How to grow fresh air

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A go-to guide for an indoor air upgrade

All those reading this article from your cubicle, corner office or living room, raise your hand. Now if you notice green in your periphery, in the form of flowers, potted plants (silk replicas don’t count!) or those smallish trees often kept in the lobbies of large buildings, raise your other hand up and give yourself a high five. Betcha quite a few of you cubicle dwellers were left hanging — and you might be feeling sore about it. And as it turns out, you should be. If you’re stuck inside all day — and you most likely are, since Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors — you could be unnecessarily suffering the consequences of poor indoor air quality.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is often found to have higher levels of pollutants than outdoor air, which may seem counterintuitive to many. This discrepancy is due to many factors, including chemical off-gassing of manufactured products, commercial cleaning supplies and poorly designed ventilation systems. And though removing the source of pollutants is the best way to improve air quality, that task is often impractical, if not impossible.

But air quality can be vastly improved by simply adding a few indoor plants to your work or living space. NASA conducted a study in the mid ’80s which found several plants were able to filter out volatile organic compounds, and that basic idea has been studied and proved time and again by various scientific organizations. Most plants purify the air, but some of them are much better at it, or easier to care for, than others. We did our homework and picked four best-loved plants for NEST’s fresh-air guide, below.

Now put your hands down, people are staring.

Areca Palm
Areca Palm

Areca Palm (aka Yellow Palm or Butterfly Palm)

While all palms are great air purifiers, the areca is consistently top-rated for removing all indoor air pollutants tested. Tolerant of indoor environments, the areca helps humidify dry living spaces and is also fast-growing and easily maintained. A quick search yielded areca’s available for under $40 at the local Home Depot. With beautiful, feathery, yellow-green fronds, this larger plant is beloved for both functionality and aesthetics.

Spider Plant
Spider Plant

Spider Plant (aka Airplane Plant)

Remember the above-mentioned NASA study? The spider plant was made famous in 1984 when NASA released research findings that stated the humble plant could filter pollutants from the air, as tested on its space facilities. This plant produces long slender green leaves with a yellow or cream stripe down the center of each, and can flower at any time of year creating “plantlets” after the white buds fall off that look almost airborne.

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Best known for its ability to relieve sunburn, aloe is also an excellent air purifier. A small to large succulent with easy-care instructions, this popular plant is superior for bedside tables. The reason? Aloe differs from most houseplants in that it releases oxygen and takes in carbon monoxide at night.

Golden Pothos

Golden Pothos
Golden Pothos

Quite possibly the most easily recognizable houseplant, it is also the easiest to grow and the best to have if you are likely to neglect it. You can put this houseplant in a dark corner of your home or office and it will still keep its vibrant green heart-shaped leaves without fading or browning. A top-rated air purifier, this plant should be on every office manager’s short-list, and in every person’s living space.

Tell your home or design story in NEST: email Alexandra Klein @ [email protected]

  • Memphis O

    Cool, I’m pretty sure I have a Golden Pothos in addition to a couple other house plants.