12 Houseplants to Refresh Dry Indoor Air
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May. 30, 2020 08:21AM EST Health + Wellness
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst
Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.
Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.
Yep, the right amount of humidity in the air can:
reduce the likelihood of infections and allergies
Plants increase humidity in the air through a process called evapotranspiration.
Water from the soil makes its way up through the roots of the plant, through the stems, and up to the leaves (transpiration), where it's evaporated into the air through pores on the leaves, called stomata.
Ready to work on your green thumb? We'll cover which plants to get and which ones to avoid, and even throw in a few pro tips to help you make the most of your plants.
Spider plants are one of the best plants you can buy for increasing indoor humidity, according to research from 2015.
Even NASA agrees. It did a study in the '80s that found spider plants are able to remove toxins like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from indoor air.
Perhaps the coolest part of all? They're super easy to grow.
Their stems grow long. A hanging container is best so the plant has room to cascade.
Spider plants grow best in bright, indirect sunlight, so try to keep them near a window that gets a lot of natural light. Aim to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
Research shows that a jade plant can increase the relative humidity in a room. Most of its evapotranspiration happens in the dark, making it a good option for increasing humidity during darker months of the year.
To help keep a jade plant thriving, keep it in a bright spot, like near a south-facing window. As for watering, how much you give it depends on the time of the year.
The spring and summer is its active growing time, so you'll want to water it deeply, and wait till the soil is almost dry to water it again.
In the fall and winter, growing slows or stops, so you can let the soil dry completely before watering again.
Palms tend to be great for adding humidity, and the areca palm — also called the butterfly or yellow palm — is no exception.
They're relatively low maintenance, but they do require lots of sun and moist soil. Keep them near a window that gets a lot of sunlight. Water them enough to keep their soil moist, especially in the spring and summer.
They can grow up to 6 or 7 feet tall and don't like crowded roots, so you'll need to repot it every couple of years as it grows.
English ivy (Hedera helix) is easy to care for and gives you a lot of bang for your buck because it grows like crazy.
It's also been shown to have one of the highest transpiration rates. This makes it a good option for increasing relative humidity AND removing carbon monoxide from indoor air.
A hanging basket is best for this small-leafed ivy. It'll grow as long and lush as you let it. To keep it controlled, just prune to the size you want.
English ivy likes bright light and soil that's slightly dry. Check the soil to make sure it's almost dry before watering again.
The lady palm is a dense plant that's low maintenance when it comes to sunlight and water needs.
It does best in bright light, but is adaptable enough to grow in low-light spots, too, though at a slightly slower pace.
Lady palms like to be watered thoroughly once the surface is dry to the touch, so always check the soil before watering.
The rubber plant isn't as finicky as other indoor tropical plants, making it really easy to care for. Rubber plants also have a high transpiration rate and are great for helping clean indoor air.
Rubber plants like partial sun to partial shade. They can handle cooler temps and drier soil (perfect for people who tend to kill every plant they bring into the home).
Let the soil dry before watering again. In the fall and winter months, you'll be able to cut watering in half.
The Boston fern has air-purifying properties that add moisture and remove toxins from indoor air. Did we mention they're lush and gorgeous, too?
To keep a Boston fern healthy and happy, water it often enough so the soil is always moist, and make sure it gets a lot of indirect sunlight by placing it in a bright part of the room.
Occasionally misting the fern's leaves with a spray bottle of water can help keep it perky when you have the heat blasting or fireplace going.
Peace lilies are tropical evergreens that produce a white flower in the summer. They usually grow up to around 16 inches tall, but can grow longer in the right conditions.
A peace lily feels most at home in a room that's warm and gets a lot of sunlight. It takes its soil moist.
No need to stress if you forget to water it on occasion. It'll handle that better than being overwatered.
If you have cats, you'll want to keep this plant out of reach or avoid it. Lilies are toxic to our feline friends.
Golden pothos is also called devil's ivy and devil's vine because it's pretty much impossible to kill. You can forget to water it and even forget to give it light for long periods, and it'll still be green whenever you finally remember.
That said, it thrives in brighter spaces and does like some water. Let it dry out between watering.
Its trailing stems grow as long as you want it to, so it's perfect for hanging planters or setting on a higher shelf.
