Turning Your Office into a Green Space
Having recently moved to a new office in downtown Vancouver, we’ve been undergoing renovation growing pains. As construction is almost wrapped up and we’re settling into our bright new loft space, I’ve been reflecting on how to make the office more friendly, more inviting, and more GREEN. Bringing some of Vancouver’s majestic greenery into our workspace seems like a great way to encapsulate everything we love about this city: health, wellness and the great outdoors!
As it happens, a lot of recent research on the subject supports embracing indoor plant life at the office. It is an excellent step in overall employee health and well-being, and tech companies, in particular, are taking note.
Amazon recently opened ‘The Spheres’; three glass dome greenhouses at their Seattle headquarters. The green space is meant for employees to have access to nature during the workday. Plant-filled spaces “inspire creativity and even improve brain function,” Amazon explains on a company blog.
Inspired by all of these big tech companies bringing the outdoors in, we embark on our office garden green journey. Step 1: Research! We need to know what is easy to grow, and what will work for everyone in the office. We have determined that three important factors need to be taken into consideration during our plant selection process: ease of care, allergens, and toxicity for animals.
Factor 1: Ease of Care
We are a very busy agency, so it’s imperative that our new office friends aren’t too demanding for us to maintain. We have a great amount of light in our new space, so ideally we need something that will thrive with a weekly watering routine and not be too needy.
Top 10 Easiest to Care for Indoor Plants, according to HGTV:
- Snake Plant
- Rubber Plant
- Spider Plant
Factor 2: Allergen-free
It was interesting to learn that several common houseplants can aggressively trigger allergies and lead to itchy, watery eyes and sneezing, so for the sake of your coworkers, you may want to avoid these for your office garden.
Top 8 Worst Plants for Allergies, according to Bobvila.com:
- Palm Tree
- African Violet
- Flowering Maple
- Gerbera Daisy
Factor 3: Non-toxic
Because we are a dog-friendly office, it’s imperative that the plants that join our team aren’t poisonous to our star furry staff supporters who are not to be trusted around anything that looks tasty.
Top 10 Toxic Plants for Pets, according to Pet Poison Helpline:
- Autumn Crocus
- Tulips & Hyacinths
Through this intense process of elimination, we are left with 7 new options for outfitting our office garden with glorious new greenery: Aloe, Snake Plant, Bromeliads, Pothos, Rubber Plant, Philodendron, and Spider Plant.
Office Plants Fun Facts
Researchers have found that as well as brightening up the office environment, plants can reduce stress and sick days.
Indoor plants can calm anxiety and reduce cortisol levels, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and according to a study at Chiba University in Japan even improve your mood.
Plants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours, absorb carbon dioxide and emit fresh oxygen, says NASA.
Office plants reduce noise and dust levels. According to the Organisation for Responsible Business, just “one plant for every three people is enough to see a profound effect, significantly reducing noise in the office”.
In a study at Washington State University, plants reduced dirt and dust in the air by as much as 20%, and help humidify office air. Their ability to ‘transpire’ creates an indoor humidity level matching our human comfort zone of 30-60% humidity.
Plants absorb airborne pollutants into their leaves: just one plant can clean 30m2 of air.
Plants reduce the physical symptoms of stress by 50%: plant specialist Dr. Margaret Burchett did a study that also found plants significantly reduce anger, depression, confusion, and fatigue. No wonder green is equivalent to ‘calm’ in color therapy.
Home and Office Garden Gadgets
Let’s get serious for a minute and talk about gardening gadgets: who doesn’t want fun techy tools to contribute to your growing green indoor obsession? We found some useful techy gizmos to take your plant game, as Key & Peele would say, to a whole notha level.
Top 10 Gardening Gadgets
- https://www.wayfair.ca/outdoor/pdp/watex-pixel-plastic-vertical-garden-watx1008.html – I immediately purchased this for my home. A lot of herbs spread and suffocate each other if planted in too close proximity, this clever design allows you to grow an 8-plant herb farm and has a self-watering interior.
