Action of the Month: Green Your Office

September 2021
Brought to you by the Office of Sustainability and the UF Thompson Earth Systems Institute.

First, let’s talk about what “greening your office” means:

Let’s set the scene. You’ve been working in the same office or at the same desk at home for almost a year now. Your workspace is starting to look increasingly uninviting and working at it has become less and less enjoyable. How does one go from resenting their workspace to reveling in it? One solution: add an office plant!

What are the benefits? 

A 2020 Gallup poll found that Americans on average work 43.8 hours a week and that’s a hefty portion of our days. A plant friend can make the hours inside and outside of work more enjoyable! Office plants have been proven to improve worker satisfaction, concentration levels, and stress levels. Moreover, plants can lower physiological stress, increase attention span, and improve overall well-being. Adding flora to your space can convert your sterile work environment into an ecosystem of greenery, ideas, and positive feelings. 

A plethora of research backs up these claims, such as the breakthrough research from Roger Ulrich in 1991 that found that hospital patients that have a view to the outdoors from their room require less pain medication. A study from Japan has shown that viewing plants can have a positive impact on mental health, too. Or consider the research from Marlon Nieuwenhuis, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, that shows adding a plant to a barren office space can increase productivity by 15%, as the presence of a plant helps to improve concentration levels and increase workplace satisfaction.

The benefits of greenery in your office space go beyond stress levels and productivity. As discussed in our April Action of the Month, “Connect with the Natural World,” data gathered from over 140 different studies showed that more exposure to greenspace can reduce the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.

There are lots of ways to consider “greening” your office. Starting with adding plants may inspire you to explore other small improvements to your space, such as replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, which are shown to be 75% more efficient. Read on to learn more about the different office-friendly plants and additional ways you can make your office space more eco-friendly!

What Plant Parents are Saying:

Plant owners seem to agree with the benefits reported in many of these studies! Bryce Holwell, Sustainable UF intern and verified plant parent, shared some of his experience bringing plants into his workspace as a UF student:

“Originally, I was definitely almost nervous for getting them because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it…but yeah, once I started getting the hang of things on a weekly basis, I would get excited to water them.”

When asked if he noticed any long-term effects of bringing plants into his workspace, Bryce responded, “I definitely think they improve my productivity whenever I’m studying or doing work”, stating that “it just feels more like outside, more like a healthy environment”.

“…it just feels more like outside, more like a healthy environment.”

– Bryce Holwell

Watch the short interview with Bryce for more inspiration here:

Suggestions for office-friendly plants:

Cast Iron Plant
A perfect choice for your first splash of green in the office, this plant has a reputation for being near indestructible! It can tolerate low light, is rarely affected by pests or disease, and can tolerate a forgetful waterer. That being said, to keep them in the best condition, water the plant deeply and water again once the soil has dried out by a few inches. Cast Iron Plants have glossy, lance-shaped leaves and come in several different color variations.

ZZ Plant
These low-maintenance plants feature waxy, deep green oval-shaped leaves. It tolerates low, indirect light and is drought tolerant – you only need to water it every two to three weeks. Overwatering is a more frequent issue than under-watering. One thing to note – with very limited light they can become leggy. Want more ZZ plants? Learn how to propagate them by taking stem cuttings!

Pothos plant

Snake Plant
This hardy plant features stiff, sword-like leaves, though they vary in color most have green leaves with a yellow border. The snake plant can survive in both low light and very bright light! Like the ZZ plant, it is drought-resistant and prone to overwatering. In warmer temperatures, they should be watered every three to four weeks, but in cold weather, they can go up to two months without water.

This vining plant features green heart-shaped leaves that are sometimes variegated with other colors. While tolerant of low light, it will do its best in bright, indirect sunlight. The soil should dry out completely between waterings – if you see it start to droop, it’s time to water it again.

Peace Lily
A beautiful flowering houseplant with glossy oval leaves and white blooms, peace lilies also help to keep the air clean. A little trickier than the previous plants, they require partial shade and need to be kept moderately moist. When water is needed, the plant begins to droop.

Rubber Plant
Another air purifier, the rubber plant requires partial shade, moist soil, and warmer temperatures. As it grows, it may begin to droop – help support the plant by using a wooden rod to help keep it upright. 

Where to get your green in Gainesville: 

Keep it Local:

  1. Garden Gate Nursery 
  2. Green Market Nursery and Landscaping
  3. Grow Hub
  4. TNT Nursery
  5. Plantstay
  6. Serpentine Plants + Provisions
  7. Farmer’s Markets (Alachua County, Grove Street, Haile)
  8. Local Plant Swap groups on Facebook
  9. Local Plant Sales (Check out the Wilmot gardens Plant Sale if you’re in Gainesville!)

If there isn’t a local option near you, plants can also be found in hardware and big-box stores such as Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart.

More Ways to “Green” Your Office:

In addition to bringing plants into your workspace, there are many ways you can “green” your office. As mentioned previously, small improvements such as replacing inefficient lighting can help reduce the environmental footprint of your workspace! You can also consider optimizing thermostat settings or using smart power strips to reduce energy use:

Optimizing your thermostat settings can help you stay cool while saving on energy use and bills, as discussed back in our June Action of the Month. The general recommendation is to keep the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures small, and use timing and fans to achieve a comfortable temperature without high energy needs. Another simple way to reduce energy use in the office is to remember to unplug (or use a smart power strip) appliances with “phantom loads”, or appliances that consume a small amount of electricity even when turned off, often due to a small light or timer. A smart power strip can help you do this easily by cutting the power to appliances that go into “standby” mode, effectively stopping them from drawing any phantom load power.

Relatively small actions like these can add up and reduce the energy consumption of your entire house or office, reducing the environmental impact. After you take that first step of adding plants, these actions can help give a whole new meaning to “greening” your office!

To Summarize:

  • Adding plants to your office space brings a wide variety of benefits for wellbeing, health, stress and productivity. 
  • Getting started is easy! Identify a plant that might work well for your space and find a local nursery to start your plant journey.
  • In addition to bringing plants into your space, there are many ways you can “green” your office space for added environmental benefits. Consider replacing inefficient lighting or optimizing thermostat settings to reduce energy use.

Ready to learn more? Start here: 

Published: September 29th, 2021

Category: Action of the Month