“Rohan! Stop watching this crap on T.V. It’s time to go for some play outside.” How many of us can dare to make such a statement today? Playing in fresh air was probably the best thing that could happen to kids, some time ago. And today’s announcement directs schools to withdraw all outdoor activities for children as the National Capital Region woke up to a thick haze blanket of hazardous air. Isn’t it sad?
Human activity and existence has brought us to such a miserable condition. I was pain stricken to see little children and adults walk down the streets wearing air masks, last evening. The scene threw me almost 25 years back, to a project I did as a student of advertising to show off my farsighted creative instincts. Something that was creative imagination then is dark reality of today.
So where do we go from here? Either we run away to remote natural surroundings and live in the woods or own it and do our best to rejuvenate the air around and make it breathable again.
What’s the issue with our ‘Air’?
Human body can live without food for three weeks and live without water for three days but not even three minutes without air. The air that is so basic for our survival is polluted in more than one ways and call for attention.
- The rising level of toxic gases and chemicals
- Reduced Level of Oxygen
- High Carbon and dust particles
- Rising size of Particulate Matter or PM
All the issues have taken alarming stands and need corrective actions. Further stagnant indoor environments allow pollutants to build up and stick around in greater amounts than we humans should breathe. Lack of ventilation in air conditioned indoors further reduces the level of oxygen.
Believe it or not, plants can contribute a great deal to reduce our carbon foot print, increase oxygen level in air, minimize toxic gases and chemicals as well as trap particulate matter. All plants naturally release Oxygen and absorb Carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and in that capacity they are our natural support system to provide us balanced fresh air. Also there are some intelligent choices which go an extra mile to handle the current levels of pollution in the air. So next time you go plant shopping to the nearby nursery, remember to pick up some of them that appeal you with their looks, suit your space, light conditions and ease of maintenance.
Trees Top the List
Due to their size and height, canopy, high emission of moisture and maximum surface area as trunk, leaves or stems, trees top the list in purifying the environment. A research team from Delhi University has zeroed down five trees that are most effective to fight pollution-Peepal, Saptaparni, Jamun, Devdar and Plumeria.
- A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. per year
- On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year, sufficient for two persons.
- Remove gaseous pollutants by absorbing them through the pores in the leaf surface. Particulates are trapped and filtered by leaves, stems and twigs, and washed to the ground by rainfall.
- Some trees like Neem and Peepal release oxygen even at night and become real oxygen boosters
So let’s try and accommodate at least two trees in your homes and you shall enough oxygen for a family of four. A generous green cover around city roads and highways can balance the huge amounts of pollutants generated by urban living.
House Plants can make you Breathe Easy
For those of us who lives in small spaces or apartments and cannot accommodate trees, a NASA study suggests several common house plants that can neutralize common toxins as well act as our natural oxygen cylinders. Luckily when I turn and look around the house, I find most of them in plenty. Hmm! I take a deep breath! So let’s make some space for them as vertical arrangements, pots around the patios, balcony trails, hanging baskets or creepers up the boundary walls. They shall promise to make your living spaces come alive as well as give you a puff of fresh air.
Ferns are champions and remove more formaldehyde than any other plant and are highly efficient at removing other indoor air pollutants, such as benzene and xylene that can migrate indoors if you live in heavy traffic areas. They love shady verandas and like to be watered regularly. Thrive during wet months and need regular watering during dry summers.
Palm trees seem particularly good at removing indoor air pollutants, specifically formaldehyde, and they’re relatively easy to care for. Dwarf Date Palm, Bamboo Palm or Areca Palm all are superstars of filtering toxins. Dwarf Date Palm thrive in full sun so select a sunny spot in and give an arabian touch to your front yard. They filter good amounts of air as they can grow to be pretty big, as tall as four to 10 feet high, making them exciting indoor additions. Other palms generally love indirect light and give a dense foliage indoors as well as outdoors.
Mums are a gardener’s favourite and the first among winter blooms. They have a perfect timing with Diwali when quality of air is expected to worsen. Chrysanthemums are perfect air-purifiers for removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene and bring a touch of colour to home gardens and balconies.
Peace lilyThis is probably the easiest lily and plants are relatively small compared to many other plants on this list, but they still pack some major air-cleaning abilities with their flat and broad leaf surface. They remove toxins from the air and are proven to remove formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. They do their job as air purifiers even in a shady spot. You shall adore its flowers that stand like a hood of a snake and its solitary look radiates peace true to its name.
Sansevieria or Snake plantSansevieria or Snake Plant is also called ‘The Bedroom Plant’ as it produces oxygen even at night when most of the plants release Carbon dioxide and is this sense a great booster of Oxygen. It also removes benzene from the air. This easy growing is the best choice for non gardeners to balance their air at home. Grows well and performs photosynthesis both in bright and dim light and even if neglected. Six to eight waist high plants give sufficient Oxygen to one person. So it’s a good idea to plant this in the most unused side of your garden or patio so as to accommodate plenty of them. They are an excellent choice for non maintained roadsides or wastelands as they hardly ask for much care or water and ideal for bedrooms too to provide Oxygen at night too.
One plant, known for more than one reasons of health is a great oxygen bomb too as it releases oxygen during the night. It absorbs Carbon dioxide and Carbon monoxide. You can match one aloe plant doing the job of 9 air purifiers. Grows wild in all conditions and spreads quickly and needs very little water or nourishment. It’s another perfect preference for non gardeners who can hardly give time and care to house plants.
Tulsi or Holy Basil
The sacred Indian super herb, tulsi or the holy basil as it’s called in the west harmonizes the mind, body and soul. It has been legendary part of our lives for over 5000 years now and is virtually found in the center of every Indian courtyard or verandah. Apart from its miraculous medicinal powers, this holy plant is an excellent air purifier and releases a special kind of essential oil which frees the air from bacteria and substances that cause diseases. It also releases ozone that produces three atoms of oxygen per molecule. In 2009, it was decided to plant a million Tulsi saplings near the Taj Mahal in an effort to protect it from this environmental pollution. Its property to release high amounts of oxygen can minimizes the adverse impact of industrial emissions. Further it has the capacity to absorb harmful gases like Sulphur dioxide.
Spider Plant is one of the easily propagated plants and a very giving source of oxygen as it can perform photosynthesis in bright as well as dim light. It absorbs toxins like carbon mono oxide, gasoline, styrene and formaldehyde. So grow it in baskets beds or pots and place them in any kind of light conditions, they will simply multiply on their own and be at your service to clean up the toxins from the air.
This common indoor vine in anything from whisky bottles to ceramic containers occupies the kitchen windows or heads up on the fridge in many homes for its obvious belief in feng shui. The easy growing money plant is an absolute friendly soul that is happy even in just a water arrangement and grows all over if in a pot or basket. Cannot say if it will brings you greater wealth and prosperity but Money plant surely is a powerful air purifying plant that will clean the air in your house very effectively. It has a particular affinity for formaldehydes and other volatile organic compounds most commonly in the form of off-gassing from synthetic paint or carpets.