plants > air purifiers

I am loving this fall weather. Everything feels refreshing and crisp. It's the perfect time of year to bust the windows open, poke your head out and sing some sort of Disney song. Nothing like the smell of fresh air, right? But once we shut the windows for winter, air tends to feel stagnant. It's not just your imagination, your precious air literally does get stale. Regardless of whatever filters, fans or air purifiers you may have in your home, studies show that nothing compares to nature. 

improve indoor air quality with plants : wholehearter
Butterball - enjoying the fresh breeze in her fur!

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
 "Indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks. The best way to address this risk is to control or eliminate the sources of pollutants and to ventilate a home with clean outdoor air. The ventilation method may be limited by weather conditions or undesirable levels of contaminants in outdoor air. While air cleaning devices may help to control the levels of airborne allergens, they do not decrease adverse health effects from other gaseous indoor air pollutants."

Ideally, our homes should be aired out daily all year round. It's not necessarily efficient to air out the house during a snow storm, but opening the windows in a room you spend the most time in, a room that feels "stuffy" or the bedroom window (for 5 minutes before going to sleep) can all make
a huge difference to the quality of air. Indoor air grows musty quickly and over time, toxic chemicals from carpets, furniture, paint and cleaning products build-up.
β€’ The average American spends 90-97% of their time indoors (Wow.)
β€’ Many homes and offices have airborne pollutant levels 25-100 times higher than the air outside
β€’ Over 1500 toxic substances may be found in the typical North American home
This air can lead to sick building syndrome for some people. As much as that sounds like an excuse to ditch work, it is a real problem that can cause very real symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, depression and weakened immune system. (Not to mention that no one will be able to figure out what's wrong with you!) But you're in luck. If you live in an area where opening the windows is not always an option, plants are definitely the next best thing to remove harmful chemicals and gasses from your air. If you don't have any plants or don't know where to start, here are a few simple tips:

Abnormal amount of houseplants. :)
Start small. If we all had the natural light, space and capacity to care for a large plant in every room, that would be great, but it's not realistic for many homes. Take it one step at a time, beginning with a small, low-maintenance plant kept in a noticeable place where you will remember to water it. You can also try using water bulbs to help with your watering regimen, but you'll still have to remember to fill them. :)

Focus on the worst areas in the home. The quality of air in the bedroom is often the worst room in the house. Considering that you lay in there and breathe deeply for about 8 hours every day, it's a logical place to put a great plant if you can.

Hanging Vases - Great for air ferns or succulents

Establish a good space for plants. If you feel like you don't have a good spot in your home for a plant or plants due to pets, kids, furniture or lighting, you might need to get creative. Plant stands are a simple way to store multiple plants without worrying about water marks, but where floor space is limited, hanging plants from the ceiling is a great option that works almost anywhere, even for larger plants! (See below)

For large plants, Styrofoam is your friend. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the houseplant world, recycled Styrofoam is a perfect way to allow your plants to drain, even if they don't have a hole in the bottom. For large potted plants, I fill the pot halfway up with Styrofoam to allow for drainage and make the pot significantly lighter!

Consider adoption. If you're afraid of commitment or not sure that you're ready to invest in established plants, ask around. Over the years, I've accumulated many of my plants from friends, family and coworkers. Whether I inherited an unwanted or neglected plant or propogated from a healthy one, it's a great way to easily establish a variety. 

Armed with this information, you might be ready to take the first steps into refreshing your house air. You've got nothing to lose except pollutants! ;-)

Click here for a follow-up post on some of my personal favorite air-purifying plants!