Guide to Environmentally Friendly Paint


At first glance the various options for eco-friendly paint can be a bit overwhelming. There is a wide variety of brands that now offer environmentally friendly paints, as well as different types of paint. When considering making the “green” choice for your next painting project there are a few different things to take into account. First off it’s important to understand the difference between natural paints, and water based paints, as well as their strengths and limitations. In order to make the perfect choice for your home you will need to weigh the pros and cons of each particular type of paint, as well as determine which type will best help you turn your idea into a reality.

Natural Paints

There are several different types of natural paints that are available, and they are made through the use of plant dyes, waxes or oils. The most common types are clay paint, milk paint and lime washes. All three have their own individual range of color, as well as application processes. They are worth considering if you are trying to achieve an earthy look to your home, yet they can be difficult to clean and will require touching up over time.

What Are Low VOC Paints?

Regular petroleum based paint contains what the EPA identifies as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which is a type of pollutant that can cause headaches, nausea, and breathing problems when used in an enclosed, poorly ventilated area. In an effort to reduce the amount of these pollutants many paint companies have developed complete lines of low VOC products, including paint, thinner, sealer and varnishes. The low VOC paints are made with a water base instead of the traditional petroleum base and by removing harmful chemicals such as ammonia. They may cost a little more than a regular can of paint, but with low VOC paints you can get a much wider variety of colors than with natural paints, and the application process doesn’t vary. For the EPA’s full definition of VOC’s and more information about them can be found on their website.

Green Seal

Green Seal is an organization that evaluates and provides information about products and services that meet eco-friendly standards. With completion of their certification program, products that have been scientifically proven to be better for the environment are stamped with the “Green Seal”. On their website you can find a complete list of paints, cleaners and various other household items that meet their standards. When in doubt, check the paint can for the Green Seal. You can find information regarding Green Seal online.

Exterior Paints

Unfortunately, because of the durability needs of exterior paint there are less eco-friendly options then there is for interior paint. VOCs are less of an issue with exterior painting projects because of the open air ventilation of being outdoors. Natural paints (with the exception of lime washes) are not durable enough to withstand the elements outside. However, for those that are concerned with outdoor air pollution, there are a few brands out there that do make low VOC exterior paint, such as BioShield Paint or Safecoat.

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