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03/12 Sunday 08:51AM

mother-in-law's tongue for fresh air

text . Pauline Chan .

Before you get your mother-in-law to chatter away, let us make it clear that it is the household plant that we are referring to here.  An Indian environmentalist based in New Delhi has introduced a way to clean and improve your air. Kamal Meattle shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific areas in a home or office building, can result in measurably clean indoor air. 

Kamal Meattle used three indoor plant species - the Areca Palm, Mother-in-law's Tongue and the Money Plant - to increase oxygen, filter air and create a healthier environment on a large-scale at the Parhapur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Business Park in New Delhi. The building is 20 years old with an area of 50,000 square feet and it houses 1,200 plants to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, remove organic compounds and freshen the atmosphere for 300 building occupants.

According to Meattle, the Areca Palm works well in the daytime and you need about 4 shoulder-high plants per person.  The leaves should be wiped whenever they are covered with dust, (if in highly-polluted New Delhi, they had to be wiped daily).  The soil used should be of vermi manure or use hydroponics. Mother-in-law's Tongue coverts CO2 into O2 at night so they are most suitable in the bedroom.  You need about 6-8 waist-high plants per person and the leaves should be wiped the same way as the Areca Palm. They should also be planted the same way as the Palms. The Money Plant is excellent for removing Formaldehyde and other VOCs (volatile organic compound) and they are best grown using hydroponics.

The Indian Government has published a study acknowledging his building as the healthiest building in New Delhi.  The study has found that there was a 42% probability of increase of blood oxygen by 1% if one was inside the building for 10 hours. The study also showed, compared to other buildings in the city,  a reduction in incidents relating to eye irritation (52%), respiratory symptoms (34%), headaches (24%), lung impairment (12%) and asthma (9%). The study was published  on 8th September, 2008. Meattle's experience with the use of these plants have pointed to an increase in human productivity by over 20% and a reduction in building energy requirements by 15%. The study was published on 8th September, 2008 by the Government of India.

Kamal Meattle has long been an environmental activist in India.  In the 1980's, he helped the country's apple industry develop a less-wasteful packaging and thus helped to save acres of trees.  He also began a campaign to help India's milliions of scooter-drivers use less oil.  He plans to develop a larger version of his Parhapur building to make green office systems available to more businesses in New Delhi and to serve as an example of low-cost, low-energy office life. Today buildings consume over 40% of all energy consumed globally, much of which is wasted. By 2025, it is projected that buildings will be the largest energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases on our planet.

Watch Meattle talk about growing fresh air on TED.

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