Plants are beautiful, it’s true, but there’s some serious science behind our love of green living things. We thought National Science Week was a good opportunity to talk about why plants are so good for you, especially when you consider that urban dwellers spend an estimated 90% of their time in indoor environments.
Plants improve air quality
It’s about these things called VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds – which are organic chemicals widely used in household products, including paints, furniture finishes and many cleaning products. Being volatile means they can easily become vapours or gasses, which contaminate our air. The most common VOC that humans come in contact with is benzene, which been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases.
But don’t freak out, plants and trees help us every day. Studies show that indoor plants can remove 75-90% of airborne pollutants, depending on plant type and type of pollutant. There’s also an old NASA study that measured the ability of different plants to clean indoor spaces, here’s a quick summary of the results.
Nature is good for our ability to concentrate
Most of us could do with a little more time spent relaxing in parks, forests and green spaces as we dart about our busy lives, especially on holiday. After all, it’s estimated Australians spend as much as 46 hours per week staring at screens. But a study found that people vacationing in the wilderness returned with a heightened ability to concentrate compared with people who did not take time off, or visited a city instead. There are also studies that show time spent in nature can have benefits to cardiovascular and metabolic function in middle-aged men, as well as enhance natural anti-cancer proteins.
The science behind the Plant Life Balance app
Scientists have studied the benefits of plants for decades. So we worked with scientists at RMIT University and the University of Melbourne to take this world of research and make it easy to understand. They analysed scientific articles and research studies and boiled the story down to two big benefits: air quality and wellbeing.
RMIT also investigated direct mental health benefits of plants, such as improved mood and concentration, and indirect benefits, such as productivity and positive social behaviour, that indoor plants might have. They found that there is little wellbeing benefit in just one plant, but once you start to create a “look” in your space, wellbeing begins to increase significantly. What’s more, complexity matters. The greater the mix of sizes and varietals, the greater the benefits. In outdoor spaces such as yards and courtyards, plants have limited ability to improve air quality. However, a good array of plants will still improve wellbeing significantly.
Based on all this, we created an app to help people style their indoor and outdoor spaces using one of our pre-styled plant “looks” as a starting point. Each of these looks is based around a particular theme e.g. the Best Buds look consists of pet-friendly plants, and the Sharehouse Heroes look features low-maintenance plants, that users can select plants from based on the space in question or their personal preference. Once the styling is completed, users have the option to email themselves a customised plant list to take to their local Plant Life Balance accedited nursery.
Not only does the app inspire people make their homes beautiful, but it provides a scientific rating of the health and wellbeing benefits plants can deliver based on room size and plant choice. For more information on the scientific rating system behind the app, head here.