Big surprise: plants make your environment healthier

“Either you are overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many problems and so many people,’ says Kamal Meattle, ‘or you find solutions to help in any way you can.”

Kamal Meattle owns and runs a company with the ‘healthiest building in Delhi’ which is part of a Software Technology Incubator park. Over 17 years ago Meattle became allergic to Delhi’s polluted air and his lung capacity dropped to just 70%, which he states, “was killing me.” As a long time environmental activist with a history of finding simple and elegant solutions to environmental problems, his natural curiosity lead him to find a way of improving the air he was breathing without heading out to the hills and never returning.

His research came from a variety of sources including NASA who were interested in providing breathable air in a lunar habitat. From this research, three plants were chosen that would improve the air day and night.

The common Areca palm converts your office’s CO2 into oxygen in the daytime while Mother-in-law’s Tongue does the same by at night making it ideal for sleeping rooms. The Money plant helped remove volatile chemicals, such benzene from traffic pollution and formaldehydes, given off by the increasing amount of plastics, lacquers and solvents used in our homes.

In Meattle’s office environment, the affects on worker’s health, for very little effort, are remarkable. Incidence of eye irritation reduced by 52 percent, respiratory irritation by 34 percent, headaches by 24 percent and asthma by 9 percent. With the incidence of asthma on the increase in homes near heavy traffic areas, every little helps.

Other research paints a similarly positive picture. Surgery patients whose rooms overlooked vegetation recovered faster than others with an urban view: just being able to see greenery (let’s call it ‘nature’) has a calming effect and reduces stress, speeding recovery.

In one Norwegian hospital absence due to illness fell from 15% to 5% when plants were introduced into the workplace. All in all, plants make for a very good return on investment.

One of each plant dropped the corner of a room is not going to help much. The research recommends four shoulder high palms in the living or working space, six to eight Mother-in-law’s tongues in the sleeping room and several large money plants, or more, if you have any space left that is.

The plants must be loved too, which means wiping leaves free of dust regularly so that they themselves can breath and, importantly, using good potting compost. Contrary to what you might think, it is not the plants’ leaves that do the cleaning, but microorganisms living in the potting mix and exist in symbiosis relationship with the plants’ roots.

Now the really interesting claim made by Meattle is, in his experience, an increase of a 20%+ in human productivity by using these plants in the working environment.

As we all know, the government are facing endless headaches and with all that needs fixing, a boost in productivity would not go amiss.

If only some entrepreneur could go and ply their horticultural trade in the soporific corridors of Singa Durbar, perhaps the country will be able to get (back) on its feet in 20% less time with 24% less head pain? It’s worth a try.

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