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How many houseplants can offset CO2 produced from charging smartphones?

Charging our phones is a normal, everyday thing we all do. Whether it’s plugging them in as soon as we wake up or leaving them to charge overnight, it’s something we do without really thinking about it. If we were aware of the environmental impact this simple act can have, a lot of us would be searching for ways to lessen it. That’s where houseplants and their ability to absorb CO2 come in.

The experiment

Interested in the number of plants needed to reach carbon neutrality after charging our phones, energy comparison site SaveOnEnergy analysed data from two studies to find out how much CO2 each variety of houseplant can absorb. We then standardised the data to see how much CO2 10 types of popular houseplant absorbed in a sealed chamber over a 24 hour period.

Taking this number, we compared it to the CO2 released from charging a standard smartphone to 100% and worked out how many of each plant you would need to offset this by using a greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

Importance of reducing CO2 indoors

A lot of our time is spent indoors, either working within an office space or shop, relaxing at home or working out in a gym. We spend 90% of our time indoors each year on average, which makes the need for clean air even more important. In fact, research shows that too much CO2 in our bedrooms could lead to kidney and bone issues.

By introducing plants into our household, we could help to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air, head towards easier breathing and improve our overall health.

The top five plants for absorbing CO2

Sitting at the number one spot of least plants needed to offset CO2 produced from charging your smartphones is the Prayer Plant. This attractive piece of greenery boasts distinctly marked oval leaves which makes it a firm favourite of many. By reducing the amount of CO2 in a room by 14.40% over a 24 hour period, you would need 30 Prayer Plants to cover the emissions from your phone charge.

A single Rubber Plant, scientifically called Ficus elastica, is able to absorb 0.0002387 kg of CO2 which means it would take 33 of them to absorb enough to reverse the effects of charging your phone. Said to bring prosperity and positivity to your household, this is a great pick for both your environment and lifestyle alike.

Getting its name from the messy appearance of its leaves, the Bird’s Nest Fern is quite a powerhouse when it comes to absorbing CO2. Experiments have concluded that this unassuming houseplant could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in a room by 12.48% and 34 of them could negate the emissions from a phone charge.

Dieffenbachia is a showy plant which can grow to 20 foot tall! This large size means that it is able to absorb 0.0002063 kg of CO2 when left in a sealed chamber for 24 hours. If you’re looking to cut out the harmful effects of charging your phone, then you’ll need to find room for 39 of them.

The first of the flowering plants on this list, Anthurium takes some looking after and a lot of attention. However, if you’re prepared to commit to this, then you’ll be rewarded with its CO2-absorbing effects, as studies have found that it absorbs 10.80% of CO2 and can offset the effects of charging your phone (if you have 40 of them).

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The best of the rest

The Arrowhead Plant is quite an easy plant to care for, making it a great choice if you’re looking to bring a bit of the outdoors in. A single plant is able to absorb 10.08% of CO2 so if you happen to have 42 of these plants placed around your indoor environment, then you’re covering the emissions released from charging your phone to 100%.

The Peace Lilly, or Spathiphyllum, is a beautiful yet low maintenance plant that has white flowers sprouting from dark green leaves. Not just a pretty face though, they are able to absorb 0.0001868 kg of CO2 within one 24 hour period. If you’re looking offset the carbon dioxide emissions from your daily phone charge, then you’ll need at least 42 of them.

Golden Pothos, Devil’s Ivy, Ceylon Creeper - this plant goes by a lot of different names but still holds the same CO2 absorbing abilities. Studies have shown that it can soak up to 10.03% of carbon dioxide when left in a sealed chamber for a day. Buy 43 of them and you’ll be negating the emissions from charging your phone!

The woody stems of the Yucca distinguish it from the other plants on this list, but it is not the best choice if you’re looking to offset CO2 produced from charging your smartphone, as it only absorbs about 3.60% of CO2. If you still wanted to opt for the Yucca, our research suggests you’d need to fit in at least 118 of them into your home.

The Spider Plant is a popular houseplant choice for many. However, it’s most likely they chose this plant for its looks, rather than its CO2 absorbing abilities, as you’d need 4,128 of them to cover the emissions from a single phone charge. One plant can absorb just 0.0000019 kg of CO2 in 24 hours - 0.10%.

The houseplants reducing your carbon footprint the most

CO2 level indoors vs. outdoors

While outdoor CO2 levels sit at around 250-500 ppm, indoor levels can reach up to a whopping 1,000 ppm - an increase of 100-300%. This is enough to cause drowsiness and warrant complaints about poor air quality, as well as being linked to lung diseases such as asthma, COPD and lung cancer.

With research showing nearly 4 million people are passing away from illnesses attributable to household air pollution, doing everything we can to reduce the levels of CO2 is the best option. So, introducing houseplants with a high carbon dioxide absorption rate is a great place to start - even if it is just to offset the CO2 produced from charging your smartphone.

Methodology:

  1. We compiled data from two comparable studies to find out about the quantities of CO2 certain plants are able to absorb: ‘Effectiveness of Indoor Plants to Reduce CO2 in Indoor Environments’, and ‘The Influence of House Plants on Indoor CO2’.

  2. We used equivalent data from each experiment to standardise the data for 10 popular house plants: 25 degrees Celsius, approx. 700-1000 lux in a sealed chamber of 1 metre cubed.

  3. We found the volume of CO2 in each chamber combined with the percentage decrease in CO2 over a 24 hour period to attain the total reduction of CO2 for each plant in kilograms.

  4. We were then able to find out how many plants (rounded up to the nearest whole number) would be needed to negate the effects of charging your phone once in a 24 hour period, using the EPA’s equivalency calculator.