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How to Grow Your Own Fresh Air

Posted: 03/20/09 05:15 PM ET

Researcher Kamal Meattle shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific spots in a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air.

Kamal Meattle has a vision to reshape commercial building in India using principles of green architecture and sustainable upkeep (including an air-cleaning system that involves massive banks of plants instead of massive banks of HVAC equipment). He started the Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park (PBC-STIP), in New Delhi, in 1990 to provide "instant office" space to technology companies. PBC-STIP's website publishes its air quality index every day, and tracks its compliance to the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact, a corporate-citizenship initiative.

Meattle has long been a environmental activist in India. In the 1980s he helped India's apple industry develop less-wasteful packaging to help save acres of trees. He then began a campaign to help India's millions of scooter drivers use less oil. His next plan is to develop a larger version of PBC-STIP, making a green office accessible to more businesses in New Delhi and serving as an example of low-cost, low-energy office life.

"He has spent a great deal of time in India and abroad convincing corporate leaders, diplomats, energy ministers, and other government officials that his ideas about sustainability, individual responsibility, and respect for the environment can ensure a healthier future for everyone. 'Either you are overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many problems and so many people,' says Meattle, 'or you find solutions to help in any way you can.'"
-Kamal Meattle in MIT's Technology Review