I love a good whiff. As someone who sniffs everything from the morning air to the morning coffee, the new baby’s head to a friend’s new perfume, the apples in the supermarket to the cleaning product aisle, and everything on the shelves in between, I could safely say I have an acute olfactory system. The slightest scent of wet musty leaves underfoot and I am seven years old again, walking though a rainforest with my Dad on one of our Sunday afternoon adventures. A waft of cherry lip gloss will instantly take me back to a nervous first day at a new school – even now my stomach still knots in angst all over again. And, even though the unmistakable confinement of an underground train station smells the same almost everywhere you go in the world, one sniff and I am instantly transported straight back to Town Hall Station with the rumble of Sydney city above me and my first pay packet tucked carefully in my little white vinyl handbag.

Flavours. Aromas. Essences. Bouquets. Some we can detect and identify while others we hardly even notice: Scented candles, scented toilet paper, hair products, perfume, clothes wash, furniture polish, flooring, fabrics, paints, plastics, resins, photocopiers, dishwashing liquid…every day we breathe in a barrage of chemical compounds swirling around the areas we move in. We love/want/need them, but how much of this chemical soup atmosphere can a body handle? If you are a city dweller like me, and the other 80 percent of my urbanised Aussie counterparts, it is common for us to do most of our living and breathing indoors. ‘Safely away from that nasty polluted outdoor air,’ I always thought. I even felt sorry for the lunchtime joggers puffing their way along traffic-lined streets…that is, until I read a CSIRO review to discover our indoor environment is five to seven times more polluted than the exterior! What? 

Vehicle-polluted, outdoor air enters buildings and homes and is then further polluted, mostly by volatile organic compounds (aka VOCs) from furnishings, fittings and occupants (well, excuse me!). The CSIRO study identified trace amounts of more than 300 VOCs in indoor air. That’s certainly something to chew on. My pending anxiety attack is interrupted by the realisation that we already have a viable solution close at hand: You remember plants don’t you? Humankind entered the world surrounded by plants. We undeniably need them to survive.  Although our environment and lifestyle has changed dramatically in recent years, genetically, we haven’t.

Heading to Google for more research, I discover there is more than a wealth of scientific study into the effect live plants have on the interior environment – including an extensive NASA programme based on the findings. Our everyday internal environment is virtually hermetically sealed. The construction materials used, combined with synthetic furnishings, computers, electrical equipment, cleaning solutions and everyday household products all produce substances that are trapped inside our buildings. Indoor air contaminated by these VOCs is being recognised as a major cause of headaches, nausea, sore eyes, loss of concentration and a myriad of other symptoms. But the simple addition of interior plants to our every day space is a natural way to help significantly remove these pollutants. Yes, REMOVE them!

Remember in school, we learnt how plants release moisture into the air, absorb heat and noise, and absorb and break down harmful substances? Well, let those primary school Plant-A-Tree lessons come flooding back. We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, where the air is generally more polluted than outdoors. However, an indoor potted plant microcosm absorbs and degrades all types of air pollution…and is self-regulating. Studies also show that plants in the home and workplace greatly enhance creativity, happiness, performance, memory retention and productivity. By 47 percent.

“Let the earth sprout vegetation…and plants”…and it was so…God saw that it was good (pleasing, useful) and He affirmed and sustained it  – Genesis 1

Are you looking for some inspiration? Enhanced creativity? A constant reminder of how good God is? Today could be Put-A-Plant-On-Your-Desk-Day for you. Enjoy a breath of fresh air.