Indoor air pollution is a fact closely monitored by departments of public health across the nation, and is responsible for numerous health issues such as asthma, severe headaches and lung cancer. When manufactured and/or recycled, the many products causing air pollution indoors also cause pollution outdoors, contaminating air, waterways and soil, as well as the myriad of animals and insects that depend on our ecosystem. While you have more control over air quality in your home, you are far from powerless when it comes to cleaning the air you breathe at your workplace. We have compiled 5 very practical ways for you to green your air quality, and even bring awareness to your co-workers about it. Â
1.Â Â Â Plants, More Plants!
Your first line of action should be plants. In a two-year study conducted by Nasa and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, results have shown that houseplants can remove formaldehyde from the air, as well as other solvents and chemicals used in furniture, paints, printing ink and carpets. Once you have determined how many plants you can bring in (the general recommendation is one plant per 100 square feet), you may choose between the bamboo palm, Mother-in-law's tongue, dracaena, peace lily, golden pothos and spider plant.
If youâ€™re worried about forgetting to water your plants, place one of these beautiful glass bulbs after filling them with water: they will water your plants for you for up to 2 weeks!
2.Â Â Â Smelling Good Harmlessly
If there is an unpleasant smell in your office and you canâ€™t open the windows or eliminate the source of the smell, donâ€™t start spraying just any air freshener. Conventional air fresheners contain VOCs and phthalates, chemicals known to cause hormonal abnormalities and birth defects, and which are also harmful to the environment. NRDCâ€™s testing of 14 common air fresheners revealed that 86% contained phthalates. Never buy an air freshener without knowing all the ingredients it contains. If itâ€™s not labeled, donâ€™t buy it, and if that proves difficult, opt for essential oils. Incense can greatly elevate indoor particle levels as well, and should therefore be avoided. One green air freshener we recommend is Ecco-Bellaâ€™s Citrus Ecco Mist.
Likewise with your own perfumes or colognes: the fragrance industry uses among 3,100 chemical ingredients (most often and mostly petrochemicals). Some of these ingredients, phthalates included, can legally remain secret and can contribute to indoor air pollution while causing headaches and more. Click here to see if your perfume is potentially harmful. If it is, opt for plant and flower-based perfumes that do not contain synthetic ingredients, such as Ayala Morielâ€™s parfums, available for men and women.
3.Â Â Â Low VOC Cleaning Products
Some cleaners, especially the ones advertized as pine- or lemon-scented or containing pine or citrus oils, contain terpenes and glycol ethers, which are reactive VOCs and which can produce other pollutants when ozone is present (as when using an air purifier, see section 4 below). If you know your desk and work space are cleaned with conventional products, you should go ahead and do it yourself using a safe, store-bought all-purpose cleaner or a home-made one. Then leave a note for the janitor saying you donâ€™t want your office to be cleaned, and/or tell your HR. Alternatively, take action so that safer, more eco-friendly cleaning products are used in the entire workplace, for everybodyâ€™s health as well as for the sake of our environment.
4.Â Â Â Beware Of Your Air Purifier
Some air purifiers generate ground-level ozone, a highly unstable and toxic gas which is the main component of smog and which reacts with other molecules, particularly those found in cleaning products. Ground-level ozone has detrimental effects on plants and ecosystems, from damaging the leaves of trees to reducing forest growth. Indoors, such ozone-producing air purifiers are considered hazardous, as ozone harms the cells in the lungs and airways, and donâ€™t even effectively clean the air. If you have an ozone-generating air purifier, stop using it immediately. The California Protection Agency has conveniently put together a list of such ozone generators sold as air purifiers, while providing more information about ozone here. When windows cannot be opened to provide proper ventilation, a safe air purifier can be a viable option, but bear in mind that the health benefits of air cleaning devices are still unclear.
5.Â Â Â Minimize The Amount Of Plastic Objects
Although Bamboo laptops now exist, they are not available for purchase, and we have yet to see non-plastic printers and the like. Meanwhile, there surelyÂ are several objects and supplies made out of plastic on your desk that you should be able to get rid of. The worst plastic offenders are the soft bendable ones as well as the PVC-made ones, as they off-gas much more than the hard ones, and are chemically unstable. Under certain humidity and heat conditions, PVC emits VOCs.Â Also, it generates dioxins during the manufacturing process, which contaminate waterways and air.Â While doing without your stress ball and other bendable toys might initially sound challenging, there are many eco-friendlier stress balls and decorating objects available these days. Also, consider investing into more noble, wooden objects that can bring a unique character to your work space, such as this original wooden calculator by Monacca, or this bamboo chair mat instead of the conventional PVC one. If your office owners are about to replace the blinds, convince them to stay away from PVC ones and to opt for wooden ones finished with a water base and/or blinds certified by an eco-friendly program such as Greenguard.
There is a lot you can do to help provide clean air at your workplace. By following those five green tips, you can lower, or maintain, a healthy level. If you want to know more about indoor air quality in office buildings, please visit the EPA. In the meantime, make sure to let us know how our 5 tips have changed your work environment!
JustLiveGreener brings you in depth-information about environmental issues as well as tips for a greener, more eco-friendly way of living that respects nature while enhancing quality of life.