Common Houseplants Let Us Grow Our Own Clean Air


We can all breathe a little easier – especially those of us with allergies – knowing several indoor houseplants might be one answer for a distressed planet.

Researcher Kamal Meattle had a vested interest in investigating the path to cleaner air. His breathing capacity had gone down 70%. So he followed up on research showing three common houseplants used in a home or office building can up our blood oxygen by 1% over 10 hours, cut down on wheezing and sneezing and eye irritation, and greatly reduce our energy requirements by 15%.

In other words, unplug the air filter, turn off the A.C. and head to your neighborhood nursery.

The air-filtering plants in his research are: the Areca Palm (removes CO2 and converts to oxygen); the Mother-in-Law Tongue (coverts CO2 to oxygen at night); and the Money Plant (removes formaldehyde and other chemicals in the air).

In a video of his presentation of the findings on TED, Meattle explains how over the past 15 years he tested these plants by placing 1200 of them in his 20-year-old, 15,000 square-foot office park in New Delhi – which has now emerged a green model for cleaner air and architectural sustainability. According to Meattle, the Indian government praises his Pahpur Business Center as the “healthiest building in New Delhi,” citing the benefits for its 300 occupants.


The results include a reduction in eye irritation by 52%, respiratory problems by 34% and headaches by 24%. In addition, the fresher air improved human productivity by 20% (important in India where so much global business is invested) and a 15% drop in energy requirements because the need for air conditioning is greatly reduced.

Meattle says this is important for the environment because our energy requirements will soar by 30% in the next decade with 40% of our energy taken up by buildings. He says a majority of people will be living in buildings in cities with a one-million-plus population. Many of those people demand air conditioned environments.

His research team is now replicating the plant experiment in a larger building with 60,000 indoor plants. The goal is for the rest of the world to use the plants to grow all of the fresh air we need. It gives new motivation to people like me, who have a strong desire to cultivate green thumbs. My mother, a designer, has always said an interior cannot look good without plenty of plants. Seems that it cannot feel good, either.

Images (left to right): Pemberton’s Flowers, alreza, Flower Advisor

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.