The higher the better if you have pets, though, since some of its compounds are toxic to dogs and cats… and horses, if you happen to live in a big apartment with really relaxed pet rules.
Dwarf Date Palm
Dwarf date palms are also called pygmy date palms. They're perfect as far as plants go. They're basically mini versions of the palm trees you see on tropical postcards.
They can help keep a room's air clean and increase humidity, and are super easy to maintain.
They can grow to be anywhere from 6 to 12 feet tall with bright, indirect sunlight and moist — not soaking wet — soil.
They also prefer a slightly toasty environment, so avoid placing them near a drafty window or source of cold.
The corn plant won't give you an endless supply of corn — just leaves that look like corn leaves and the occasional bloom if you treat it nice. It also helps humidify indoor air and remove toxic vapors.
Maintenance is easy. Let the top inch or so of soil dry before watering, and keep in a well-lit room where it can get a good amount of indirect sunlight.
This is another high-transpiration palm that doesn't take any real skill to grow. You're welcome.
Parlor palms like partial sun, but can manage in full shade, too, as long as you keep the soil consistently moist with a couple of waterings per week.
To help it grow, make sure it's got enough space in the pot by sizing up every year or two, or whenever it starts to look crowded.
Plants to Avoid
Plants are generally good for your environment, but some do have the opposite effect when it comes to humidity.
These plants tend to draw moisture in instead of letting it out. This doesn't happen instantly, and a couple of plants won't have enough of an effect to really zap the moisture out of your home.
Still, if you're looking for maximum moisture, you may want to limit these.
Plants that fall into this category are those that require very little water to survive. Think plants that you find in dry climates, like the desert.
These include plants like:
euphorbia, also called "spurge"
If you really want to take advantage of all the moisture and purification these plants offer, here are some tips to consider:
Size matters. Plants with bigger leaves typically have a higher transpiration rate, so go bigger to humidify and purify a room.
The more the merrier. Have at least two good-sized plants per 100 square feet of space — more is even better.
Keep 'em close. Group your plants closer together to increase the humidity in the air and help your plants thrive, too.
Add pebbles. If you're dealing with dry indoor air, put your plants on a pebble tray with water to create more humidity for your plants and your room.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking to combat dry air in your home and have some space, consider stocking up on some houseplants. Just keep in mind that this is one area where less definitely isn't more.
For a noticeable impact on the air in your home, try to have at least several plants in each room. If you only have room for a few plants, try to go for larger ones with big leaves.
Reposted with permission from Healthline . For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline .
From Your Site Articles
Juukan 1 and 2 in June, 2013. Puutu Kunti Kurrama And Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation
By Samantha Hepburn
In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.
The shelters are the only inland site in Australia showing human occupation continuing through the last Ice Age.
The mining blast caused significant distress to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama traditional land owners. It's an irretrievable loss for future generations.
Aboriginal cultural heritage is a fundamental part of Aboriginal community life and cultural identity. It has global significance, and forms an important component of the heritage of all Australians.
But the destruction of a culturally significant Aboriginal site is not an isolated incident. Rio Tinto was acting within the law.
In 2013, Rio Tinto was given ministerial consent to damage the Juukan Gorge caves. One year later, an archaeological dig unearthed incredible artefacts, such as a 4,000-year-old plait of human hair, and evidence that the site was much older than originally thought.
But state laws let Rio Tinto charge ahead nevertheless. This failure to put timely and adequate regulatory safeguards in place reveals a disregard and a disrespect for sacred Aboriginal sites.
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0
By Tara Lohan
The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.
After that, unless we make substantial changes to global economies, it will be back to business as usual — and a path that leads directly to runaway climate change. If we want to reverse course, say the world's leading scientists, we have about a decade to right the ship.
That's because we've squandered a lot of time. "The 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s were lost decades for preventing global climate disaster," political scientist Leah Stokes writes in her new book Short Circuiting Policy , which looks at the history of clean energy policy in the U.S.
But we don't all bear equal responsibility for the tragic delay.
"Some actors in society have more power than others to shape how our economy is fueled," writes Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "We are not all equally to blame."
