How to purify the air inside and outside your apartment – Trees for livable and sustainable communities

Last year, 21 out of 30 cities in the world with the most air pollution were found in India. India is also the world’s 5th most polluted country in terms of air quality index. A study showed that 4 out of 10 Indians are breathing in 5 times the safe limit of particulate matter in the air. Shocking but totally believable considering how adept we Indians are at leaving really critical problems to solve themselves.

Why do we need trees around us?

We already know the air we breathe on the roads isn’t exactly pristine oxygen made in heaven. Rather, it’s made up of a whole lot of ingredients freshly brewed in hell, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons. 
But we’re not safe at home either. Our indoor air quality is significantly lowered by the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds in our daily life products like disinfectants, cleaning agents, polish, paints, cosmetics, sprays and fuels made up of organic chemicals. VOCs are benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, ethanol, butanol, acetic acid, methylene chloride, acetone… it’s safe to say the list of air pollutants in our atmosphere is not small. These pollutants can cause strokes, immune system disorders, lung cancer, respiratory problems and a host of other diseases in humans.

That’s why we need trees, we need to be close to them, surrounded by them, entrenched in them even. 

A trip down science class memory lane would help us remember that trees absorb harmful chemicals, toxins, particulates in the air, soak up all the CO2, nitrogen oxide, carbon emissions, greenhouse gases in the air, filter them through their pores and restore oxygen back into the atmosphere. If the trees of the world absorb one-third of the global pollution each year, they can easily clean the air in and around your society and in your homes. Find out below the wonders of nature that can help purify your toxic surroundings.

Best outdoor trees for apartment complexes

The ideal spots to plant trees within your society premises (apart from the garden of course) are the edges of walkways, the periphery of the gates, open spaces on the parking lot edges and community squares. 

1. Ficus Religiosa (Peepal tree aka Bodhi tree)

Benefits of the Peepal tree are manifold. Not only is it a champion at releasing oxygen 24 hours a day, it is also used as Ayurvedic medicine to cure disorders like asthma, eczema, diarrhoea, skin diseases, blood purification, poor appetite, constipation and about a dozen other conditions. It’s a deciduous native Indian tree, therefore widely available. They release phenomenal amounts of oxygen, clean the air and help protect the ozone layer. Under the Peepal Tree, the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment and yes the rumours about ‘evil spirits’ residing in peepal trees are just that… rumours.

2. Syzygium cumini (Jamun tree aka Java plum aka Black Plum)

Jamun trees are dense in foliage, have huge canopies, are known to grow up to 30-35 feet and yield plums for 70 years once planted. It can flourish under adverse tropical and subtropical climates as well. 

3. Azadirachta indica (Neem tree aka Indian Lilac)

The perfect tree for drought-prone areas, the Neem tree has an extraordinary capacity to fight against air and water pollution. It is touted as India’s green warrior against deforestation, CO2 emissions and overall air quality deterioration. It has special self-healing capacity and to reduce the effects of pollutants like sulphur, dust and gaseous particles. A study by NEERI in 1996 showed that the Neem tree is the most effective weapon to fight urban pollution.

4. Saraca asoca (Ashoka Tree aka Sita Ashoka Tree)

A sprawling evergreen rainforest tree with leaves that change colour and bright orange flowers, the Ashoka tree has the most luscious foliage. It is high in medicinal value to cure menstrual disorders as well as skin irregularities. The tree is widely recognised as a remedy for dust pollution in the atmosphere. Be careful not to confuse it with the false Ashoka tree which is a lofty pyramidal symmetrical tree.

5. Nyctanthes arbor-tristis (Night-blooming Jasmine aka Parijat aka Harshringar)

It’s impossible to miss the sweet fragrance of night jasmine, a small tree with a celestial aroma that emanates from its star-shaped white flowers. Even though its flowers drop during the night and the tree looks sorrowful during the day, two reasons are enough to plant the night jasmine, its aesthetic value and intoxicating scent. Think of it as Mother Nature’s favourite brand of air purifier.

Best indoor plants to purify the air inside your house

1. Aloe Vera

Top of the list is the healing plant of aloe vera that not only works wonders on the skin but is also an effective disinfectant against burns and cuts. It also helps get rid of any remnant pollution from chemicals, home cleaning agents, formaldehyde, benzene, VOCs, paint, etc.

2. Snake Plant

Also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue, this plant will help you clean up putrid air in humid places, including the smell of cleaning agents. It converts CO2 into oxygen while you sleep so they’re ideal to place inside the bedroom.

3. Rubber Plant

Indian rubber bush or rubber fig with its shiny bottle-green leaves can grow up to 50 feet tall. Don’t place it under direct sunlight but let them breathe in bright light. The large leaves of this popular house plant are capable enough to absorb air pollutants or harmful toxins.

4. Areca Palm

These plants grow to be tall, sinewy and bright green. They are attractive, smooth (sometimes golden) and are the highest-rated natural air filters that can remove toxins like Xylene, Formaldehyde and Toluene. They are excellent air humidifiers when the air around the -home is too dry.

5. Lady Palm

Made up of pretty glossy fan-like leaves, the Lady Palm possesses strong air purifying properties that can remove effects of Formaldehyde and ammonia from the air.

It’s easy and rewarding to go green. Read up on the internet about the basic propagation of trees and plants in your ecosystem, visit your local nursery to explore, touch and feel indigenous species or order common saplings, tree/forestry/ plant seeds online. 

What do you think?