Using Plants to Clean Indoor Air

Kamal Meattle, an Indian clean air activist, discusses how three basic plants, if properly positioned within households, can dramatically improve indoor air quality and lower energy costs. The three plant types he highlights are:  

  • Areca Palm
  • Mother in Law’s Tongue
  • Money Plant

Areca Palm removes C02 and turns it into oxygen. A household would need four shoulder-high plants per person. Mother in Law’s tongue is a “bedroom plant”  because it converts Co2 into oxygen at night. Households would need a few waist-high plants. Money Plants, a common plant, can remove volatile household chemicals. Meattle says “you could be in a bottle with a cap on top and not die if you had these plants, and no fresh air.”

In Meattle’s building in New Delhi, there are 1,200 of these plants for 300 occupants. Studies on the effect of the plants on the building’s air quality showed a 42 percent probability that residents increased their blood oxygen by one percent if they stayed in the building for ten hours. Asthma, headaches, lung impairment rates fell by more than 10 percent. Human productivity rose by 20 percent and energy use fell 15 percent because less air circulation is needed. Delhi’s city government says Meattle’s building is the healthiest in the city.

Some next steps for Meattle — a bigger demonstration project in a 1.5 million square feet building with 16,000 indoor plants. Meattle says given that the world’s energy requirements are expected to grow 30 percent over the next few decades, indoor plants will be increasingly critical to make buildings more energy efficient, and healthier spaces for people.

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