Colleen Lanier Christensen: March 2011 Archives

SAGE Advice: Plants to purify your office or dorm

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An office or dorm room may seem like an inhospitable place for plants. There is potential for inconsistent care, lack of abundant natural light, and people frequently leave for breaks or vacations, leaving their plants behind.

However, indoor spaces can greatly benefit from greenery - and not just by enhancing aesthetics and reducing occupant stress. NASA conducted a study showing that reduced air circulation in enclosed indoor spaces causes the accumulation of low levels of chemicals emitted by synthetic materials. This results in “Sick Building Syndrome,” where toxins become concentrated inside buildings, reducing indoor air quality and affecting occupant health. Many plants can counteract this effect dramatically. Here’s a list of some manageable plants that filter the air, and hardy plants that can survive no matter what.


Plants that reduce indoor pollution:

  • Feston rose plant: low maintenance and low water, high tolerance of salt and high heat, plus gorgeous flowers in a huge range of colors.
  • Devil’s ivy: keep it on a top shelf so it can climb down, soak it when the soil dries out, and don’t eat it.
  • Phalaenopsis: has lovely white and pink flowers; can’t tolerate direct sunlight or over-watering.
  • African violets: easy to maintain and thrives in moderate light and temperature.
  • Chrysanthemums: a little fussier, needing daily watering, a lot of natural light, and trimming, mums are extremely effective in reducing indoor pollution.
  • Other plants that reduce indoor air pollution include the Peace Lily and Garlic vine (don’t worry, it only smells like garlic when it’s been thoroughly crushed!).

Super low maintenance plants:

  • Cactus: come in incredible variety and usually need only tiny amounts of water and care.
  • ZZ, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia: hearty with sturdy green leaves, ZZ handles low light, low water use, neglect, and is tough indoors.
  • Snake Plants: long upright leaves with striped patterns, should be watered infrequently and can withstand low light.
  • Wandering Jew: preferring warm temperatures, direct sunlight, and somewhat frequent watering; this plant can be grown from just a cutting set in water. Its leaves have a striking pattern and are great to hang in a window.

- Madelyn Freed

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Guest post: Student Government kicks the bottle

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Guest post by Forrest Scofield, a first year in the College and a College Council Representative

Over the past few months, the University of Chicago has become the latest to engage in the nationwide movement to reduce bottled water consumption. Green Campus Initiative, a student run organization at the University, has been working hard to promote this reduction. Recently, GCI partnered with the Student Government Assembly to expand awareness about the issue. 

GCI - bottled water gas price sign in Hutch.jpg

Myself along with Youssef Kalad, a third year Student Government representative, drafted a resolution in support of GCI’s movement. Three weeks ago, we presented the resolution to the Assembly and listened to their concerns and suggestions regarding bottled water consumption on campus.

The discussion that ensued was lively, and many insightful and constructive comments resulted from it. Concerns were raised about the lack of sustainable alternative sources of water on campus, especially for RSOs to use at events. Bottled water’s important role in large events like convocation was also a concern. Initially several representatives opposed the wording of the resolution; some thought it lacked a sense of direction and others thought the information lacked credibility. Several graduate students discussed the disconnect between the college and the graduate schools; several hadn’t heard of the initiative previous to the presentation. The majority of the graduate representatives expressed interest in connecting their divisions to the conversation. 

Two amendments were eventually added to the resolution: one that expressed Student Government’s intention to reduce the availability of funding for bottled water at student run events, and another to include the deans of the graduate divisions to the list of notable recipients.  

The resolution eventually passed 14-6. The negative votes seemed to be based on the semantics of the document, but in general the intentions of the resolution received warm support from the Assembly. 

With the support of the resolution in hand, I will be working closely with Green Campus Initiative, Joe Sullivan, and the Office of Sustainability to expand our effort to the graduate schools and discuss ways to provide student organizations free and sustainable water alternatives. 

For further information, please check out our Facebook page or shoot me an email at

For more, view the final resolution and the Maroon’s coverage.

Photo courtesy of UChicago Students Against Bottled Water

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Colleen Lanier Christensen in March 2011.

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