Remember all that fuss we made over the drop in air pollution as Covid-19 brought the world to a grinding halt?
While it felt good knowing the air outside was a little less toxic than usual, experts think we should actually be more concerned about the air we breathe inside, which is alarming given that we are a nation of homebodies.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor pollutants can be two to five times higher than outside and, worryingly, some evidence points towards this worsening during the pandemic.
According to a 2018 study the average Brit spends 90% of their day indoors.
Factor in the hoards of people now working from home (not to mention the multiple lockdowns and quarantine restrictions) and you have a recipe for a whole host of pollution induced issues from asthma and eczema to pneumonia and lung cancer.
But it’s not just our health that suffers when we breathe dirty air.
Some studies have linked air pollution to impaired judgement, mental health issues, poorer performance in school and spikes in crime.
What causes indoor air pollution?
As well as exhaust and industry fumes that cause air pollution and seep in from outside, miniscule particles add up to cause a big problem for our lungs. Particles from the below help to cause indoor air pollution
- smoking (that includes vaping)
- lighting candles
- spraying aerosol cans
- using plug in air fresheners
In fact 9 out of 10 of us are breathing in levels of pollutants that exceed WHO guideline limits for indoor air pollution.
You could just open a window of course, but if you live on a busy road like we do this could end up letting in the dust and exhaust fumes you want to keep out and as much as we’d like it to be, our weather just isn’t good enough to have the windows open all of the time, all year around.
That’s where air purifiers come in handy.
What is an air purifier?
Air purifiers trap the micro particles that cause indoor air pollution and allow clean air to circulate, meaning less exposure to the particles that lead to irritation, allergies and respiratory diseases.
But before you start Googling best air purifiers let us introduce you to briiv.
briiv, (pronounced breathe) aims to clean up the air in our homes so we can breathe as nature intended.
Unlike traditional air purifying devices, it uses natural, biodegradable materials to filter the air and is able to rid toxins from a 36m2 space in just an hour.
When the filters need to be replaced (the briiv app will let you know, of course), you can pop the old lichen and coconut layers on the compost and the send the biodegradable silk matrix layer safely off to landfill.
When the filters need to be replaced (the briiv app will let you know, of course), you can pop the old ones on the compost.
So how is briiv different from traditional air purifiers?
Created by FiveCreate, a team of environmentally conscious, tech savvy designers and funded with the help of Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers, briiv is an innovative air purifier which has been designed with people and planet in mind.
How do air purifiers work?
Your bog standard air purification device uses a medley of difficult to recycle coated metals, fiberglass and bonded plastics which ultimately end up in landfill or a CO2 spurting-incinerator.
Conversely, briiv steers clear of the petroleum industry, using 100% renewable and natural materials to rid our air of nasty particles.
Unlike regular HEPA filters (which were designed in the 1950s, the decade that also launched the now ubiquitous polyethylene bag) briiv’s filters aren’t made, they’re grown, says Creative Director Sean Sykes at FiveCreate.
“There are very few manufacturers that use air filters from natural sources; and virtually no producers of electronic items that try to tackle end of life disposal and contamination of their product” .
The result from traditional air purifiers, says briiv, is a 6,000 tonne mountain of HEPA filters which take millenia to break down.
briiv’s non toxic air purifier is sleek, sustainable, and importantly just as effective at removing pollutants than its industry counterparts.
So what exactly is briiv made of?
briiv’s base is made from a new bio-plastic derived from elephant grass, which grows on land where agricultural crops won’t grow. For bonus sustainability points the crop captures carbon in the process and fully biodegrades.
The next layer consists of activated carbon, which absorbs harmful gases known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). You might not have heard the name but you’re no doubt being exposed to some wherever you’re reading this.
VOCs are emitted from paints, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleaning sprays, dry cleaned clothes, air fresheners, office equipment and more.
Exposure to VOCs can lead to a range of side effects too long and scary to list but there’s a handy info sheet from the EPA here.
Next up it’s the ‘silk matrix’ layer. A bespoke combination of silk protein and activated carbon materials. The type of silk used is called Ahimsa Silk or Peace Silk, a type of ‘non-violent’ silk which doesn’t kill or harm the silkworm as the cocoons are harvested once the moth has hatched.
