Growing green to clean the air

Thursday, 20 June 20194 minute read

Why plants at home and work can help save you from air pollution

By Tiernach McDermott — horticulturist at Candide

Take a deep breath… and again… Now contemplate this: air pollution kills around 50,000 people in the UK every year. Urban levels of nitrogen dioxide are so high that the government has been referred to the European Court of Justice.

When you hear the words ‘air pollution’, you probably think of spluttering car exhausts, huge smokey bonfires, or giant factory chimneys belching out seemingly endless grey clouds of misery and dirt.

It’s actually a problem in your home too.

Paint, candles, cleaning products, air fresheners, and even furniture are all sources of household contaminants. And they can have some pretty devastating impacts, from causing cancer and cardiovascular disease to stunted childhood development.

Outdoors or not — there is no question that air pollution is a huge problem.

What can we do about it?

How do you fight something so small you can’t even see it? Especially on such a vast scale? It’s not an easy problem to solve, but there are things we can all do to help.

You’ve already heard the advice to walk or cycle instead of drive, and switching to renewable energy is a no brainer (check out our single, zero markup tariff here), but how about growing some plants?

Whether it’s a large-scale public park or an orchid on the windowsill, plants are one of the easiest and most effective ways to combat air pollution.

In fact, plants in the UK are estimated to remove 1.4 million tonnes of air pollution (and save the NHS £1 billion) every year.

This isn’t new news. We’ve known about the power of the plant for centuries. Pollution-fighting boston ferns were popular in smog-filled Victorian homes, for example.

Make the air breathable again.

Modern Londoners will sadly be used to regular pollution warnings. These are triggered by high levels of fine particulate matter called PM 2.5, which can cause asthma attacks, bronchitis and even heart attacks.

Many other of Britain’s cities regularly exceed pollution and safe air levels. You can check your area by using this postcode checker.

Could plants again be the answer? One study found that trees and other greenery could reduce PM levels by up to 60% in some cases.

The potential impact on urban health and well-being could be huge.

We all have a part to play.

While there’s a strong case for having lots of plants around, we don’t all have green fingers. You might not have much space or time, and you might have killed every plant you’ve ever owned except that cactus in the window.

Fortunately, there are plants to suit pretty much everyone, both for the home and the office.

No room? Hang some air plants in the window or grow some veg on an outdoor windowsill.

No time? Get a snake plant or cast iron plant. They thrive on neglect and you can ignore them for weeks.

No bright windows? Ivy will love it.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are — we can all grow an extra plant or two. The air you breathe will be cleaner, and everyone around you will benefit too.

And if enough of us get on board, who knows? We might even save some lives.

Candide is a social gardening app where you can ask questions, gain knowledge and find inspiration.

What is Candide?

The name is derived from the novel ‘Candide’ written by Voltaire, in which the protagonist finds peace through caring for his garden.

The app’s users are strong believers in the power of horticulture, and abide by the philosophy that ‘gardening is the root of happiness’.

As an organisation who relies so heavily on an app ourselves, we always love to hear about others like us.

Candide is a fantastic way to encourage plant adoption in your home. There are plenty of blogs on the site which discuss various topics in the world of gardening.

It’s great to have an app which not only helps people along with their beloved hobby, but also does so much good for the environment too.

By Tiernach McDermott — horticulturist at Candide