Interior designers are increasingly turning to biophilic design principles for guidance in their projects due the health benefits it can bring and its aesthetic appeal.
Biophilic design is a design approach that that draws inspiration from nature. This can manifest in many different forms, such as incorporating natural materials and patterns, or even just maximizing views of the outdoors. It also includes the use of nature-inspired materials and a large portion of the market is now occupied by artificial plants and flowers.
But are these products sustainable? The answer is complicated.
It’s no secret that most artificial plants are made from plastic.
The material is commonly used for its durability, realistic texture, and ability to mimic the appearance of real plants. Plastic is cheap, lightweight, and easy to mould, making it an attractive option for manufacturers. However, the use of plastic poses a significant environmental problem.
Plastic is a synthetic material that does not decompose, meaning that it persists in the environment indefinitely. Furthermore, the disposal of plastic often involves incineration, which releases toxic gases and pollutants into the air. Alternatively, plastic waste is often dumped into landfills, where it will remain for hundreds of years, contributing to soil and water contamination.
More sustainable products are being introduced to create artificial plants; however, many continue to be made using plastics and other synthetic materials which are usually non-biodegradable.
When it comes to recycling artificial plants, the answer isn’t clear cut. While some manufacturers claim that their products are recyclable, the reality is often more complicated. The materials used to make faux plants are typically a combination of plastic, metal, and sometimes foam. These materials are difficult to separate, making recycling them a challenge.
Additionally, recycling facilities often prioritize the recycling of materials that are in high demand, such as aluminium and paper, over less commonly recycled materials like plastics and metals used in artificial plants. As a result, it’s not uncommon for artificial plants to end up in landfills instead of being recycled.
However, there are some creative ways to reuse artificial plants, such as donating or repurposing them for use in a different setting. This not only keeps them out of landfills but also extends their useful life.
In addition to the negative environmental impacts of plastic, it also poses a potential risk to human health. Plastic releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can cause a variety of health problems such as headaches, dizziness, and respiratory issues. In some cases, these VOCs can even cause cancer.
Therefore, while faux greenery may be a low-maintenance and aesthetically pleasing option, the use of plastic in their production poses significant environmental and health risks that cannot be ignored. It is essential that we explore more sustainable materials and manufacturing processes for artificial plants, or opt for real plants that provide numerous health and environmental benefits where possible.
Unlike real plants, artificial plants can be transported on cargo ships as they don’t have a shelf life. This is because they are made from materials that don’t decay or rot so they can be stored for long periods of time without losing their quality. They can also be packaged more efficiently than real plants and are typically much lighter making them easier to transport.
Additionally, once an artificial plant is produced, it requires virtually no maintenance or upkeep. In contrast, live plants need to be watered, fertilized, and pruned on a regular basis – all of which require energy and resources, as well as emissions associated with travel to carry out this maintenance work.
There’s no denying that plastic pollution is a huge problem, however, the use of plastic in the creation of artificial plants can actually be a good thing.
When assessing the impact of its use on the environment, it’s important to differentiate between long-term and single-use plastic.
Single-use plastic is a broad classification for various plastic products designed to be used once and discarded. These products include shopping bags and packaging materials such as bubble wrap, bottles and drinking straws.
Plant displays, however, are generally used for a number of years and can even be repurposed and reused provided they are in suitable condition.
Still can’t decide what’s best for your venue?
Many see preserved plants, such as pampas, dried flowers and moss, as a ‘best of both’ option which eliminates the use of plastic, whilst also having less maintenance requirements than the real thing. Preserved plants are also a great alternative for those who have allergies or are sensitive to chemicals.
Preserved plants are real plants that have been specially treated to prevent decay. Through a unique process of plant preservation, their freshness, aspect, and scent are preserved for many years without soil, water, or sunlight, while maintaining their natural appearance.
There are many scenarios where artificial plants might make more sense. That being said, their negative impact on the environment should not be ignored. From the production process to disposal, faux greenery can contribute to plastic pollution, emit VOCs harmful to human health, and end up in landfills.
The best option for the environment is still live plants, which provide many benefits beyond just aesthetics. Living plants absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air, contributing to cleaner air. Additionally, live plants provide numerous mental health benefits and can even boost your mood and increase productivity.
Sourcing products and services to support your business needs can be a complex and time-consuming process. Price, recommendation, and services offered are all important factors to consider.
You can rely on us – we have nearly 30 years of experience and our clients can testify that we won’t let you down. We have the accreditations you would expect of an exceptional supplier – ISO9001, ISO25001 and ISO 14001 certification for Environmental Assurance.
Most importantly, we have a huge range of artificial, living and preserved plants that allow us to design plant displays to complement any setting and industry.
If you would like to talk to us about what we can do for your venue, get in touch today!