However, vegans will be pleased to hear the company is currently looking into a completely silk-free method.
Experts advise investing in a filter that can suck up fine dust particles of 0.3 micrometres and that’s exactly what the silk layer does.
The coir fibres are created entirely from coconut waste sourced mostly from India. The coir can capture PM5.0, which includes pollen, dust, animal dander, mould spores and allergens.
The ‘moss’ is actually not a moss but a lichen called ‘Reindeer Moss’ which has been found to naturally absorb PM10 particles, such as allergens and other pollutants.
It is sustainably sourced by a Scandinavian company who are careful not to over harvest and have a deep respect for the forest. The lichen is treated so it can work its magic for up to a year. Remember it’s not actually a true moss, so you can’t pick this yourself.
Achieving carbon neutral
briiv has partnered with Carbonfund to offset its emissions and is working on sourcing materials as close to the UK as possible.
Additionally the start-up is helping boost our tree numbers through its partnership with Treeapp.
Sykes says “As a team, we want to exist and design, produce and distribute products in the most Earth-friendly way possible.”
And that’s an ethos we can get on board with.
Best air purifier in the UK?
We think briiv’s commitment to its materials having less impact means it’s head and shoulders above more traditional air purifiers like Dyson.
The silk, coir and moss layers can be composted at home, but what about the base?
Sykes says, “In stark contrast to every other air purifier and filter on the market today, the body of the briiv Air Filter biodegrades naturally. This is because the unit is made of 100% bio-plastic derived from Elephant Grass.”
Although this means putting it in your regular bin, the bioplastic will eventually biodegrade.
“This is in contrast to traditional HEPA filters which take millennia to break-down; and when they do, they leave behind microplastic particles which render the soil useless for plants. That’s the big difference with bio-plastics as well, when they break down, they turn back into something the soil can use again.”
Do air purifiers work?
In short yes, better than you might think. We love an indoor urban jungle as much as the next eco warrior but frankly, we wouldn’t have the time, space or enough sunny windowsills to take care of 3,042 plants, which is how many you’d need to have the same air purifying effect as a briiv.
Besides, it looks like a terrarium so you can have all the biophilic benefits without spending hours with a watering can.
For managing director James Whitfield, the design is about more than just aesthetics.
“We are an active bunch that love being outdoors and in the county, so it was important for us to not only bring the benefits of cleaner air but also to have that visual connection with the outdoors and our natural world.”
Now, if you already have a burgeoning houseplant collection, you might be thinking your air is already getting the filter treatment. However, this marketing ploy almost exclusively stems from a 1989 NASA experiment, which was conducted in a hard-to-replicate-at-home sealed chamber.
“This study has been quoted countless times over the years by people promoting plants as air purifiers. However, when you look closer, you’ll see that their study used plants in conjunction with activated carbon (which is what really did the air cleaning magic),” writes briiv in an article debunking the myth.
Besides briiv’s size means there’ll still be plenty of room for your plants.
Designed with circularity in mind
If we think about many of the devices we use every day, only a tiny fraction – if any – have been designed with circularity in mind.
For the briiv team it was important to consider the whole life cycle of their product, from the sustainably sourced raw materials to the 100% recycled and recyclable packaging.
briiv comes with a one year guarantee and the design means specific parts can be easily replaced such as the fan or glass (rather than replacing the whole product).
But don’t take our word for it.
briiv is already clocking up awards for its stylish design and ethical ethos, including receiving Gold from The A’ Design Award & Competition and receiving the The Red Dot Award 2021 for Product Design.
And you can’t fault their ambition.
“For us, sustainable eco-production is a life-long mission.” Sykes tells us.
“We are re-investing nearly everything we make in profitability back into research and development, to tackle other urgent issues.”
The team has set their sights on taking the plastic and waste out of traditional manufacturing and they want to play their part in greening traditionally carbon-heavy industries. So watch this space.
Ready to join the green air revolution? Pre-order your sustainable air purifier from briiv here.