Nothing makes a plant lover happier than seeing their houseplants thrive. Flourishing foliage, nutrient-rich soil, and baby buds growing strong are reminders that houseplant health indoors has an important connection to environmental health beyond our homes.
Plantcare products range from fertilizer and containers to watering vessels and pruning tools. They are designed to make life indoors comfortable for our houseplants, and to make plantcare easier for us as caregivers. But these products aren’t always friendly to the ecosystems nearby and far away.
In honor of Earth Day, we are diving into best practices for plantcare that contribute to a healthier planet in collaboration with our friends at Dr. Bronner’s, Smallhold and Good Dirt. We partnered together to create a Plant Care Health Kit that makes it easier for you to provide comprehensive care for your plants' health and their growth, and to make choices that are ultimately better for the earth.
We frequently get asked about our favorite plantcare products, so this kit is our answer! Below, we unpack the ecological harm caused by many conventional products and how alternative choices can help reduce environmental pollution within the realm of plantcare.
Plant food that nourishes the earth
Plant food comes from somewhere, and the environmental impact of how and where it’s sourced matters. Commercial houseplant soil and fertilizers — even organic ones — contain ingredients that are harmful to the environment, including humans and insects.
Many fertilizers transmit pathogens, antibiotics and bacteria from animal manure, blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, fish emulsion and even bat guano. These ingredients are produced by industrial animal agriculture operations that trigger devastating ecological outcomes. Industrial farming causes widespread pollution to air and water, causes habitat loss through deforestation, and contributes to the spread of pandemic-causing zoonotic diseases.
Just like the food we put into our bodies, it’s important that the food we feed our plants is good for them and for the earth. That’s why we love Mushroom Vermicompost from Smallhold’s urban fungi farm. This nutrient-dense plant food is made by worms to feed houseplants, gardens, and wherever you grow plant pals. Smallhold sends their used mushroom substrate (made of compacted sawdust, seed hulls and grains) to a worm farm where it gets mixed-in with compostable food scraps and fed to worms. They eat it up, then poop out rich organic fertilizer.
Worms and mushrooms share an affinity for cleaning up waste. Like worms, mushrooms are nature’s decomposers who break down plant materials like rotting wood and dead plant fibers, building nutrient-rich soil that supports earth’s communities. In doing so, they sequester carbon and benefit ecosystems around the world from forests and fields to home gardens.
Another earth-friendly fertilizer we use is Good Dirt's Plant Food, a liquid concentrate that’s made from renewable plant-based components extracted from oil seeds that feed your plant’s living beneficial microorganisms. It blends smoothly with water, which is easier to mix than dry fertilizers.
Treat pests without harming the planet
Even the best tended plants can be susceptible to pests, and an indoor outbreak of tiny insects is something that every houseplant lover dreads. There are a variety of insecticides on the market that effectively dispel whatever buzzing or crawling critters have infested your plant, but many of their ingredients pose a serious risk to humans and vulnerable ecosystems outside of your home.
Even insecticides that advertise themselves as natural or botanically-derived can include harmful additives. Natural insecticides are not necessarily safer than their synthetic analogs, so skip the marketing claims and go directly to the ingredients label. If a product is made with integrity, it will include its entire ingredients list, not just what it is legally required to disclose.
The Environmental Protection Agenda requires pesticide manufacturers to list active ingredients by name and percentage, whereas disclosing inert ingredients is voluntary. Common insecticides include pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide that are toxic to aquatic life and adversely affect human health, especially children and pregnant people. Inert doesn’t equal harmless, and many of these supposedly benign ingredients routinely include harsh chemical solvents, stabilizers, surfactants, and defoamers.
Instead of using commercial insecticides, many plant caregivers have turned to insecticidal soap to eradicate pests. However, people aren’t always aware that dish soap and dishwashing detergents are two very different things. Detergents use a cocktail of petrochemicals like surfactants to remove grime, but these carcinogenic agents cause irreparable harm to humans and the environment near facilities where the petrochemicals are produced.
Pest prevention can easily be effective and safe for everyone (well, except the pests), and our favorite insecticide to use is diluted Dr Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap. It’s super concentrated (a little goes a long way) and is made from organic and certified fair trade ingredients that are transparently listed and biodegrade safely. If you live near a package-free store, you can find the soap in bulk to reduce packaging.
To make insecticide spray: Combine one tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap in one quart of water, adding half of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper or cinnamon for extra power, and spray your plants twice daily during the coolest part of the day until the infestation clears.
Earth-friendly tools to house and groom your plants
All living creatures need shelter that provides them safety and comfort. When it comes to indoor plants, the objects we choose to house and groom them can also be sourced with the utmost care for the environment.
We are proud of our signature clay pots that are timeless as well as sustainable. Made from natural earthen terracotta, our hardy plant containers provide an affordable alternative to synthetic petroleum-based materials that burn fossil fuels when produced. Clay beautifully mimics the natural habitat of plants, and passively slows the transfer of heat to stabilize the soil in the pot when the temperature outside fluctuates.
Indoor gardening requires a tool or two, so we included our must-haves for houseplant maintenance in the Plant Care Health Kit. Our durable metal Mini Snippers are small enough to fit in your pocket at a compact four inches. The clippers sit neatly between your fingers and thumb, and glide along plant stems and branches to make clean cuts wherever you prune. Thirsty plants love to be misted by Mr. Mister, our glass spray bottle that holds 16 oz of water and is hand-dipped in our signature painting style. Its gentle vapor adds a misty layer of moisture that tropical plants crave, and on a hot sweaty day, you can mist more than just your plants.
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