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Artificial Greenery & Biophilia, Match Made in Where?

In the world of interior design, the concept of biophilia has a wide range of acceptance and application in recent years. Biophilia refers to the innate human tendency to seek connections with nature and other living beings. This idea has given rise to biophilic design, an approach that aims to incorporate natural elements into built environments to improve the health, well-being, and productivity of occupants. While the intentions behind biophilic design are commendable, the increasing use of faux plants in these spaces has raised concerns about the authenticity and sustainability of this practice.

Understanding Biophilic Design

At its core, biophilic design is about creating spaces that nurture the human-nature connection. This is achieved by integrating natural elements such as plants, water features, natural light, and organic materials into the built environment. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to nature, even in small doses, can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance overall well-being. As a result, many designers and architects have embraced biophilic design as a way to create spaces that promote health and happiness.

Can Faux Plants, Artificial Greenery be considered as Biophilic Design Element

However, the use of faux plants in biophilic design is a questionable trend. While these artificial plants, faux greenery and artificial wall gardens crafted with faux plants may mimic the appearance of their natural counterparts, they are made from Plastic, Polyethylene (PE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polyester, Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS), Polyurethane (PU) or Synthetic Rubber which are all byproducts, derived from petrochemical processes. The use of materials that are byproducts of petrochemical processes contradicts the fundamental principles of sustainable and green design, which prioritize the use of eco-friendly and renewable materials.

Furthermore, the use of these plastic (or PE, PVC, PP, PS, PU and other Poly-something) plants in biophilic design raises both environmental, health, and aesthetic concerns. While manufacturing techniques have improved, faux plants often struggle to convincingly replicate the essence of nature, potentially detracting from the overall appeal of a space. Moreover, the static nature of these artificial plants lacks the dynamic and ever-changing qualities that make natural elements so captivating.

One significant drawback of faux plants is their tendency to attract and accumulate dust. The electrostatic properties of the plastic and other Poly-starting named materials used in these artificial plants cause them to act as “dust magnets,” collecting not only the dust that settles on them but also attracting airborne dust particles from the surrounding environment. Basically all airborne dust particles in the environment ends up on these faux greenery, connecting to each other on these leaves.

Over time, typically within six months to a year, the electrostatic nature of faux plants leads to a noticeable accumulation of dust and a dull, lifeless, bland appearance. The combination of ambient humidity and attracted dust particles creates a sticky, unappealing surface on the artificial leaves, discouraging physical interaction of occupants with these plants.

While faux greenery may look appealing immediately after installation, the inherent static properties of plastic and other petrochemical-derived materials make them prone to dust accumulation, ultimately compromising their attractiveness.

As a result, these faux plants, faux greenery and artificial gardens often end up as landfill waste, contradicting the initial goal of bringing nature indoors and promoting a sustainable approach. The short lifespan and disposable nature of these artificial elements undermine the principles of biophilic design and sustainability.

If Biophilia is the main goal for these designed spaces for the positive psychological, hormonal, physiological and even behavioral effects on the occupants, the views of the nature, even a beautiful mural on the wall, or a large poster showing nature in its prime will serve that purpose without the need of introducing plastic, or a byproduct of a petrochemical process to these spaces. One should always consider the Indoor Environmental Quality when introducing interior products in any built environment.

Psychological Impact (if any) of Faux Plants, Artificial Greenery

More importantly, recent studies have shown that faux materials mimicking their natural counterparts are not perceived as natural by the human psyche. These studies conclude, faux plants and greenery, stone/marble looking porcelain or wood looking LVT products are not perceived as natural by the occupants in those designed spaces.

Our brains are wired to recognize and respond positively to genuine nature, and artificial substitutes simply don’t trigger the same beneficial responses. In fact, the presence of faux plants, artificial greenery, or artificial wall gardens may even have a negative impact, as they can create a sense of disconnection and inauthenticity within the space.

When the biophilic design and its positive effects are considered, use of the Faux Plants or artificial foliage unfortunately do not cut it, or fit the bill, furthermore it causes the negative response because of the “FAKE” nature of the product.

The Hidden Dangers of Faux Greenery; Chemical Leaching & VOC Exposure

In addition to the environmental and aesthetic concerns mentioned above surrounding faux plants, there is another crucial aspect to consider: the potential health risks posed by these artificial elements. As clarified earlier, almost all commercially available faux greenery are made from these synthetic materials, which are derived from petrochemical processes. These materials can release harmful chemicals into the air, compromising the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and posing health risks to occupants.

Studies have shown that plastic and these byproducts of petrochemical process, including those used in artificial plants, can leach complex mixtures of extractable chemicals that are toxic. These chemicals can induce baseline toxicity, oxidative stress response, antiandrogenicity, and estrogenicity. The synthetic materials in fake plants can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been linked to a variety of health problems such as headaches, dizziness, respiratory issues, and even cancer in some cases.

Moreover, the lifecycle of synthetic plants involves transportation and distribution, further increasing their carbon footprint. When these fake plants degrade or are disposed of improperly, they can release harmful chemicals into the environment, affecting soil and water quality and impacting ecosystems and wildlife.

