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Article Green tech

Turning plants into machines


Words by Suzanna Knight

Illustrations by Melanie Corre

When you buy a fan, you have certain expectations. Plants are a different story. With a fan, you want it to cool down your home. The fan’s workings are tangible- its blades turn, air is blown, and a comforting hum ensures you that your product is doing its job. However, we buy plants because we like how they look. Maybe we’re aware that they, too, can help improve our homes. But we’re fuzzy on the details, and its workings are invisible to the naked eye. There are no buttons to push, no whirring equipment to show you it’s working. There’s a clear gap between the properties of houseplants, and the perception that consumers have of the product. Plants work like machines, but that’s a tough concept to process. Ogreen Clean Machines aim to bridge that gap.

How clean is your living room?

Ogreen plants are plants with a purpose. The idea for the product was born when Ramon Bentvelzen, product developer at plant export company Noviflora, noticed the evolving trend of plants and design on one of his work trips to Scandinavia. “There were three movements gaining ground at the time: sustainability, healthy living, and a new appreciation for houseplants. But the link between the latter and the first two was missing,” explains Gabrielle Fabbro, Ogreen Brand Manager.

In a world where most city dwellers are hyper-conscious about what they put in their bodies and how sustainable their actions are, little is known about the invisible health of our surroundings. We live and work in small urban spaces, usually well insulated to keep out the cold. Great for the monthly energy bill, not so great for the many pollutants floating around our homes with nowhere to go. Everyday products like makeup, printer ink or even candles, produce pollutants like formaldehyde, acetone, and benzene. Research shows that plants can absorb these substances, removing them from the air you breathe and leaving a much healthier home, office or school environment.

“There’s been so much research about what plants can do to improve your environment but the science isn’t tangible for consumers. A Pteris Ensiformis Evergreen can clean 30m2 of air – that’s half an average city apartment. But you can’t see how, it just looks like a plant,” explains Gabrielle. In a time when healthy living has become a crucial part of modern city life, the lack of awareness about the air we breathe and what we can do to improve it was a problem Ogreen felt needed to be tackled.

Making the invisible visible

To bridge the gap between science and consumer awareness, Ogreen decided to commission their own scientific research and explore ways to visualize their findings. Scientists at Fytagoras test every Ogreen plant on its cleaning properties. If it doesn’t meet the requirements of a clean machine, it doesn’t make the cut, no matter how big its leaves or how pretty its flowers. “We only want the best of the best- a plant has to be able to clean at least 10m2 of air before we add it to our collection,” says Gabrielle. The latter is a drastic but necessary shift in how a commercial brand conducts business. “We do look at what’s popular, which plants keep scrolling by on Instagram, and try to cater to customer demands. But we always test the plants first, and if they don’t pass the test, they don’t qualify as a Clean Machine,” explains Gabrielle.

To communicate the plant properties to a broader audience, Ogreen found a simple but effective solution: each Ogreen plant comes with a certified stamp of approval, stating exactly how effective its properties are. “Every plant has a sticker claiming how much clean air they provide. It’s a complete eye-opener for our customers: you mean this plant can clean the air in my entire apartment? Giving people a scientifically proven, measurable promise makes all the difference.”

Clean schools, bright futures

The inner workings of the plants remain invisible, but awareness is slowly starting to spread. Individual consumers, but also offices and schools are finding their way to Ogreen. “The air quality in most schools is notoriously bad – you have a lot of things going on in very small spaces. We provide an Ogreen Clean School Machine, a planter with our most effective plant, the Clusia.” The plant, lovingly dubbed the Ogreen Champ, not only improves the air quality of a classroom but also helps reduce noise, absorb moisture, improve concentration and spark creativity.


For schools, the workings of the plants can be made visible with an advanced sensor called the Eve Room, which, when connected to an iPad, provides valuable insights into the air quality, temperature, and humidity of a room. “The graphs clearly show far less spikes in toxic substances in the air, and the spikes that are there are much lower,” Gabrielle explains. If Ogreen has its way, the Clean Machines will soon be as much part of the healthy urban lifestyle as a humidifier or a slow juicer. Working away like any other machine to improve the air in our homes, without a sound and looking stellar at the same time.