When the pandemic began, people had to grapple with the reality of being confined to their homes.

While many turned to television, video games, books, or other forms of entertainment, an equally large number opted for a more aesthetically focused endeavor – houseplants.

In lieu of human beings, the presence of a different kind of living thing in people’s homes provided an uplifting outlet to channel attention.

In fact, as of 2023, it’s estimated that 66% of households have at least one houseplant, and roughly 25% of those people bought their first houseplant during the pandemic.

That said, while houseplants are undeniably easy on the eyes, some of their benefits can be slightly overstated.

If your friend ever tries to tell you their home’s air quality is higher due to the prevalence of plants, well, chances are they’re lying.

While it’s true that plant species like snake plants, pothos, and others can filter harmful toxins – known as volatile organic compounds, of VOCs – from the air, the reality is the sheer number of plants required to do so is almost surely higher than most every individual can manage in their home (10 houseplants per square foot, to be precise).

But that’s exactly the reason that one startup is devising a method to turn houseplants into their most efficient air-filtering form possible – and hopefully getting rich as a result.

Neoplants, a Paris-based startup, is currently selling genetically modified pothos plants – notorious for being easy to care for and quick growing – that are able to filter the air 30X more effectively than their unmodified counterparts.

Unfortunately, VOCs are more plentiful than many of us realize, as items like air fresheners, cleaning supplies, paint, carpeting, and a host of other things emit them.

If left unchecked and to run rampant, research shows that VOC exposure can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and cognitive ability.

So the presence of startups like Neoplants that are aiming to devise functional solutions to this problem – that look good, to boot – is evidence of the startup ecosystem in action.

And with the genetically modified pothos plants, these VOCs are turned into carbon dioxide, which the plant is then able to use for photosynthesis. A beautiful cycle.

“For too long, the advance of technology has been at the expense of our environment,” Neoplants CEO and co-founder Lionel Mora said in a press release last year. “… Neo P1 is not only the first bioengineered plant designed to be a powerful, natural air purifier, but it is also a way for everyone to join our mission.”

As we continue to search for innovative environmental solutions, startups like Neoplants are doing vital work to turn over every stone.

And who knows, in a matter of years, this company’s roots could be so well developed that it’s ready to grow anywhere it wants.