Research has demonstrated that plastic products, including those used in artificial plants, can leach chemicals into water and air under realistic conditions, contributing to the human exposome and environmental pollution. The leaching of VOCs from plastic materials has been well-documented, highlighting the potential health and environmental risks associated with their use in indoor spaces.

As we strive to create healthy and sustainable environments through biophilic design, it is crucial to consider not only the aesthetic and psychological aspects but also the potential health hazards posed by artificial, faux plants. By opting for natural alternatives like preserved moss and plants, we can minimize the risk of chemical leaching and VOC emissions, ensuring a safer and healthier indoor environment for all occupants.

The Oxymoron Concept of Faux Plants, Faux Greenery & Artificial Wall Gardens (simply Plastic) in Green , Sustainable or Biophilic Design

The use of faux plants and faux greenery in biophilic design raises a fundamental question: is it contradictory for individuals or organizations to align themselves with the green movement, sustainability, or biophilic design principles while simultaneously utilizing products derived from petrochemical process, such as plastic or polyvinyl or polyethylene greenery? The answer is a clear yes. The green movement is rooted in the principles of environmental stewardship, sustainability, and the promotion of natural ecosystems. The use of plastic plants, which are derived from non-renewable resources and contribute to environmental pollution, stands in stark contrast to these core values.

In fact, the term “oxymoron” properly describes the use of faux plants and artificial greenery elements in the context of biophilic design or green design principles. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms, and the juxtaposition of plastic and other petrochemical byproduct made faux plants with the concepts of sustainability and natural harmony perfectly exemplifies this linguistic paradox.

Embracing Authentic Natural Elements

So, what is the solution? The answer lies in embracing authentic, natural elements in biophilic design. Living plants, with their inherent beauty and vitality, are the ideal choice for creating spaces that truly connect people with nature. Even the nature views or large picture installations that show the nature in its prime could be an alternative to fake greenery, while fulfilling the IEQ goals of the projects.

The presence of real plants not only enhances the visual appeal of a space but also provides numerous health benefits, such as improved air quality, reduced stress levels, and increased productivity.

Although the living plants have all these great attributions, they also have some fall backs such as constant maintenance requirement, resource (water and electric for lights or irrigation systems) to keep them alive, and they are not allergy-friendly or pest-friendly. There are many commercial places that refrain using the living plants, healthcare industry specially being the one that has rules against using potted plants or living gardens due to the issues related to infection control.

Preserved Moss and Plants – A Perfect Solution for Green – Biomimicry Movement

Due to these maintenance, pest control, and upkeep of living plants are a serious challenge for commercial interiors, especially in commercial or public spaces, preserved moss and preserved plants offer a perfect solution as they offer the natural look and feel, while they do not require any maintenance for long periods of time. These natural elements undergo a specialized preservation process that maintains their vibrant appearance and texture without the need for water, sunlight, or constant care. Preserved moss and plants are real, organic materials that have been sustainably harvested and treated to create long-lasting, low-maintenance installations. Being natural elements humans accustomed to, these preserved gardens also help creating environments that fit in to Biomimicry principles.

Even in the healthcare projects where the living plants, living gardens are not Kosher to use, preserved moss, preserved planter inserts and gardens crafted with all-natural preserved foliage became a solid Biophilic Design solution, as more and more healthcare and healing spaces use these no maintenance preserved moss and plants.

The Biophilic Benefits of Preserved Nature in terms of Neuroscience

Unlike faux plants, preserved moss and plants are recognized as natural (and part of nature) by the human psyche. They provide the same biophilic benefits as living plants, triggering positive responses and promoting a sense of well-being. Moreover, preserved plants are an eco-friendly choice, as they are biodegradable and do not contribute to plastic pollution. Since these preserved moss and plant species are registered in our psyche as natural elements, and remind us the nature in itself, they offer immediate connection, quick release of Oxytocin, and reduction in our cortisol production, thus reduced stress. None of these positive responses can be achieved by using the Faux Plants in designed space.

Versatility and Durability of Preserved Plants

Incorporating preserved moss and plants into biophilic design allows for the creation of stunning, naturalistic environments that require minimal upkeep. These installations can be customized to suit any space, from small accent walls to large-scale green features. The versatility and durability of preserved plants make them an ideal solution for both residential and especially in commercial settings, offering the benefits of biophilia without the challenges of maintaining living plants, and having to deal with dust balls of faux plants that will eventually be a landfill.


In conclusion, the use of faux plants, fake greenery and artificial wall gardens in biophilic design is a match made in hell. It undermines the very principles of sustainability and authenticity that biophilic design seeks to promote. As we strive to create spaces that nurture the human-nature connection, it is essential to prioritize the use of genuine, natural elements. Preserved moss and preserved plants offer a compelling alternative, providing the beauty and benefits of nature without compromising on sustainability or practicality. By embracing these authentic, eco-friendly solutions, we can create spaces that truly embody the essence of biophilia and contribute to a greener, healthier future.

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