How to Go Green With Silv: Breathing Easy at Work by Silvia Milanova, April 17 2013, 0 Comments

Photo courtesy of Heidi via Flickr.

Achoo! Achoo! Do you find yourself sneezing all day at work? Do you blame it on your allergies, or an a looming cold? But what if the real culprit is actually your working environment?

Sometimes, without realizing it, small things can irritate our senses. Be it your co-worker’s strong lotion or perfume, the automatic bathroom air freshener, or even the too-bright lights above your desk. If you’re one of approximately 50 million Americans that has all kinds of allergies (including indoor/outdoor, food and drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies), these irritants can play a role in how you feel at work throughout the day. They can also affect your mood and your work performance.

It may sound surprising, but indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air (about 2 to 5 times worse according to the EPA). This is due to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air from toxic furniture, carpets, wall paint—you name it! These chemicals can irritate your skin, eyes and breathing. And they’ve even been linked to cancer.

Consistently breathing in polluted air, a nauseating smell, or even dust from under your desk, can make you less focused, more stressed and less productive. It’s time you evaluate your work space and make it a little more green, and a little less irritable.

Here are a few quick tips that may help you breathe easier at work:

1) Employ the power of plants. Unless you can afford to redesign your entire office, a small, but punchy move to improve the air quality around you is to buy some plants. Some of the top air-cleaners are English ivy, Peace lily, Ereca palm and a Boston fern. The Dracaena and the Spider Plant are also great pollution fighters.

2) Remove synthetic fragrances. A lot of office bathrooms and communal areas are equipped with automatic air-freshener sprays. These devices release a synthetic fragrance into the air about every 30 minutes. Try to talk with your company or building supervisor to help ban these toxin-filled aroma boxes. If that's not on the office agenda, you can invest in a personal air purifier. This one by Wein Products is effective and small—you can wear it around your neck!

3) Let the air in. If you don’t actually have severe allergies, open a window or two. Outdoor air is cleaner than indoor air. This also allows for VOCs to exit the small, closed off space that is your work office, and creates some ventilation.

4) Clean and declutter. Finally, ensure your immediate work space is clean of any dust, residue liquid, food or cosmetic spills, and dirt from your shoes—your soles can collect bacteria that can cause infections in your eyes, stomach and lungs.

Nothing may be as refreshing as walking through the woods and breathing in clean air (say, ahhh). But you can significantly improve your work indoor air quality, your mood and your work performance with a few easy tweaks. Now, back to work! ;)