People all over the world are looking for ways to make their day-to-day lives more sustainable, healthy and green. Many are choosing organic foods, cleaning solutions and bath products to steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals. Still more people try to lead environmentally conscious lifestyles by making small changes like recycling, opting for paper rather than plastic, and using products made of recycled materials. One proven way people are improving the quality of the air they breathe is by keeping plants in the house. And they are looking to do so in environmentally-friendly, sustainable ways.

Breathing easier with plants

Indoor plants such as spider plants, aloe vera and Boston ferns are all popular choices for house plants both because they have been proven to actually clean the air and because they’re generally easy to care for. Different plants will remove different pollutants from the air, but they are all effective natural purifiers. Anyone who remembers learning about photosynthesis in biology class in school knows that plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the air. But this is hardly the only chemical that plants absorb. Plants may also absorb common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene and formaldehyde, which can be found in things like paints and cleaning products. These compounds are linked to health issues like asthma, nausea and even more serious diseases such as cancer and respiratory illness.

The doctor is in the garden

Studies have also found that gardening on a larger scale can also be beneficial to one’s health. Gardening has been linked to stress relief and improved mental health, with depression sufferers seeing an alleviation of their symptoms. Some researchers suggest that this could have something to do with healthy bacteria that is commonly found in soil being released. This bacteria reportedly helps release serotonin in parts of the brain that control mood, much in the same way that many antidepressants do. Gardening also encourages more exercise and better nutrition, since there’s nothing fresher than a homegrown vegetable.

Looking at the bigger picture

Gardening is also beneficial to the environment, particularly when organic. Studies suggest that organic fertilizers produce increased plant and animal diversity in an area. Organic fertilizers may also improve the soil itself by improving water movement and thus adding structure. They also feed the soil beneficial microbes like archaea, a microorganism that can quickly break down complex materials and minerals that plants can use, making the soil easier to work. “Because archaea actually works to restore and improve the health of the soil, it is a key component with respect to sustainability,” said David Jackson, CEO, The Jobe’s Company. “Healthy soil is critical for any gardening project.”

Much has been made over the supposed millennial obsession with houseplants. But it’s just possible that this obsession could lead to healthier future generations and a more sustainable way of living for everyone.