Green Air, Green Thumb
One of the best ways to green your home environment is literally green. Houseplants are not just beautiful, but they improve the air quality significantly by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen (a process we know as photosynthesis).
In fact, in the late 1980s, NASA ran a study exploring which plants are the most efficient at purifying the air. They concluded that common houseplants such as spathiphyllum, bamboo palms, and spider plants not only improved the oxygen in the room, they also removed harmful elements such as trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air. The NASA study found that in a 2,000 square foot area, it's best to have about fifteen plants, preferably of a variety (here's a link to the full list of plants and the original NASA research), all of which are commonly available at most nurseries and greenhouses. Spathiphyllum, also known as the Peace Lilly, has beautiful white flowers, comes in three size varieties, and is easy to maintain. Spider plants, popular in the 1970s as hanging plants, are ranked highest in terms of air cleansing. The Metoaka Desert Rose Nursery and Design in Salem Oregon has two varieties that are grown sustainably. Snake plants, bamboo ferns, English ivy and weeping fig are other dramatic but easily available plants that can be combined in beautiful arrangements throughout the house. Many designs for energy-efficient sustainable homes include more ambient light and space for plants.
Interestingly, there are almost no large scale distributors of organic houseplants, although some chains often carry organic. In fact, it's more effective and sustainable to buy locally produced plants and re-pot them in organic soil. Susan Parker, Master Gardener at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh said, "If you replaced the soil, repotting in an appropriate way with coir, worm castings, and some compost and use organic fertilizers and such enhancements as kelp, and used organic approaches to disease and insect treatment, you, essentially, would have organic houseplants." A great resource is Indoor Gardening the Organic Way: How to Create a Natural and Sustaining Environment for Your Houseplants, by Julie Bawden Davis. Another great resource is www.gardensalive.com