Solutions for Self-Reliance

How to Grow Fresh Air For Your Home


Here’s a trick for keeping your home a healthy place to live.   Read on:

I’ve engineered my life to work from home.

That means I spend quite a bit of time cooped up in my home office.

To improve this experience, I’ve built myself a bit of an indoor jungle.   I have everything from a large palm tree to an ungainly Night Blooming Cereus (that’s mine below — they bloom once a year, for only a couple of hours) to Lilies of the Nile.


However, this indoor garden does more for me than reduce my stress and improve my mood.

It’s my clean air factory.  They keep me and my family healthy.

Here’s some interesting details on why.

Keeping Astronauts Alive

Back in the 70’s, the team building the Skylab at NASA found that the air inside the space station was toxic (I’ve got a degree in Astronautical Engineering, so I’m a bit of a space exploration buff).  107 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), from formaldehyde to benzene to trichloroethylene, were found in the air.

Apparently, the synthetic materials used in modern construction and manufacturing emit pollutants. (Via a process called off-gassing.)  In an enclosed environment with little outside airflow, these pollutants quickly reach toxic levels.

The fix to this problem was relatively simple: create an indoor biosphere using houseplant.  This cleans the air.

Plants will suck these organic compounds out of the air and feed them to beneficial bacteria at their roots.  Not only that, house plants will humidify the air when it gets too low.

Of course, you can see why this important to keeping a modern home healthy.  In order to become more energy efficient, we make our homes air tight.  We close up the drafts and replace the leaky windows that waste heat during the winter and cool air during the summer.   Our homes are also full of modern materials, solvents, adhesives, and other products that off-gas organic compounds.

Keeping You and Your Family Healthy

The solution is to create an indoor biosphere that keeps your air clean.

Here’s the list of some of the plants that do the best job at cleaning formaldehyde, the most common indoor air pollutant (which indicates they are good at cleaning the rest). 

  1. Boston Fern.  My grandmother had a large fern in the formal room of the her farmhouse for decades (I distinctly remember hearing “don’t touch the fronds” dozens of times in my youth).   She was an amazing person and this intuitive selection only adds to that legacy.
  2. Mum.
  3. Gerbera Daisy.
  4. Rubber Plant.
  5. English Ivy.

Boston Fern

This should get you started.

If you want to dive into this more, get the book “How to Grow Fresh Air” by Dr. B.C. Wolverton (formerly of NASA).  He’s put together a list of 50 plants you can use to clean your air.

What this Means

This is yet another example of thinking about your home as a system.

A system that supports you and not just a container for your stuff.   The same thinking applies to your community.

The more systems we build — from solar panels that pump out energy for 50 years, to an indoor biosphere that cleanses your homes of pollutants,  even when you are sleeping — the easier it will be to attain happiness in the 21’st Century, no matter what happens.

Resiliently Yours,


JR Small



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