The hidden environmental toll of houseplants
At the turn of the century, America was going green — not only on the golf course, but in every corner of the home. New inventions like the vacuum cleaner made domestic chores easier, household appliances cleaned the air for the first time and new energy-saving devices and household appliances sprang up like rabbits.
“Every single one of the new household appliances was designed to save energy,” says James Cavanaugh, author of Green Living in Transition. “No one realized that their new vacuum cleaner was also making air pollution worse.”
So what happened?
The answer lies in the way houseplants like houseplants have changed the way people live today.
“Houseplants today have been an essential part of modern life for at least 50 years,” says Jodi A. Anderson, president and co-founder of Garden Therapy, a landscaping company in Minneapolis that now boasts about 1,100 staff members who do everything from designing and managing gardens to performing preventive maintenance.
“They’ve been an important part of our lives and our culture,” says Anderson. And as the demand for them grew, so did the demand for a better relationship between people and the environment. “But you really couldn’t control the plants themselves, and the way we grew them had a huge impact on the way they were treated and on what they were doing to the environment,” Anderson says.
The new generation of houseplants are the ultimate manifestation of modern American lifestyle. They are a welcome addition in a home since they add color to the decor of the rooms they are put in — and they clean, cool and deodorize as effectively as any vacuum cleaner. They require little maintenance and can be used in the kitchen or bathroom in the winter or used in a closet in the summer.
The impact they have on the environment, especially in the residential market, is hard for many people to imagine. “The first thing you have to realize is that the new generation of houseplants are much different from their predecessors,” Anderson says. “We use plants in our homes not