Short Circuiting Policy focuses on the role of one particularly bad actor: electric utilities. Their history of obstructing a clean-energy transition in the U.S. has been largely overlooked, with most of the finger-pointing aimed at fossil fuel companies (and for good reason).
We spoke with Stokes about this history of delay and denial from the utility industry, how to accelerate the speed and scale of clean-energy growth, and whether we can get past the polarizing rhetoric and politics around clean energy.
What lessons can we learn from your research to guide us right now, in what seems like a really critical time in the fight to halt climate change?
What a lot of people don't understand is that to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we actually have to reduce emissions by around 7-8 percent every single year from now until 2030, which is what the emissions drop is likely to be this year because of the COVID-19 crisis.
So think about what it took to reduce emissions by that much and think about how we have to do that every single year.
It doesn't mean that it's going to be some big sacrifice, but it does mean that we need government policy, particularly at the federal level, because state policy can only go so far. We've been living off state policy for more than three decades now and we need our federal government to act.
Where are we now, in terms of our progress on renewable energy and how far we need to go?
A lot of people think renewable energy is growing "so fast" and it's "so amazing." But first of all, during the coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy industry is actually doing very poorly. It's losing a lot of jobs. And secondly, we were not moving fast enough even before the coronavirus crisis, because renewable energy in the best year grew by only 1.3 percent.
Right now we're at around 36-37 percent clean energy. That includes nuclear, hydropower and new renewables like wind, solar and geothermal. But hydropower and nuclear aren't growing. Nuclear supplies about 20 percent of the grid and hydro about 5 percent depending on the year. And then the rest is renewable. So we're at about 10 percent renewables, and in the best year, we're only adding 1 percent to that.
Generally, we need to be moving about eight times faster than we've been moving in our best years. (To visualize this idea, I came up with the narwhal curve .)
How do we overcome these fundamental issues of speed and scale?
We need actual government policy that supports it. We have never had a clean electricity standard or renewable portfolio standard at the federal level. That's the main law that I write all about at the state level. Where those policies are in place, a lot of progress has been made — places like California and even, to a limited extent, Texas.
We need our federal government to be focusing on this crisis. Even the really small, piecemeal clean-energy policies we have at the federal level are going away. In December Congress didn't extend the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, just like they didn't extend or improve the electric vehicle tax credit.
And now during the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of the money going toward the energy sector in the CARES Act is going toward propping up dying fossil fuel companies and not toward supporting the renewable energy industry.
So we are moving in the wrong direction.
Clean energy hasn’t always been such a partisan issue. Why did it become so polarizing?
What I argue in my book, with evidence, is that electric utilities and fossil fuel companies have been intentionally driving polarization. And they've done this in part by running challengers in primary elections against Republicans who don't agree with them.
Basically, fossil fuel companies and electric utilities are telling Republicans that you can't hold office and support climate action. That has really shifted the incentives within the party in a very short time period.
It's not like the Democrats have moved so far left on climate. The Democrats have stayed in pretty much the same place and the Republicans have moved to the right. And I argue that that's because of electric utilities and fossil fuel companies trying to delay action.
And their reason for doing that is simply about their bottom line and keeping their share of the market?
Exactly. You have to remember that delay and denial on climate change is a profitable enterprise for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities. The longer we wait to act on the crisis, the more money they can make because they can extract more fossil fuels from their reserves and they can pay more of their debt at their coal plants and natural gas plants. So delay and denial is a money-making business for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities.
There’s been a lot of research, reporting and even legal action in recent years about the role of fossil fuel companies in discrediting climate science. From reading your book, it seems that electric utilities are just as guilty. Is that right?
Yes, far less attention has been paid to electric utilities, which play a really critical role. They preside over legacy investments into coal and natural gas, and some of them continue to propose building new natural gas.
They were just as involved in promoting climate denial in the 1980s and 90s as fossil fuel companies, as I document in my book. And some of them, like Southern Company, have continued to promote climate denial to basically the present day.
But that's not the only dark part of their history.
Electric utilities promoted energy systems that are pretty wasteful. They built these centralized fossil fuel power plants rather than having co-generation plants that were onsite at industrial locations where manufacturing is happening, and where you need both steam heat — which is a waste product from electricity — and the electricity itself. That actually created a lot of waste in the system and we burned a lot more fossil fuels than if we had a decentralized system.
The other thing they've done in the more modern period is really resisted the energy transition. They've resisted renewable portfolio standards and net metering laws that allow for more clean energy to come onto the grid. They've tried to roll them back. They've been successful in some cases, and they've blocked new laws from passing when targets were met.
You wrote that, “Partisan polarization on climate is not inevitable — support could shift back to the bipartisanship we saw before 2008.” What would it take to actually make that happen?
Well, on the one hand, you need to get the Democratic Party to care more about climate change and to really understand the stakes. And if you want to do that, I think the work of the Justice Democrats is important. They have primary-challenged incumbent Democrats who don't care enough about climate change. That is how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected. She was a primary challenger and she has really championed climate action in the Green New Deal.
The other thing is that the public supports climate action. Democrats do in huge numbers. Independents do. And to some extent Republicans do, particularly young Republicans.
So communicating the extent of public concern on these issues is really important because, as I've shown in other research, politicians don't know how much public concern there is on climate change. They dramatically underestimate support for climate action.
I think the media has a really important role to play because it's very rare that a climate event, like a disaster that is caused by climate change, is actually linked to climate change in media reporting.
But people might live through a wildfire or a hurricane or a heat wave, but nobody's going to tell them through the media that this is climate change. So we really need our reporters to be doing a better job linking people's lived experiences to climate change.
With economic stimulus efforts ramping up because of the COVD-19 pandemic, are we in danger of missing a chance to help boost a clean energy economy?
I think so many people understand that stimulus spending is an opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that creates good-paying jobs in the clean-energy sector that protects Americans' health.
We know that breathing dirty air makes people more likely to die from COVID-19. So this is a big opportunity to create an economy that's more just for all Americans.
But unfortunately, we really are not pivoting toward creating a clean economy, which is what we need to be doing. This is an opportunity to really focus on the climate crisis because we have delayed for more than 30 years. There is not another decade to waste.
A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
That nest is part of a dramatic uptick in the number of active nests, with more than 70 spotted this spring, according to a post on the Mass Wildlife website, as CNN reported. While spotting active nests is not rare, one with eggs is. Also, for the first time, there is a documented case of eagles nesting on nearby Martha's Vineyard.
The 1905 nest with eggs was in the town of Sandwich.
On its website, Mass Wildlife said the population of bald eagles is soaring this season. The birds are currently in the middle of their nesting season, according to CBS News .
The return of bald eagles is a testament to the strength of the Endangered Species Act, since the birds have recovered from the brink of extinction. Bald eagles recently improved from threatened to special concern on the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act list thanks to successful conservation measures. Mass Wildlife embarked on an eagle reintroduction program in the 1980s that has led to an uptick in the population of bald eagles in the New England area, as CNN reported.
A bald eagle that hatched in Massachusetts holds the record for the oldest bald eagle in New Hampshire. The eagle, which was photographed in New Hampshire this spring, was identified by banding records as a 23-year-old male that hatched in Ware, Massachusetts, in 1997, according to WCVB , Boston's ABC News affiliate.
While bald eagles are no longer on the endangered species list, they are still protected under multiple federal laws , including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
However, their new found strength could spell trouble for other birds.
In one example, Mass Wildlife said, "[a]n eagle pair took over an osprey nest and were incubating eggs when the ospreys returned from their wintering grounds. The osprey pair that most likely built the nest harassed the incubating eagle who would flip upside down with its talons in the air in defense. Eventually the eagle cracked the eggs doing this, and this historic nesting attempt failed."
In another example, "[t]wo other eagle nests on the mainland have also failed as a result of an intruding eagle invading the territory and killing the chicks in the nest."
"Although difficult for observers to witness, these events are all signs of a thriving eagle population in Massachusetts," MassWildlife said, as CBS News reported. "On the upside, more and more people across the Commonwealth are experiencing the thrill of seeing eagles in their own neighborhoods as these birds continue to expand their range to urban and suburban landscapes."
Bald eagles build the largest nests of any bird in North America. Mating pairs build their nests in winter months and then return to them every year to add to the nest.
The species holds the record for the largest nest ever recorded, with a nest spotted near St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1963 that measured nine feet, six inches wide and 20 feet deep, and was estimated to weigh more than 4,400 pounds, according to Newsweek .
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Health + Wellness
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images
The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.
If companies choose to follow the guidelines, it would lead to a dramatic change in the corporate work experience, and likely increase pollution. One of the most striking features of the recommendations is that they upend years of environmental activism that urged people to take public transportation or car-pool. The new recommendations suggest avoiding public transportation and driving to work alone, as The New York Times reported.
The CDC's new recommendations suggest making this cost-effective. "Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking for commuting to work alone or single-occupancy rides," the guidelines say.
However, the guidelines did not address the environmental impact of such policies or the health impacts from increasing traffic congestion.
Besides making the commute a lonelier and less environmentally friendly, the guidelines also make the office environment lonelier. The CDC recommends placing workers six feet apart. If that's not possible, then companies should erect plastic shields around desks, remove seats in common areas, and avoid perks like coffee machines and snack bins that encourage communal activities and many people touching them, according to The New York Times .
In another environmentally damaging recommendation, the CDC does leave room for replacing those items with pre-packaged single-serve coffee and snacks.
"Replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as prepackaged, single-serving items," the guidelines say.
The guidelines also address the technical aspects of the office. The CDC recommends employers ensure that building ventilation systems are operating properly. It also encourages allowing as much fresh air as possible by opening windows and doors, when feasible, to "increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible," as Fox News reported.
The guidelines also eliminate many office norms and pleasantries that were once common place. The guidelines tell employers to "[p]rohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps." It also recommends that employees wear a cloth face mask "in all areas of the business," as Axios reported.
The guidelines encourage daily health checks, including temperature screenings before employees enter the workplace, and to send home sick workers. Then the office should go through enhanced cleaning and disinfection, as Axios reported.
The New York Times noted that many white-collar offices have successfully transitioned to a fully distributed workforce and are finding that their office environment is able to continue through video conferencing and Slack channels. With that in mind, companies might find the cost of putting protective measures in place too steep, or they might find that isolation in the office makes it difficult to recruit and retain talent. Businesses may decide to allow their workers to stay home.
Already companies like Twitter and Square have decided that their employees never need to come back to the office.
"Companies, surprisingly, don't want to go back to work," said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit think tank, to The New York Times . "You will not see the drum beat and hue and cry and rush to get back to the office."
From Your Site Articles
Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs reveal their danger as a crush vessel is in the foreground of an iceberg strewn sea, 1860. Buyenlarge / Getty Images
Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.
Scientists have used art to help reconstruct historic weather and climatic conditions, such as the behavior of the Lower Grindelwald Glacier in the Swiss Alps prior to the invention of photography. Over the last 150 years, artists' depictions and use of ice has changed wholesale.
In 1861, Frederic Edwin Church's grand work, The Icebergs, showed humans' fragility in the face of the sublime power of Arctic ice floes. "Later pieces of art," on the other hand, "are about the ice melting because of what we've done to it," according Karl Kusserow, curator of American art at the Princeton University Art Museum. "There's a 180-degree switch from a world that we have no control over, to one in which we are actually controlling the fate of the planet, and recognizing that we're not doing a very good job on it."
For a deeper dive:
Jackson Family Wines in California discovered that a huge amount of carbon pollution was caused by manufacturing wine bottles. Edsel Querini / Getty Images
Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.
The California winery started analyzing its carbon pollution in 2008.
"For us it was really eye opening," says Julien Gervreau, vice president of sustainability.
He says they discovered that a huge amount of carbon pollution was caused by manufacturing wine bottles.
"The big 'aha moment' that we saw around our emissions was really with glass," he says. "When you look at the supply chain for glass, it's a pretty energy- and emissions-intensive process."
So now, the winery not only invests in renewable energy and efficiency, it's reduced the weight of each glass bottle of its Kendall-Jackson and La Crema Lines by a couple ounces.
"And in addition to emissions savings, we saw a pretty significant financial savings associated with having to buy less glass," Gervreau says.
The winery was careful to avoid affecting the bottles' look and feel, and Gervreau says customers have not complained. Meanwhile, shipping and sales clerks appreciate lifting lighter cases.
So cheers! Here's to lighter wine bottles. And don't worry, there's still the same amount of wine inside.