By Devin Morrissey

Plants do wonders for air quality, both indoors and outdoors. When there’s a lot of greenery in an area, air quality is improved. While every type of plant releases oxygen thanks to photosynthesis, some are especially good at filtering the air. Some of the most common plants used in landscaping can remove highly dangerous pollutants and carcinogens.

Responsible businesses and corporations strive to improve the air quality of urban areas by focusing on their landscaping. Instead of opting to plant grass, which results in a lot of water waste and doesn’t do a great job at improving air quality, eco-conscious businesses are requesting plants and trees. By choosing plants that are native to the area, companies reduce their carbon footprint by saving fuel and transportation costs.

Trees, Shrubs and Air Quality

Trees can greatly improve air quality, whether you’re in an urban setting or surrounded by natural land. They positively affect the concentration of pollutants in the air, limiting how much we breathe in. They also benefit the ozone. Once nitric oxide, a pollutant, is converted to nitric acid in the atmosphere, it’s absorbed through a tree’s pores. This can limit the ozone levels of an area.

Trees also improve:

  • Greenhouse gas concentration
  • Local air temperature
  • Ultraviolet radiation exposure

While trees have the biggest positive impact on air quality, shrubs have a similar impact, just at a lesser rate because they’re smaller in size. Also, shrubs may remove air pollution, but they don’t necessarily limit ultraviolet radiation because they’re not tall enough to block out sun rays.

Trees are able to convert liquid water in the soil to water vapor, which is how they cool down the temperature. This conversion means that latent heat is being taken away from the point of origin. Extremely hot temperatures impact air quality and worsen ozone. Aside from the science of improving temperature and ozone, trees provide nice, shady outdoor areas where employees can lounge even on warm days.

Choosing the Right Greenery

Small particles, like those that are common in cities, can become a big health hazard. Placing trees near an urban roadway can reduce the amount of particulate matter in the nearby atmosphere. Make sure to choose greenery with dense leaves – sparse leaves won’t do nearly as good of a job at removing the particles.

When choosing the plants to use in your landscaping, stay close to home. You want to choose native plants or cultivars of native plants (a cultivar may grow from a stem cutting, for example). Choosing a plant from your country may not be native enough, since there are so many soil and weather variations based on location. Look for plants that grow in your region to ensure they’ll adapt to the environment.

If you have limited space outside, you may feel like you don’t have nearly enough area to landscape. This is a common issue in an urban setting where there isn’t much outdoor property to work with. It is possible to landscape small spaces, though. For starters, opt for tall, slim plants instead of large ones that will overtake the space.

Add a Garden

If you want to turn your landscaping project into a company-wide effort, consider adding a garden. You’ll have an easy way to communicate your company’s sustainability efforts, and having coworkers garden together is a low-key team-building exercise.

Every garden needs a compost bin. You’ll help the soil retain more water thanks to improved texture, and the soil will also be more fertile. Composting also improves your carbon footprint by reducing how much energy is needed to treat the waste and by not taking up space in landfills. While you can purchase one, it may be a fun work project to make your own compost bin.

With all of this eco-conscious effort, make sure that you’re not using chemicals, herbicides, or pesticides while gardening.

Responsible Brands Retain Employees

Purposely improving air quality shows that your brand believes in corporate social responsibility (CSR). In turn, employees will know that you respect others and your community as a whole. When you treat others with dignity and respect, employees trust that you’ll treat them the same, too. Respect in the workplace is important to 65 percent of employees, particularly among millennials. Millennials value respect that goes both ways, regardless of roles and rank.

There are all sorts of options for companies that want to be more eco-conscious, whether you live in a city or in a more open area rich with parkland. While some sustainable businesses may approach their landscaping in a green way, others opt to recycle anything and everything possible or send food waste to area farms. Recognizing that there’s a need for more green initiatives is the first step toward creating a sustainability road map.

Devin Morrissey prides himself on being a jack of all trades; his career trajectory is more a zig zag than an obvious trend, just the way he likes it. He pops up across the Pacific Northwest, though never in one place for long. You can follow him more reliably on @DevMorrissey.

Plants stock photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock