You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Jane Goodall
A healthy environment involves the surroundings and places of the campus, office, workshop, classroom or laboratory. We have a commitment to ensure that the workplace is safe and welcoming. Healthy environments can assist us to remain healthy at work, be able to access safe spaces for exercise and to socialise in, and continue to build our mental, physical and social wellbeing.
To assist us to remain healthy and safe, it is important for anyone attending the University, staff, students, title-holders, volunteers and contractors, to report safety issues, incidents, unsafe practices or unsafe workplace conditions as soon as they occur. This includes while working from home, on campus or at other locations while conducting university business. It means that problems can be addressed and resolved as soon as possible to prevent an injury or illness from happening and ultimately protect the members of our university community.
Improving our indoor environments with houseplants
We think of our home as our castle. Especially during this crazy year, our home has become our refuge, a place to work and live. It may even at times have felt like our prison! But could we make our homes and offices a happier and more appealing place to live and work?
Indoor plants have the ability to make our homes beautiful, more welcoming and have benefits to our mental health. Here’s how the simple addition of some plants can help you with your wellbeing. Happy growing!
Fill your home with flowers and beautiful fragrances
Many plants grow and flower easily in the home and can provide natural fragrances for us to enjoy. Some easy to grow fragrant plants indoors are things like gardenia, jasmine or even some cultivars of orchids. Beautiful scents then fill the home and can be very uplifting for our moods and therefore improve our wellbeing.
[Please note: care should be taken by those with allergies and asthma.]
Cultivate better mental health
Researchers have found that people who live around nature feel happier than those who don’t. And this includes greenery in your home. As nearly 90% of people live most of their lives indoors, incorporating indoor plants into our homes can help with this. While plants just sit there looking pretty, they produce oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide levels during the day,
A University of Technology, Sydney study provided measurable evidence on the effects of indoor plants on occupants’ mood states and feelings of wellbeing. They found plants in a workplace brought a reduction in staff sick leave and increase in job satisfaction. We developed as humans with greenery around us and in today's society people tend to suffer from "green deprivation". Therefore having plants around us provides us with unconscious feelings of calm and we feel happier and more relaxed.
Providing food for our kitchens
It's also possible to grow edible plants indoors. Herbs can be grown in pots on a sunny windowsill include basil, mint and parsley. Mushroom kits are readily available these days and provide copious amounts of delicious food (although they are not technically plants!).
Another trend that has had a resurgence in popularity is growing sprouts in your kitchen. These are even suitable if you don't have much sun. A well lit bench and a few jars is all that is required to benefit from the abundance of nutrients sprouts can provide.
Edible plants can even be grown indoors under LED lights and can produce microgreens, leafy vegetables and even tomatoes to supplement our cooking.
Creating a community
Houseplants have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Many people get into growing indoor plants and become completely obsessed. There are online communities where people can share images of their favourite plants, diagnose pests and diseases and even trade specimens.
Some indoor plants readily propagate and are easy to share with friends, family and colleagues. One example is the Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) which is also known as the friendship plant. It grows little side shoots which can be easily divided and potted up to share with friends.
Collecting and growing plants indoors does not need to be expensive if you have a community of like-minded people. One thing is for certain, when you start collecting houseplants it can be difficult to stop!
Some of the best plants to have in your home or office
You don't need to have a green thumb to grow plants indoors! Many species thrive on neglect but still look amazing.
- Zanzibar plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia) - has a reputation for being hard to kill while looking modern and stylish.
- Crispy Wave (Japanese Asplenium nidus Fern). This plant reminds us of holidays in the tropics.
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum). Popular in the 70s, it's had a comeback and is an easy to grow plant perfect for beginners.
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata). Super easy to grow.
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp). Peace Lily won't die if it misses a watering has a beautiful calming flower!
- Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum). Rated as one of the best houseplants as it is really tolerant to poor conditions and neglect.
- Rubber plant (Ficus Robusta). The Rubber Plant’s large leaves can release large amounts of oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide levels.
[Please note: some plants are toxic to children and pets. Please keep out of reach and check with your vet before introducing a new plant to the home]
Start a vegetable garden
Many of staff at The University of Adelaide we will be taking extended leave over the Christmas holiday break. In addition it will also be school holidays. So what can we do that will keep the children outside and amused, is good for our health and wellbeing and may even save us some money? Let’s start a vegetable garden!
Some of us may have a green thumb and have a flourishing vegetable garden already but for others the idea of growing something seems daunting. Either way there are some great reasons why creating a vegetable garden is good for our wellbeing and provides our children with an opportunity to learn and nurture something. Growing your own vegetables has many benefits including relieving stress, improving our moods and eating nutrient packed, tasty veggies!
Benefits of growing your own produce:
- NUTRIENTS: Letting your vegetables fully ripen on the plant before picking enables them to pack more nutrients into their cells which increases their flavour profile. Commercially, many vegetables are picked green to assist with transportation and so they never quite reach their full flavour. The taste of home grown vegetables is so much nicer!
- ORGANIC: By growing your own vegetables you know what fertilizers and pesticides come into contact with your food. You can choose which, if any, products you need to treat problems as they arise. Even better, you can take the kids out snail hunting at night or ask them to find all the caterpillars on your kale plants.
- EAT YOUR GREENS: You may find you will eat more vegetables and fruit by growing it yourself. You may also increase the diversity of plant foods or try something you've never had before. Children may be willing to try new things when they have planted, watered and watched them grow. You may find that cherry tomatoes don't reach the kitchen as they are popped into mouths as fast as they ripen!
- RELAX: Gardening is a natural stress reliever. Being outside in the sunshine and fresh air helps to improve our moods. We also feel a great sense of accomplishment when things start growing. By growing your own vegetables you can improve your mental wellbeing by helping you connect with the environment. You may also want to join a gardening club and swap or give away the abundance of produce that comes with growing your own food.
- LEARN: Children will learn responsibility for caring for the plants, will understand more about cause and effect (e.g. plants die without water), will learn about where their food comes from and they will get physical activity.
Simple tips to get you started growing your own vegetables:
Protection in the garden
First we need to ensure we are staying sun safe in the garden. The Cancer Council has many great resources on protecting ourselves when we are outside. Don't forget your hat and sunscreen!
Wear gardening gloves and a dust mask if using potting mixes as they contain pathogens that can be harmful to our health. Wetting potting mixes before use can also help reduce this risk.
Select your location
Ensure your vegetable patch receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. If your garden, patio or courtyard is too hot in the Summer months, consider putting up a shade cloth to protect the plants.
If you don’t have room for a vegetable patch consider growing some vegetable in pots or a half wine barrel. Hanging baskets are great for growing strawberries and vertical gardens are perfect for growing mixed lettuces and herbs.
You don’t need to buy an expensive container, ask at your local fruit and vegetable shop for a polystyrene crate which are light weight and a perfect size for growing some vegetables. Remember to select good quality potting mix for your containers. Sustainable Gardening Australia has more information on growing vegetables in pots.
Enriching the soil
You may like to boost your vegetable patch with compost and natural fertilizers. Adding compost helps with retaining water, encouraging microbial and worm activity and provides a source of nutrients for your plants. Try to avoid adding too much manure as high levels of nitrogen create lots of leafy growth and no flowers or fruit.
Your local garden centre will be able to advise you on what nutrients your specific plants may require. They will also help to diagnose any nutrient deficiencies as they arise.
Choosing what to grow
So now we have the soil, location or containers ready. What shall we plant? Spring is great time to plant tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, zucchinis or mixed lettuces. All of these are quick growing vegetables that will keep children checking on their plants and in time they will be able to help to harvest the crops.
Different vegetables and herbs grow in different seasons. About the Garden has more information on what to pick to plant in the garden.
Growing from seed
Vegetable seeds are a cost effective way of starting a veggie patch. Choose seeds that are suited to our climate in South Australia. Most seeds can either be sown in the ground or in seedling trays. Make sure to water them regularly as they tend to dry out quickly. Within a matter of days you will see tiny shoots appearing.
An added bonus of growing from seed is that you can give seedlings away as it’s easy to grow too many!
Don’t forget the herbs
Try planting basil with your tomatoes as what a great pairing in a salad do tomatoes and basil make! Chives is another quick growing herb that children may like to pick and add to meals they are helping to prepare. Thyme, marjoram, parsley and oregano are more herbs that are easy to grow. Be wary of growing mint in the garden as it will tend to spread everywhere so grow it in a pot and keep it close to the kitchen to get that wonderful fresh scent!
Gardening Australia has some great tips on growing herbs in your garden.
Watering your edibles
Remember that we are coming into Summer so we will need to ensure that we provide adequate water for our veggies to grow and produce fruit. Containers and pots may need more watering that garden beds. Remember to mulch your garden and containers to reduce the amount of water required. Find out how to install an irrigation system to save you time, money and water.
Consider also planting some edible flowering plants to encourage bees to come into the garden for pollination. Good plants for this include violas, nasturtiums and marigolds and all are easy to grown. These will add flavour, nutrition, colour and beauty to what you are eating.
Vegetable gardening resources
Please contact the Central HSW Workplace Wellbeing Specialist