- https://botanium.se/ – I’m very tempted by this little hydroponic beauty. Grow my own hot peppers & look cool doing it? Interested!
- https://www.orchidbox.io/ – Let’s face it, indoor space in Vancouver is limited. This mini-ecosystem indicates when your plant needs water, has a built-in programmable light, and will look great just about anywhere.
- https://www.avoseedo.com/ – Grow your own avocado toast? Heck yes. This little low-tech wonder helps you germinate your avo pits with just a bowl of water.
- https://www.seedingsquare.com/ – Another contestant on the low-tech spectrum but it’s too genius not to consider. This fun plant-by-color tool gives each seed the exact space and depth it needs without you having to do any of the guesswork.
- Alotpower Soil Moisture Sensor – No batteries required, just push the meter into the soil to determine if your plants need watering.
- Infrared Photography – Learn about your plants’ health by converting your camera into an infrared lens.
- Water Garden 2.0 – Do I want an aquarium or a garden? Why not both: this is a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food with fish waste.
- HIGROW Grow Light – Let’s face it, gloomy wet winters in Vancouver aren’t great for your indoor plants, this LED light will help you keep calm and grow on.
- Windowsill Herb Garden – Just plug one of these inserts into the bottle of your choice to create your own basil window garden.
Indoor Gardening Tech
Who would we be as software gurus if we didn’t introduce some kind of tech to facilitate the care for our new division of green office employees? I did a search and lo-and-behold: there are a ton of handy gardening apps and gadgets out there.
My app of choice was Water My Plant: Reminder app by Pawanpreet Singh. I chose it for the simple, sleek UI/UX, great notification settings, and the ability to take progress photos of our office garden.
Top 10 Indoor Gardening Apps:
- Garden Answers – identify plants, see if your plant has a pest infestation or disease, and ask experts for advice
- SmartPlant App – identify plants & pests, ask experts for advice, and load your plants into a digital garden to learn how to best care for them
- The Gardener’s Journal – keep a record of your garden, take photos and notations, and track progress over time
- Potted – plant care and watering reminder app
- WaterMe – add your plants, add reminders for watering, fertilizing, etc. and get notification reminders
- ThePlantMe – a guide for beginner gardeners to learn when to water, how to trim leaves, etc.
- Florish – use your smartphone camera to scan the light in your room to determine what plants will thrive best, learn more about plant care with tips and design trends
- Planta – help revive & keep alive dying plants
- PeppyPlant – avoid plant murder with watering reminders, lighting tips, and additional feeding and care tips
- HappyPlant – plant watering schedules, customized plant gallery, track your plant and take photos at each watering for a creative timelapse
The Result: Our new Indoor Office Garden!
Cute planters acquired (thanks Amazon Prime), it was time to embark on the plant purchasing expedition. Armed with a latte and lots of newly acquired plant knowledge, I headed over to Home Depot to recruit our newest teammates. Sadly, there weren’t a lot of options! It should have been expected that with the popularity of indoor gardening reaching new levels, that our list of desirable plants might not be immediately available, but it was still a bit surprising that selection at the Home Depot garden centre was so limited. Apparently, millennials have single-handedly revived the indoor plant market, leaving suppliers in short supply.
According to this Business Insider article, as of April 2019 houseplant sales have nearly doubled over the past three years. Having been following the indoor gardening subreddit for the last few weeks, it doesn’t really come as a surprise; the love of plants by the group’s users is quite intense. I was hoping to get everything on our list but fell pretty short – the only ones available to fit my pots were mini snake plants, and one lonely pothos. That said, they look great and at least it means an easy watering schedule. Armed with a bag of potting soil, everyone found a happy new home and we set up a watering schedule with the WaterMyPlant iOS App.
Check out our new office garden gallery below!
By Mary MacPherson, Digital Marketing Manager @Essential Designs