plant-to-room ratio are there. Meanwhile, homes are varied, and not really set up to maximize indoor air quality. This is why researchers say that the air cleaning capabilities of house plants will vary significantly depending on your home.
Are Indoor Plants Eco Friendly?
Indoor plants may be green, but are they green in the sense that they're environmentally friendly?
In some cases, taking care of these plants could bring issues for the environment. Here are some easy ways to ensure your house plants stay eco-friendly:
Choose Native House Plant Varieties
One big issue is importing species from other countries. We know that exotic house plants bring distinct style features in your living room. Because there aren't many native North American plants well-suited for indoors, most plant parents are tempted to shop for imported varieties.
But taking care of plants isn't as as simple as many think. The fact that most plant enthusiasts have, on average, kill 7 houseplants means there's more to it than regular watering.
Going local or native for your indoor plants will make it easier to grow them successfully. Local varieties create a healthier ecosystem that fits your area. They will also thrive better because they are already evolved to the climate conditions in your particular location. Less effort, fertilizer, and energy involved when growing native plants.
Some hassle-free North American flora includes cacti, succulents, and some local ferns.
Swap Indoor Plants With Neighbors
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com
In the same vein as choosing native plants, a more sustainable option is to have some plant swaps with your neighbors and friends. No extra purchases involved, and you're not going to feed the import market and contribute to CO2 emissions. There's also less packaging used when you're not buying anything!
Make plant-swapping a fun event to learn more about propagating different types of plants.
Go Plastic-Free, Or Reuse Plastic Pots
Most indoor plants being sold are potted using those cheap, black plastic pots. Even though it's plastic, This type of pot is perfect for growing and propagating your cuttings once they are at the soil stage. So don't throw them out when you repot grown plants into terracotta pots.
If you find little use for them, you can ask your local garden center if they accept used plastic pots.
Have single-use plastic bottles and containers? These can work well as recycled pots. Cut them in half and poke holes underneath to keep drainage going for your newly potted cuttings.
Think Twice About Using Peat
A healthy soil is crucial to promoting plant health, but one big problem with compost is the use of peat.
Peat moss is an earthy material found in waterlogged areas around lakes and rivers. Because of the bigger market for house plants, more commercial extraction of peat has been going on. This is a problem because peatlands serve as effective carbon offsetting.
If they are retrieved for gardening fertilizers, they'll no longer offset CO2 in these vast wetlands. Canada's peatlands take over 10,000 years to develop, which means they aren't a sustainable material, either.
Experts recommend checking your indoor plant fertilizer about the use of peat, or cultivating plant varieties that don't need it, like cacti or orchids.
Indoor Plants: The Takeaway
Indoor plants create a more inviting space while improving air quality. While they create a more eco-friendly vibe in your home, there are certain practices that could impact the environment more so than others. By focusing on local varieties, curbing purchases and sticking to plant cuttings, recycling plastic, and being picky about your fertilizer, you can enjoy beautiful AND sustainable house plants for years to come.