We’re all worried about the air we breathe, especially living in Beijing, but the good news is you can actually improve air quality at home simply with only three basic plants that can easily be found in local flower markets.
According to a report from the TED Talks 2009 conference, Kamal Meattle used research by NASA to find plants that produce enough fresh air even in an enclosed space with no windows. He tested this theory on a building in New Delhi, which he claims has subsequently been rated the healthiest building in Delhi by the Government of India.
I watched this video with great interest as both my husband and my oldest son have asthma. My son had two asthma attacks in a month recently and often wakes up sneezing or coughing. Although we bought three small locally made air filters (which range in price from RMB 950 to RMB 2,000), his symptoms had eased only a bit.
The plants and quantities that Kamal Meattle recommends are:
Areca Palm (风尾竹, feng(4)wei(3)zhu(2), about RMB 180 each) – Efficiently converts CO2 to oxygen. Meattle recommends four shoulder-high plants per person.
Mother-in-Law Tongue (虎皮兰, hu(3)pi(2)lan(2), about RMB 50 each) – Efficiently converts CO2 to oxygen at night and is best placed in the bedrooms. Meattle recommends 6-8 waist-high plants per person.
Money Plant （绿萝, lv(4)luo(2), about RMB 150 each） – Removes formaldehydes and other volatile chemicals. Meattle suggest one to two shoulder-high plants per person.
The report also revealed how those plants can produce ample fresh air, even if they were grown in a bottle with a cap on top. In addition, these plants do not require much sunlight and are fairly easy to take care of.
Eager to try this out, I went directly to the Laitai Flower Market at Women’s Street (女人街, see address below) near the US embassy to buy the plants. However I ran into a slight problem – the plants are fairly large and if I were to buy the recommended number of plants for our small apartment, we would be living in a jungle! I decided to scale back the number and start off with buying three Money Plants and one Areca Palm and Mother-in-Law Tongue each and had them delivered to our apartment.
It’s been about seven months now and we can definitely sense the difference in the air – there’s more moisture and it seems fresher, without the coal smell. My son still coughs and sneezes in the morning occasionally, but it’s much better than before. We are with happy with our investment so far and are considering buying more plants.
Here are some locations and phone numbers of flower markets in Beijing where you can find these plants. They will also deliver if you order over RMB 200 in plants.
Beijing Lai Tai Flower Market and Trading Center. 9 Maizidian Xilu, Chaoyang District (6463 6554) 北京莱太花卉交易中心, 朝阳区麦子店西路9号
Liangma Flower Market. South bank of Liangma River, 758 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District (6504 2443) 亮马花卉市场, 朝阳区东三环北路758号, 燕莎商城南, 亮马河南岸
Fulite Ornamental Fish Store. Inside Fulite Business Street, 100m east of Madian Qiao, Beisanhuan Zhonglu, Xicheng District (6237 2018) 福丽特观赏鱼总汇, 西城区黄寺大街23号
Dasenlin Flower Market. 5 Zaojunmiao, Haidian District (6211 9255) 海淀区大森林花卉市场海淀区大钟寺
For more information check out the following links:
The author is a Beijing-based mother of two, journalist and editor