House paint can contain some pretty harmful chemicals such as solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that aren’t healthy to breath in. These chemicals evaporate into the air when the paint dries and when inhaled can lead to many side affects such as headaches, dizziness, or even more seriously, disease such as lung cancer. Ensuring that your next paint job is done using environmentally friendly paint is beneficial for a number of reasons:
- Health. Lowers the risk of undesirable side affects or possible disease
- Eco-Friendly. Not hazardous to the environment and cleanup / disposal is much easier
- Less Odor. When using chemical-based paints, strong and hazardous fumes can permeate the room for hours. Environmentally friendly paint allows you to be able to occupy the room sooner with little to no oder.
What is Environmentally Friendly Paint Made Of?
There are various forms of eco friendly paints made from a variety of different ingredients. However, there are essentially three primary forms of eco-friendly paints – Natural Paints, Zero VOC and low VOC. Although these categories of paints are some of the most environmentally friendly paints on the market, there can still exist some volatile organic compounds within them – although they are usually at a much lower quantity.
Natural paints are the best for both health purposes as well as the environment. They are made from raw ingredients such as clay, chalk, marble, natural oils, natural latex, and other nature-based ingredients. These types of paints take significantly less energy and are also beneficial to the walls you are painting. Traditional paints form a sort of seal over your wall which doesn’t allow for any moisture to pass through whereas natural paints improve breathability which aids to reduce moisture problems and improve room climate.
Paints that are classified as zero VOC paints may not be in fact 100% free of volatile organic compounds. According to greenguard.com, it is stated that any paint with VOCs in the amount of 5 grams or less per litre can be considered zero VOC. This is still very low compared to the federal government’s allowance, which according to consumerreports.org, is 250 grams per litre for flat finishes and 380 grams per litre for other finishes. Therefore, although these so called zero VOC paints may not be 100% free of VOCs they are still a great improvement over some of the more chemical-based alternatives.
Low VOC paints have a slightly higher threshold than zero VOC paints as they are allowed to contain as high as 50 grams per litre. These types of paints use water instead of petroleum as a carrier and therefore are still less harmful to the environment than traditional surface coatings. Low VOC paints however produce a stronger odor than their other environmentally friendly paint alternatives, therefore if this does not acceptable for you, it is recommended to purchase a Zero VOC or Natural paint.
Companies Making Eco Friendly Paint
There are many companies making paints in all three categories mentioned above. Below we have listed of few of these companies for each paint type.
The popular paint company, Benjamin Moore has many paints with differing amount of VOCs within them. They also provide a VOC Information sheet which lists a number of their paints and the amount of VOCs associated with each one.
Environmentally Friendly Painting Tips
Besides using an eco-friendly paint, here are a few tips for ensuring your next paint job is the greenest it can be.
- Calculate how much paint you will need. Doing this is good for a couple of reasons 1) it will save you money, 2) it will reduce the amount of waste. Note that a gallon of paint usually covers on-average about 400 square feet.
- Dispose of leftover paint properly. Let the paint dry out before disposing of it as solid waste. Pouring it down the drain or anywhere else in liquid form is not healthy for the environment.
- Avoid cleaning your paint tools. If you are going to be painting over the course of a couple of days try not to clean your tools each day. Rather put them inside of an airtight bag and away from direct sunlight where they won’t dry out.
- Circulate air during the painting process. If you are using a paint which contains some VOCs and are noticing a notable odor, try circulating fresh air through the room to ensure you are helping to reduce indoor air pollutants.
Let us know if you have any other environmentally friendly painting tips or paint company suggestions in the comments section below, we would love to hear them!