Vertical Gardens: A Solution to Pollution? - Backyard Boss
We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.

Vertical Gardens: A Solution to Pollution?

Vertical gardens have been gaining popularity both in homes and large urban areas around the globe. These green walls, or living walls, are a great way to add a touch of the natural world to our concrete-heavy cities and even indoors in our homes and offices. However, many environmentalists are now starting to point to these gardens as a potential solution for the pollution problems that have come from a growing population.

We have long understood the positive health benefits of spending time outdoors. It is why I love spending as much time outside as I do. Whether I’m gardening, hiking, camping, or just relaxing in the backyard, I love being surrounded by plants and greenery.

It only makes sense that we would want to take those benefits and extend them to those living in urban spaces with a shortage of natural environments nearby. After all, according to the World Health Organization, 9 out of 10 people worldwide are breathing polluted air. But can they help us combat the smog and noise pollution that is often associated with larger cities?

The experts are saying that they may play an important role in a bigger environmental plan!

What Is a Vertical Garden?

an indoor space with a living wall and houseplants around the exterior of the space
Image Credit: Scott Webb on Unsplash

A vertical garden is a garden space designed to leverage vertical space. It can be done using tiered planters, trellises with vines, suspended panels, garden towers, and other garden structures. Many forms of these gardens exist, including both indoor and outdoor gardens. Small-scale home gardens can be built on balconies or patios, while larger-scale products include green walls or living walls that can cover the surface of commercial structures. The only requirement is that the gardens are built to extend on a vertical axis rather than spreading out horizontally, requiring a larger area of land.

How Long Does a Vertical Garden Last?

a living wall on the side of a large commercial building
Image Credit: Nara Figueiredo on Pixabay

The lifespan of your new vertical garden will depend on a couple of different factors. First, there is the durability of the structure itself. Budget home garden kits may only last a year or two if left outdoors in the elements. However, if you purchase a higher-quality garden tower or planter kit that is designed to withstand damage caused by inclement weather or UV rays, your investment will likely last significantly longer.

    Amazing Creation Stackable Planter Vertical Garden

two garden towers, one with greenery planted in it
    This weather-resistant and durable 5 tier garden tower allows you to grow herbs, flowers, vegetables and strawberries indoors while the trickle-down water system conserves water.

Commercial vertical garden panels are designed with a longer lifespan, with many manufacturers advertising their products as having a lifespan of 20 years, 25 years, or more.

In addition to the planter, there is also the lifespan of the plants themselves. When selecting plants for your vertical garden, research their average lifespan and the optimal environment. If your garden is going to be set up somewhere with significant sunlight, for example, you will want to choose plants that thrive in direct sunlight. On the other hand, if your vertical garden will grow in the shade, your plant choices should reflect that.

How Does a Vertical Garden Help Fight Pollution?

vertical garden in a patio
Image Credit: cultivar413 via Creative Commons

Improved Air Quality

The idea that plants work to improve the air quality in a given area is not a new concept. It is a long-recognized solution to air pollution levels that have led many urban areas to plant more trees and green spaces. Studies have found that the introduction of grass, climbing ivy, and other plants in urban areas can reduce the presence of nitrogen oxide by up to 40% and the presence of particulate matter by up to 60%, greatly improving the air quality at the street level.

As vertical gardens introduce many plants in a single vertical space, they can optimize this benefit indoors and outdoors. Many office buildings and other higher-traffic spaces are introducing green walls indoors to improve indoor air quality. This same concept can be used on a smaller scale through the addition of a vertical garden in your home or office space.

    ANGTUO Vertical Hanging Garden Planter with 6 Pockets

three hanging planters, 1 with flowers pink, yellow and red flowers in it
    A hanging garden planter suitable for most garden plants with 6 individual pockets, each lined with a waterproof back layer to protect your walls.

Meanwhile, cities are combating higher pollution levels within their boundaries by using the exterior wall of some of their larger buildings to create outdoor garden spaces. One impressive example is the construction of the Easyhome Huanggang Vertical Forest City Complex in Huanggang, China. In this complex, several buildings, including residences, hotels, and large commercial spaces, were built with vertical forests to introduce the benefits of nature into a highly populated urban space.

The many plants in these gardens work by filtering pollutants from the air and reducing carbon dioxide levels. In this way, they are one part of a bigger plan in many cities and urban areas to reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Reduced Noise Pollution Levels

Another great benefit of building vertical gardens is their ability to reduce noise pollution levels. When planted on walls bordering busier roads and highways, the plants work to naturally block the sounds created by traffic. By absorbing and reflecting the noise coming off these busy roadways, which is a significant part of the noise created in a city setting, they can greatly reduce the noise levels in nearby buildings.

Lower Energy Costs

If you live in a warmer climate area, then you likely see increased energy bills throughout the hot summer months with the high energy demand of air conditioning units. The same can be said for the impact on the energy bills due to heat for those living in the cooler climate areas. What you may not realize is that incorporating vertical gardens either on your internal or external walls can help to reduce these energy costs.

Adding a garden to your living space will work to your benefit in two different ways. First, the plants themselves combined with the soil and the air that surrounds them can act as a form of insulation.

Second, the plants included in your vertical gardens will work to reduce the temperatures both on the surface of the walls themselves as well as the surrounding air through a process called evapotranspiration. Studies show that this alone can reduce summer temperatures by 2 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit which, although it doesn’t seem like much, can make a noticeable difference in you’re the temperature of your home or office on its own or combined with other cooling methods.

Reduced Demand for Land

With a growing world population, we have seen an increasing demand for food. As many environmentalists can attest, this has led to the destruction of our environment at an alarming rate. On a more local front, many cities and towns see more wildlife within their boundaries, as their natural habitat is destroyed for further development (including agriculture).

Vertical gardens open the door to a new urban farming opportunity, allowing people to grow food with limited space. By optimizing the available vertical space, they can be set up on apartment balconies, in small urban yards, and even on the side of large structures.

While this cannot replace the larger-scale commercial farming operations often associated with environmental destruction, they are one small part of a larger pollution solution. In addition to reducing the demand for land by growing even more plants on a small footprint, they also provide a low-cost option for fresh, homegrown produce. It can be used to help address issues with poverty and malnutrition in many areas.

Are Vertical Gardens the Perfect Solution to A Growing Pollution Problem?

The installation of vertical gardens in an urban environment will not suddenly solve the pollution problems that the area is facing. They are far from a ‘fix all’ solution for a polluted city. However, they can be used as a piece of a much bigger puzzle.

Creating a vertical garden at home is a great way to start reducing your carbon footprint. If each person were to make a few small changes in their lifestyle, it would add up to create a much bigger shift on a global scale. At the same time, these lifestyle changes will help to improve our quality of life by providing us with a healthier home environment.