By Amy Cooper 12 June 2018

Want to green the inside of your workplace? Start slow. You only need one plant to make a positive difference.

Sharing your room with just one plant can improve air quality by 25 per cent. That’s the simple truth at the heart of a new campaign – with its own app – spreading the message that green really is best for healthy indoor spaces.

Plant Life Balance, created by Australian brand and sustainability agency Republic of Everyone, backs its pro-plant mission with hefty science.

In a world-first review of global studies on the wellbeing benefits of indoor plants, researchers at Melbourne’s RMIT quantified the positive effects of greener spaces. They found that the wealth of good news about greenery could be boiled down to two key findings: plants improve air quality, and they boost mental wellbeing.

Republic of Everyone used these findings to fuel a ground-breaking augmented reality app which allows users to design greener interiors and calculate their health-boosting credentials. The Plant Life Balance app has huge appeal for businesses keen to harness the benefits of greenery in their workplace.

The physical effect of plants is nothing short of dramatic. Their pollution-absorbing capabilities remove airborne toxins – mainly the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by carpets, chairs, curtains, equipment, paints and other everyday office items.

Each addition works wonders

Happily, it doesn’t take a forest to help you breathe better. A single plant in a 20 square metre space improves air quality by 25 per cent, with five plants providing 75 per cent cleaner air. Share that space with 10 leafy friends, and your air hits optimum quality.

When it comes to the health of the mind, plants have an even better story to tell. While companies worldwide are applying themselves to nurturing workforce mental health with solutions ranging from yoga to meditation spaces to sleep pods, the RMIT research shows that simply adding plants is one of the easiest ways to boost the collective mood.

With five plants in the room, there’s a 60 per cent improvement, and with 10 in the same space, the mental wellbeing of human occupants skyrockets to 100 per cent.

The plants seem to tap into a primal human craving for greenery and all the abundance it suggests, says Ben Peacock, Republic of Everyone’s director and founder. “It’s the sense that we are all animals,” he says.

“Surrounded by green, we feel as if we are more capable and positive, and able to take on the day and everything it might throw at us.”

In a nutshell, humans are happier in a jungle – or at least a place that takes its aesthetic cues from one.

Research has already shown that happier teams are more productive. The findings on plants seem to support this. One UK study found that college students’ attentiveness rose by 70 per cent when they were taught in a room containing plants, and a US study found that workers in a room with plants and flowers generated 13 per cent more ideas than when the green was swapped for sculptures.

“Plants seem to tap into a primal human craving for greenery and all the abundance it suggests.” Ben Peacock, director and founder, Republic of Everyone

Tech giants lead a global trend

Plant Life Balance highlights the imperative driving the global movement towards greener workspaces. It’s the reason why giants such as Google and Facebook occupy verdant headquarters with nature central to the design. Amazon’s recently unveiled Seattle mothership, The Spheres, is a spectacular three-domed botanist’s paradise planted with epiphytes, rare begonias and a rhododendron normally only found at the top of a single mountain in the Philippines.

In Australia, innovative residential developments boast green walls and spaces as the most visible aspects of the sustainable ecosystem within.

All this comes as no surprise to Ben Peacock, who has been leading the urban greening movement in Australia for more than a decade.

Before Plant Life Balance, Republic of Everyone created 202020 Vision, a nationwide plan to create 20 per cent more and better urban green space by 2020.

Since its inception in 2013, the plan has brought about significant positive change at government levels. It has also created, Peacock believes, the world’s biggest network of green experts, creators and advocates.

Over 75 per cent of Australia’s urban councils are now involved in urban greening in some way – either planning, prepping or planting, he says. “It was about 10 per cent when we started.”

Plant Life Balance, says Peacock, is an offshoot of that broader movement.

“202020 vision is about bigger, macro health and wellbeing issues, but Plant Life Balance is a very targeted, user-friendly mix of fashion, science and tech, which is perfect for the office space.”

Jungle fervour why the tech giants are doing it
The 'bird’s nest' sits above a seating area and next to Rubi, the largest tree in the Spheres on Amazon’s campus in downtown Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Design your own jungle

The Plant Life Balance app allows you to design your interior space in one of seven professionally styled looks by dragging and dropping plants onto a photograph of your room. The app then rates the health benefits of your greened-up space.

“The technology makes it practical and easy and brings it all together,” says Peacock.

And in the age of Instagram, where first impressions are so crucial, a greener workspace is a good message.

“As well as all the proven wellbeing benefits, plants in an office are the first tell of what sort of place this is. To a prospective employee, they show that this is an environment of growth, and here’s an employer who cares enough to invest in something that is not directly affecting the bottom line but it’s making your day better. It’s the starting point of a positive story.”

Amazon, Facebook, Google and the green jungle aesthetic

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