New plant app a force of nature at international internet awards

A new virtual greening app, based on research from RMIT and the University of Melbourne, has won both the People’s Voice and the Judge's Webby Award – the ‘internet’s highest honour’.

Humans have a deep-rooted connection with nature yet, as more of us are living in smaller spaces and spending more time indoors, we are becoming more disconnected to our roots.

For half a century, scientists have been carrying out experiments to show the world that plants are good for our health and happiness – just looking at your plants can be enough to make you feel good, energised and more productive.

But how can we effectively bring nature inside to make our indoor spaces healthier and more satisfying?

Researchers from the RMIT and the University of Melbourne have crunched the data on existing research from the last 50 years to help establish Plant Life Balance, winner of the People’s Voice Best Lifestyle Mobile Site and App at the 22nd annual Webby Awards – the leading international award honoring excellence on the internet.

The innovative virtual reality app helps people optimise the use of plants within their homes to boost their physical and mental wellbeing.

It allows users to assess their current plant life balance – based on size of rooms and number of plants within – and then choose more plants to enhance their benefits as well as encourage them to understand the benefits that plants bring.

The innovative virtual reality app helps people optimise the use of plants within their homes to boost their physical and mental wellbeing. Image from Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited.

Funded by Horti Innovation , the app platform was created by The Republic of Everyone and The Bravery, in consultation with the nursery industry and developed by Circul8.

Lead RMIT researcher Associate Professor Marco Amati from the Centre for Urban Research says he and the team examined 101 scientific articles that explored the benefits of plants in indoor environments.

Based on those articles the research team together with a panel of plant experts came up with a rule of thumb to help people improve their plant life balance – the Plant Life Balance Index.

“We found that benefits of indoor plants could be grouped into two categories – air quality and wellbeing,” Amati said.

“Indoor plants can remove up to 75-90 percent of air pollution and improve air quality by filtering out airborne toxins caused by organic chemicals in things like paints and furniture finishes.

“The simple rule is that in a medium indoors space, one medium sized plant can improve the air quality by 25 percent.”

The research also found that indoor plants benefit wellbeing, depending on the total number of plants, combined with the variety of the plants.

Using the rating system developed by RMIT and University researchers, you can easily understand the health and wellbeing benefits at a glance for different sized rooms. Screenshot from Plant Life Balance: The Simple Science report published by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited.

“For example, a big group of plants that looks complex, or has lots of different varieties of plants, is able to fascinate, foster relaxation and help people de-stress,” Amati said.

“We also found that while variety was key, it was also important to create a cohesive ‘look’ – or organised complexity within a group of plants – to optimise wellbeing.

“Five or more plants in a media indoor space, of all different species and sizes leads to significantly improved wellbeing.”

The Plant Life Balance team will be honoured at the Webby Awards ceremony on May 14, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

The app is available now both on the iPhone App Store and Google Play.

Story: Chanel Bearder