Go green

Could your office or cube use a little sprucing up to improve your surroundings? Something as simple as a plant can improve air quality and enhance productivity, according to the folks at Plants at Work.

Plants at Work is a campaign that aims to educate the public about the benefits of interior plants. A peek at the Web site shows that one of its primary sponsors is the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, another group that can certainly benefit from such beautification projects.

That said, however, some of the research the group cites on how plants can affect the working environment is worth considering:

* A study by Dr. Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and Dr.

Virginia Lohr of Washington State University shows that visual exposure to plant settings has produced significant recovery from stress within 5 minutes. What's more, study participants in a simulated office setting were 12% more productive than those who worked in an environment without plants.

* According to William J. Fisk and Arthur H. Rosenfeld of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, U.S. companies could save up to $58 billion per year by eliminating indoor air quality- related illnesses, and up to $200 billion in employee performance improvements by cleaning up indoor air. Research shows that plant-filled rooms contain 50% to 60% fewer airborne molds and bacteria than rooms without plants.

* Plants can even reduce your office building's vulnerability to biological warfare if harmful agents are released in ventilation ducts. "Powerful synergistic reactions taking place between plants and their root microbes make these biological systems robust cleaning tools," says Dr. Bill Wolverton of the Environmental Research Laboratory at the John C. Stennis Space Center

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