How green is your houseplant group?

written by Jackie Palumbo, CNN

From moody leafy fig plants to sleepy snake plants, houseplants have become ubiquitous in the homes of many millennials and Generation Z—especially as tending them became a soothing, serotonin-boosting hobby early in the pandemic.

New plant parents (including this writer) caused Google searches for popular plants like pothos and prayer plants to spike in early 2020, while seasoned caregivers offered beginner tips on social media platforms like TikTok — the hashtag #plantsoftiktok, for example. The example, has collected more than 6 billion views so far. Creating Instagrammable oases at home is fast and easy, with home delivery sites like The Sill and Bloomscape offering alternatives to local shops.

But how green is your green space? It seems logical that more plants should be good for the environment – they eventually produce the oxygen we breathe. But Recent research has shown Houseplants don’t do as much in terms of improving air quality as initially thought. And it has a negative impact on the planet, in contrast to its eco-friendly appearance.
Houseplants provide medicinal and health benefits, but making them has an environmental impact.

Houseplants provide medicinal and health benefits, but making them has an environmental impact. attributed to him: Mersa Images / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Although it is difficult to quantify the environmental impact of indoor plants—outdoor gardening, cut flowers, and potted flowers are often grouped with houseplants in studies of gardening—behind your local plant store or e-tailer store is a multibillion-dollar industry that requires an enormous amount of Resources to grow and move green spaces to reach your home. In the United States alone, there are more than 2,300 indoor plant growers and sales were worth $691 million in 2019, according to Census Report by the US Department of Agriculture.

“Growing indoor foliage plants is a very intensive process,” said Dr. Lauren R. Aoki, a specialist in ecological horticulture at the University of California, Davis and co-director of the UC Davis Nurseries and Florist Alliance. “There’s a high vegetation density, and quick transitions (between the farming and shipping plants). It’s a really complex system… that requires a lot of resources like energy, labour, water, (and) fertilizer, plus pot mix.”

hidden costs

Maintaining an indoor garden has healing and wellness benefits – indoor and outdoor gardening can relieve stress, increase attention and help bring in some much-needed green space in urban environments. But horticulturist Missy Bidwell, who manages the greenhouse at Cornell Botanic Gardens in New York, also said it’s important to consider all the resources needed to grow and maintain houseplants, and try to strike a balance. “When you stop and think about all the inputs, you have to (think) about the outputs – does it have a greater advantage? Does it have a greater impact on your life?”

In recent years, the horticultural industry has made great strides in areas such as energy-efficient greenhouses and improvements in water applications, but the collective and urgent environmental impacts remain.

The billions of dollars behind your local factory store requires massive amounts of resources and produces waste and pollution.

The billions of dollars behind your local factory store requires massive amounts of resources and produces waste and pollution. attributed to him: Images by Mansoura Motamidi / Moment RF / Getty Images

Water use increases drought-prone areas, while nitrates from fertilizers have polluted the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, as well as California’s drinking water, according to 2012 Report from the University of California at Davis. These fertilizers also emit nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere nearly 300 times more than carbon dioxide.

Aoki notes that insecticides are essential in the industry, because “indoor plants and other nursery products are aesthetic products.” “They have to be perfect. If a plant has a brown leaf, people won’t buy it. So there is consumer pressure that growers have to meet as well.”

Then there is the potting mix you grow your plants in. This is often made up of peat moss thanks to its ability to hold moisture and nutrients. But after harvest, the peatlands of the world are rapidly depleted by fires and development, which makes their use in horticulture especially risky. Peat protects the environment through its tremendous ability to absorb and store carbon – damaged peat bogs do the opposite, emitting at least 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to in nature.

Waste is also a problem – as with many industries, the horticulture sector has a serious single-use plastic problem. “Plastic is in everything we do, from pots to dirt bags (to) plastic tags and plastic sleeves,” Bidwell said.

“This piece of nature is coated with one of nature’s most toxic substances,” Andreas Zancay, a botanical store owner, said of the plastic pots the plants are grown in. He and his partner use compostable utensils as an alternative. attributed to him: Roosevelt Nguyen

Take the petroleum-based plastic pots your houseplants reach. as According to the USDA, major growers and nurseries use tens of millions of plastic pots in a single season. It cannot be recycled in many places, and 98% of it ends up in landfills. In 2009, the US Department of Agriculture calculated that the container crop industry produced 4 billion units, the equivalent of 1.66 billion pounds of plastic.

“This nature piece is coated with one of nature’s most toxic substances,” said Andreas Zancay, owner of a botanical store in Brooklyn. “It really doesn’t have to be this way.”

An alternative is biodegradable pots, which Szankay and his wife Stephanie aim to publish in their shop Pollyn. They replant all their plants in bio-pots made of materials including coconut fibres, cow dung and pulp.

Andreas explained that biopots keep plants healthy because they “allow more air and water exchange,” and can help fertilize the plant’s roots, depending on the material. Easily found through Amazon or Home Depot, Szankay hopes that nurseries that supply the plants will start using them, arriving at stores that have already been potted.

conscious changes

In the scheme of things, your houseplant group will likely have a much lower environmental toll than what’s in your closet or refrigerator. And just as with the food and fashion industries, it can seem as if an individual who adopts sustainable practices is barely walking away from a much larger problem that requires the biggest players to lead the way. But there are decisions you can make if you want a more sustainable indoor garden.

The first thing you can do is consider your “plant miles” when adding new additions to your collection, according to Budwell.

Spreading plant cuttings in water or soil to grow new plants is the most environmentally friendly way to grow a group.

Spreading plant cuttings in water or soil to grow new plants is the most environmentally friendly way to grow a group. attributed to him: Watchwhite IMlerkchi/Moment RF/Getty Images

Buying local helps, she said, “so you don’t use fuel emissions and things like that to buy your stations.” But you can also use clippings to create new plants – A process called diffusion – With a little help from the Internet. Bidwell suggested “Can you make plant swaps and can you share them with the neighbors, especially with some houseplants that are easy to propagate?”

If you make purchases online, research the source of the plants. Companies like Bloomscape in Detroit and Rooted in New York, for example, ship directly from the greenhouse, reducing your plant’s journey by cutting out the store.

To avoid using peat, users on TikTok are recommending alternatives like coconut fiber and leftover carbon ash known as biochar — both been studied as viable alternatives.
But the best thing you can do is be careful of the plants you own. Research whether or not you have the conditions (and incentive) to keep picky plants, and choose a less demanding evaluator if not. According to the post Report By Business Insider, Americans kill nearly half of the houseplants they take indoors, exacerbating recent demand for plant mortality in supply chains and stores. Social media trends have also made rare plants like variegated white monsters or pink philodendron princesses highly desirable, but just because you can find a plant on Etsy doesn’t mean you have to pay to buy it. Focusing on plants that are water efficient and low in light will make caring for your own variety easier, and will reduce the demand from growers to provide high-maintenance varieties.
Not everyone is a perfect plant parent (again, like this writer), but it’s wise to repot any plant you can’t take care of, and there are options if the plant appears to be discolored, withering, and stubbornly determined to die. YouTube and TikTok videos provide an endless number of tutorials on how to save your group from pests or overwatering – in one viral video, TikTok user @the.plant.baddie offers helpful tips on the worrisome root rot, in exchange for a soothing soundtrack of lo-fi tunes. You can also learn when and how to repot plants, or how to propagate healthy infills to create an entirely new plant. (Just be sure to compost everything you can’t save.)

“It’s really important to be a good steward of your plants,” Bidwell said. “Bringing organisms[into the house]is important, and you need to take care of them.”

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