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Mosaic planters

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The benefit of using indoor plants in your spaces


In the 21st century we are exposed to an excessive amount of information about every aspect of our lives and health. We focus on our diets and the provenance of everything, our clothes and the food we eat, with the more mindful striving to reduce their carbon footprint. Our new, upgraded, smart environments are fraught with modern materials, appliances and technology to clean, to build, to decorate, to colour, to measure, to cook, to heat, to cool, to shield, to package, to move and to travel, amongst a million other actions and activities that now have specialised websites or apps to assist us.

In 2020 we now find ourselves in a unique situation - our lives have been turned upside down!

In the frenetic lifestyle we have grown accustomed to we have overlooked the invisible toxic chemicals surrounding us, many a result of our modern lives. Poorly ventilated indoor environments allow pollutants to build up and stagnate, which can cause Sick Building Syndrome, resulting in headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye, ear and nose irritation, amongst other ailments.

As most people spend the bulk of their time indoors, indoor air quality (IAQ) has become an important environmental focus. Studies show that indoor air pollutants are deemed to be amongst the top environmental risks to public health and that pollutant levels found indoors can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors (regardless of whether the homes are situated in rural or highly industrial areas) – and in some instances even 100 times higher than outdoors. There are many sources of pollutants indoors, the most obvious being cigarette smoke, chemicals, cleaning products, mould, radon, carbon monoxide, asbestos, lead and pesticides. Less obvious are volatile organic compounds (VOCs - gases emitted from certain solids or liquids) including Formaldehyde and Xylene, and chemicals inherent in fabrics, building materials and coated surfaces.

Now add to this the regular sanitisation of every room, surface and person to help ward off COVID-19 - plants are even more vital to one's health.

Social distancing will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. For everyone to function while respecting the recommended distance between each other, designers and business owners will have to rethink space design to create safe areas for their patrons and staff. Although keeping apart has become very important, physical barriers and markings are needed to remind us not to slip back into old habits. Planters and green dividers are ideal, more attractive, functional alternatives to other physical barriers that have become the norm.

Rows of decorative planters, green walls or planting troughs can be used to disperse or direct people, making the workplace or public area safe while reducing anxiety and adding overall health benefits to the space. The planters can be moved as needed to suit different scenarios therefore making spaces adaptable for any purpose. Whether in a work or social environment - adding planters will enhance any space as we work our way through this crisis and may be a long term solution to managing groups of people. 

A few of the chemicals found in our modern environments are:
Ammonia - found in aerosol sprays, window cleaners, floor waxes and fertilisers.
Benzene - used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides. Also in tobacco smoke, vehicle exhausts, glue, paint and furniture wax.
Formaldehyde - found in paper bags, waxed papers, facial tissues paper towels, table napkins, particle board, plywood paneling and synthetic fabrics.
Trichloroethylene - found in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, adhesives and paint stripper.
Xylene & Toluene - found in printing, rubber, leather and paint industries tobacco smoke and vehicle exhausts.

The adverse effects of the chemicals above all depend on your exposure - the duration and amount.
A few side effects of minimal exposure to each chemical are noted below.

Ammonia - exposure can include symptoms such as eye irritation, coughing and sore throat.
Benzene - exposure can include symptoms such as irritation to eyes, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and confusion.
Formaldehyde - exposure can include symptoms such as nasal, mouth and throat irritation and in more severe cases swelling of the larynx and lungs.
Trichloroethylene - exposure can include symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea and drowsiness.
Xylene - exposure can include symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, confusion, heart problems, mouth and throat irritation, liver and kidney damage.

These symptoms will vary depending on the state of health of each person and don't include the side effects of severe or extended exposure.

So - what can we do about this?

With our concerns about renewable energy, the sustainability of resources and daily reminders about what affects our general wellbeing - and the fact that it is virtually impossible to avoid air pollutants when every aspect of our lives contains items that contribute to the chemical content of the air around us - the smart solution to minimising toxins in the air would be to use a natural, rather than costly and energy consuming, solution to keeping our environment toxin free and healthy.

NASA did a study in 1989 about the ability of certain plants to filter indoor air, reducing some of the toxins caused by our lifestyles. Adding certain plants to your home or office will, apart from adding a decorative element, ensure that the air is purer, reduce contaminants including mold, making an immense difference to the wellbeing of the occupants. These powerful air filters
negate or reduce the need for costly air filtration systems in buildings.

A few popular plants that have outstanding potential to filter harmful chemicals in the air include the following:

Removes Ammonia, Formaldehyde, Toluene and Xylene.

Bamboo Palm - Chamaedorea seifrizii
Removes Benzene, Formaldehyde Trichloroethylene
Because these plants can grow to be as tall as 4 to 12 feet high if they are kept in a large planter, they can filter large amounts of air.

Chrysanthemum - Chrysanthemum morifolium
Removes Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde, Benzene, Xylene & Ammonia.

Dendrobium and Phaeleonopsis Orchids
Removes Xylene — a pollutant found in many glues and paints—so are perfect for newly renovated or new buildings.
Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to maintain, but they usually die from over watering or being exposed to excessive sun. Orchids also give off oxygen at night, so they’re great for the bedroom.

English Ivy - Hedera helix
Removes Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde, Benzene & Xylene

Lilyturf - Liriope spicata
Removes Trichloroethylene, Xylene & Ammonia

Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”
Removes Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde, Benzene, Xylene & Ammonia
These plants are easy to grow and very effective air filters even though they are relatively small compared to many other indoor plants.

Varigated Snake Plant - Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii” - and the Red-Edged Dracaena - Dracaena marginal - also sometimes known as mother-in-law's tongue 
Removes Trichloroethylene, Formaldehyde, Benzene & Xylene
This is one of the easiest indoor plants to maintain. See info on snake plant varieties...

Additional benefits to using plants indoors are that they reduce the noise level in confined areas and make people feel better. Hospital patients with plants in their rooms are more positive and tend to have lower blood pressure and stress levels. Similarly, plants in office environments allow people to stay alert and reduce mental fatigue thereby increasing their productivity and ability to focus.

With very little effort we can make our environments healthier while improving the visual appearance of our indoor spaces.

If you have children or pets please note that some of the plants mentioned may be toxic.


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