From the youth-purveyor of culture-and a tita’s love for the trending, this is Tita Trending taking you to the heights of your enlightened tita-ness and the lows of prices in virtually everything.
Over the course of a few months since late last year, we’ve seen a steady growth of population: plantitas and plantitos. I myself am a proud citizen of that population as a humble parent to over 15 plants (some unfortunately deceased), and an active participant in the community of fauna growers.
Earlier this year, around January, is when my newfound love for plants sprung me into action, buying my first set of indoor plants and seeking out advice from veteran keepers of nature among Facebook groups, then, populated by around 7k members on average.
One such group whose members I actively interacted with was the Indoor Plants Philippines Facebook group which, at the time I joined, catered to around 11k members. It was then, as it is now– I believe– the largest Indoor Plant-dedicated Facebook group. Since the start of the pandemic though, that number has more than doubled with over 31k members and counting.
This can definitely be attributed to the fact that the lockdown has rendered most of us stuck at home and forced to recognize the nature-or the lack thereof- in our residences.
We’ve realized the importance of being surrounded by earth rather than concrete walls and metal furniture which we used to interact with daily, being out and about, pre-quarantine. All of a sudden, we became hyper-aware of the space we used to only relegate to sleeping and eating, and therefore home redecoration, wherever allowed, has naturally become part of everyone’s lockdown agendas.
Not only that but the concern for overall health as well is a main contributor as to why people have suddenly found this new trend as more than just a trend but an overall necessary lifestyle change. With fears of airborne viruses and diseases lurking our shores, it came as no surprise that one of the first things people look for in plants is their “Air Purifying” qualities. The top search trend in plant care these days? “NASA Air Purifying Plants.”
NASA Air Purifying Plants
Most of the papers that advocate for the usage of plants to clean indoor air is based on the 1989 study by NASA on Air Purifying Plants. The researchers in this project tested the effectiveness of some common indoor plants to remove organic and indoor-occurring carcinogens (or cancer-causing toxins) present in the air.
Its astounding results show that up to 90% of the carcinogens pumped into the plants’ vacuum chambers were removed by the plants. A follow-up on that study in 2004 added that the soil also plays a significant role in the process of purifying the air.
Truly compelling data–and for several years many papers did rely on this suggestion that most indoor plants can cleanse the air of some pollutants. However, most of the scientists just don’t back it.
But… it’s NASA
I know right! I too was shocked to learn this especially since most stuff you’ll read online on the NASA air-purifying plants often also list which specific toxins they remove best and in very scientific terms which always make things seem more official.
In a Time-published article, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Luz Claudio says, “There are no definitive studies to show that having indoor plants can significantly increase the air quality in the home to improve health in a measurable way,”
The said professor said there’s no question that indoor plants can remove toxins in the air “under laboratory conditions.” But if you take a look at the science for plants specifically set inside homes or offices, there’s not much that back it up.
The Time article also got a hold of Stanley Kays, a professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Georgia. Kays co-authored a much recent paper on the air-purifying abilities of plants and he says, “moving from a sealed container to a more open environment changes the dynamics tremendously.”
For starters, the turn over of air from indoor settings to its external outdoor environment could change air conditions drastically and this process happens every hour. This process, according to Kays, plays a much larger role in the quality of air indoors than plants do.
What about those of us whose houses are not really well-ventilated?
That’s another thing, the plants used in the study are grown in ideal environments which means they get the best lighting and air circulation to optimize photosynthesis. That’s not really the case in most indoor living environments, especially in the Philippines.
So sadly there’s also no hard science to support the effectiveness of plants in indoor settings that lack proper ventilation and lighting.
So, how about if we increase the number of plants in our homes?
Once again, there’s no direct evidence to support any claims here. According to the former NASA research scientist who’d conducted the famous 1989 test, testing to that extent is incredibly expensive.
Hence why as of now it’s impossible to say what specific number of plants could eventually draw out significant results in air purification.
While plants are found to be of not much help for air-purifying per se, this is not to discount its bountiful benefits to one’s health and overall wellness.
Plants are very much proven to reduce stress especially so for those who are not ashamed to actually talk to your plants.
Apart from beautifying your living space in the most natural way, being surrounded by nature is a proven way to boost your mood and energy levels. In a unique way, plants are definitely and scientifically proven to make any-one person a little happier. And in the middle of a pandemic, what more could we really ask for?
Are you scamming us, Tita Trending? Is this actually an ad for machine air purifiers?
I too am guilty as charged, primarily going for Boston Ferns, Areca Palms, and Peace Lilies as they were listed in NASA’s top 10 everywhere you look. Hundreds of pins on air-purifying plants on Pinterest and over a dozen listicles on google have unfortunately pointed us in the wrong direction.
So, first of all, as a smart consumer, I too am wary of such scams and will therefore not stoop down to that level. And unfortunately, this is not a paid advertisement (beke nemen pa-sponsor).
This is nothing but a concerned tita’s guide to fellow plantitas and plantitos for expectation management and better indoor air purifying practices. Like airing out the house once in a while but maybe we’ll get to talk more on that a few articles down the line.
Most importantly, I think we need to put a premium on the true reason why you buy plants. Hopefully not just for its air-purifying qualities, but for the joy and happiness it brings you above all.
This is your Tita Trending asking you to keep up the good work of filling whatever spaces we can with plants ’til hopefully they spill out of just our private residences and make their way into more public spaces, providing better air quality for everyone! And also, stop poaching plants from the gubat, you might get nuno, sige.
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