Green thumbs and helping hands: Plants and Noble is on a mission to spread happiness

Elias Johnson loves plants. As a student at BYU studying biodiversity and conservation, plants are a major part of his life. Not only do they take up a lot of his time, but they take up a lot of his space as well. 

“I just love growing houseplants,” Johnson said. “I have a plethora of houseplants—too many houseplants for my apartment.” 

In fact, he had so many houseplants, his roommates were beginning to wonder what was going on.

“My roommates were like, what is wrong with this?” he said. “Why does he have so many plants? For filling up everything?”

Johnson had his reasons of course: he simply enjoyed keeping them. After working in a greenhouse for research, Johnson realized how much fun it was to propagate and grow houseplants. He recalled a study he read during his schooling that claimed the amount of house plants people have directly correlates with their happiness. The study found that seven plants was enough to maximize their effect, but regardless, Johnson continued to use it to justify purchasing and growing more flora. 

The number of plants was reaching a breaking point, however. With his roommates asking so many questions, Johnson thought it was time to get rid of some of them. But when faced with the task, the question became what does one do with so many houseplants? 

“I knew that plants make me happy, and they probably make other people happy too,” he said.

From that simple idea, Johnson’s shop, Plants and Noble, was born.

Plants and Noble is more than just a plant shop, though. With no dedicated brick and mortar location, it pops up throughout the valley at farmers markets and stalls, like the one they currently have open at The Social in downtown Provo. In addition to the greenery, they also sell art prints and other plant-related items. And while Johnson is spreading happiness with plants, he’s also trying to do more. 

According to their Instagram account, 10% of the proceeds from Plants and Noble are donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Johnson said, in reality, they donate much more.

“I am generally pretty turned off and disgusted by the idea of business and money,” he said. “I think that’s very annoying, so I just donated all the money we made. … That’s probably the future; I’ll just keep doing my thing and donating the money we make.”

And that’s how Johnson expects Plants and Noble to continue. Since he loves plants, he’ll continue growing them, and with limited space in his apartment, he’ll continue to sell them, trying to spread a little happiness and give the proceeds to mental health causes he cares about. 

“A few people [I know], some of my close friends, have actually taken their lives,” Johnson said. “And I’m like, that’s something that we need to sort out in society. And if having a plant can help you do that, then that’s awesome.”

At Plants and Noble, their slogan is “Everyone deserves a plant.” In the broader context of Johnson’s philosophy, it’s another way to say that everyone deserves to be happy.

The shop is staffed by friends and family. Whenever one of their locations pops up, Johnson, his friends, and a lot of the time, his mother, will load up a car and bring the plants to their booth where they’re sold. They have no plans for expanding, or really a desire to. It’s simply a way to spread goodness where they can while maintaining their own enjoyment and happiness.

It’s a simple approach, but it’s working as they sell more and more plants all while expanding their own community. If they meet an artist, a frequent staple at markets and pop-up venues, they’ll ask for art. If it works out, they’ll credit them on social media and fold them into their growing cooperative. Like Johnson’s own propagating plants, the community of Plants and Noble is constantly growing.

As for his own future, Johnson has a clear picture of what he wants. 

“I want to get a Masters and a PhD eventually,” he said. “I’m super interested in environmental policy and philosophy. I want to work on environmental solutions, so preserving biodiversity, conserving land, those kinds of things. Ultimately, that’s where I want to end up.”

More information about Plants and Noble can be found on their Instagram account, @plantsandnoble.

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