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Give a houseplant as a gift

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Giving a houseplant as a gift passes on the healthy effects of plants on indoor air. It also cuts down on the wastefulness often associated with gifts—with its natural color and personality, a houseplant doesn’t even need to be wrapped.

How to give a houseplant as a gift

Houseplants are being sold as gifts in all kinds of ways today: Florists are offering flowering houseplants as an alternative to sending cut flowers, nurseries have entire selections of them online, and many companies offer them in shops or by mail-order—including those that come in their own bags or pots with seeds and soil to easily grow.

  1. Give a houseplant that takes pollutants out of the indoor air or a drought-friendly plant that requires little water. This makes the plant an even greener gift, and it will also be better for the recipient. Also, avoid giving a plant in a plastic pot, which is not as good for the environment as a material like terra cotta; this makes a much better-looking gift, too.
  2. Leave the identification tag on the plant; if there isn’t a tag, write the plant’s species down for the recipient so they will be able to get information on taking care of it. This also leads to more knowledge of green things, which can only help the environment.

Important Warning: A number of houseplants are toxic for young children and pets. Check to make sure that a houseplant is safe before you give it to anyone with either of these, or before bringing it into your house after buying it for them. You can check with your local poison control center, which is listed at the front of your phone book or and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Find it! Houseplants for gift-giving

Giving a houseplant as a gift helps you go green because...

  • All houseplants improve the quality of indoor air, and by doing that you are decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases that escape from indoors to the outdoor air.
  • You’re cutting down on waste from non-recyclable presents and wrapping paper.

Additional benefits

  • Your gift benefits the recipient as well as the environment; it will raise the quality of their indoor air and offer the uplifting psychological benefit of bringing houseplants into the home.
  • It's a gift that will last a long time if taken care of; if not, at least it is 100 percent recyclable.
  • It's a more personal and original gift than something picked up at the mall that might end up in a closet.

The overall problem

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites indoor air pollution as one of the top five public health threats in America due to artificial materials like synthetic fibers and plastic, which emit harmful formaldehyde, trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).[1]

Plants' appearance in rooms has been found to purify indoor air.[2] In addition to getting rid of noxious gases and reducing carbon dioxide,[3] plants also produce oxygen and balance the indoor humidity, resulting in air that is more like natural outdoor air.[4]

In the 1970s, a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) study found that certain plants help with specific chemicals—Spider plants and golden pothos remove carbon monoxide and formaldehyde and peace lilies are particularly good at eliminating benzene and TCE.[5] The book How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office by B. C. Wolverton offers comprehensive guidance on plant choices.

As much as half of all the paper America consumes every year goes toward packaging, wrapping, and decorating consumer goods.[6] Giftwrap impacts the environment adversely during its disposal and production alike, initially consuming virgin resources (trees, water, fuel) before ending up in landfills as part of the approximately 83 million tons of paper waste generated by Americans each year.[7] By not using paper such as giftwrapping, you are helping curb the virgin timber-based pulp and paper industry, which is the third greatest industrial emitter of global warming pollution. [8]


  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Elements that significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere; they can be found indoors in materials like paint and plastics. VOCs can be harmful, contributing in some cases to sick-building syndrome, where people suffer health effects from chemicals in the materials in buildings.

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