1. Project Carbon…why is this research effort important, and what are you hoping will come out of it?
In 2009, the National Foliage Foundation (NFF) funded the project called Quantification of Carbon Assimilation in Interiorscape Plants. Tag-named Project Carbon: this project, being conducted by University of Georgia researchers, Drs. Bodie Pennisi and Marc van Iersel, seeks to provide supporting data to substantiate the argument for using indoor plants as part of sustainable certification programs such as LEED.
LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. Architects, landscape architects, facility managers, engineers, interior designers, construction managers, lenders and government officials all use LEED as a measure of a building’s green efficiency and, as you likely know, the LEED status is a prestigious and highly sought designation among green builders.
While plants are recognized as a green building element in relation to water efficiency, sustainable landscapes, shade generators and the like when used on the exterior of projects, it is the goal of research projects like Project Carbon to see that interior plants are officially recognized for their air-cleaning potential and the benefits plants bring to green building projects.
People have had plants in homes and offices over the years because of their aesthetic appeal, but the stronger the science, the stronger the message will be for the beneficial aspects of plants. Research has shown that while plants give-off a small amount of harmless volatile organic compounds (VOCs), they also remove significant amounts of toxic VOCs from the air, increasing the quality of the air we breathe. This is the positive message that NFF hopes to bring to the table.
2. How are you associated with this project?
The National Foliage Foundation (NFF) is the funding source for this project. NFF’s position with Project Carbon is to support science and with the additional knowledge reaffirm the need for an expansion of the point system to include indoor plants as an essential part of the equation for the Green Building communities.
NFF is a nonprofit corporation whose mission, since 1987, has been to organize and fund research for the foliage industry. A primary objective is to enhance the development of the foliage industry through increased production, distribution, marketing and utilization.
NFF recognizes the need to increase awareness of the healthy benefits of plants and provide funding for the solid science to back up these messages. NFF has and will continue to play a strong role in emphasizing the message of “Think Green, Live Green.”
3. Are you finding growers who produce these helpful indoor plants using this research to their advantage?
I know current Project Carbon results are in preliminary stages, but do you think growers will take advantage of the findings? How would you suggest they use them? It is still in the early stages of the research project and with every research project, it is hard to evaluate how we will totally use the end results but we hope the foliage industry will be able to use the science to support the use of plants in many different aspects and take advantage of the marketing opportunities that will results from the finished research. We are still a ways off from being able to totally utilize the information.
Right now, we only serve a narrow part of the USGBC LEED green building rating system’s market share with our plant materials. However, we have yet to demonstrate a leadership role in selling our plant materials within the USGBC LEED green building rating system parameters. This void clearly creates an opportunities for the green industry to play a role in educating the green building professionals on what plants work best in specific site conditions. We have a clear role to play and the science will give the industry the credibility to present its arguments.
4. From growers to retailers, is there a real opportunity for this and the promotion for the importance of indoor plants?
It is clearly an educational opportunity for growers to retailers and retailers to consumers. As we continue to research and learn more about the potential of plants to remove harmful volatile compounds we will generate knowledge that will enhance our ability to create exceptionally healthy indoor environments. This affects all aspects of the horticultural industry. “Green” is not going to become a fleeing trend but I believe it will be part of lifestyle changes. The Green Industry provides unique products that hold the key to reducing carbon footprints and will ultimately create a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle but we need to have the solid science that will support these kinds of marketing efforts.
The quest for more research continues, the message is clear…Plants naturally have a place and a purpose indoors.