Create Your Own Environmentally Friendly Work Space

April 22, 2004
Simply adopting a plant this Earth Day is a serious way to positively impact your environment, your employees and your loved ones, says an organization called Plants at Work.

According to EPA, the most predominant indoor toxin is formaldehyde. According to Plants at Work, several fairly common office plants remove toxins from the air. The dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) removes 1,385 micrograms of formaldehyde from the air per hour; the bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifriziil) removes 1,350 micrograms of formaldehyde from the air per hour; Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis) removes 1,328 micrograms of formaldehyde from the air per hour; and the peace lily (Spathiphyllum "Clevelandii") removes 937 micrograms of formaldehyde from the air per hour.

Dr. Bill Wolverton, former NASA scientist and president of Wolverton Environmental Services, suggest that everyone have a plant on his or her desk, within what he calls a "personal breathing zone" of six to eight cubic feet where you spend most of your working day. Jon Naar, author of "Design for A Livable Planet: How You Can Help Clean Up the Environment" (Harper & Row), suggests that 15 to 20 plants are enough to clean the air in a 1,500 square foot area.

Researchers at the Agricultural University in Oslo, Norway carried out several conclusive studies regarding health claims relating to sick building syndrome among office workers. This crossover study was conducted among 51 offices over 2 years. Study participants were exposed to 13 commonly used foliage plants. Before the plants were placed in the offices, employees exhibited 12 symptoms related to sick building syndrome. Reports of symptoms dropped by 23 percent during the period when the participants had plants in their offices. This translated into a 14 percent decrease in absenteeism.

Dr. Roger Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, found that problem-solving skills, idea generation and creative performance improve substantially in workplace environments that include flowers and plants. In his studies, both men and women demonstrated more innovative thinking in the presence of plants than they did in an environment with art sculpture or no decorative objects. Research by Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University (Pullman, Wash.) also found that productivity could be enhanced by as much as 12 percent in the presence of plants. Study participants also reported feeling more attentive when plants were present.

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About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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