I don’t insist on using natural ‘eco’ paints, but I can advise you on products that perform as well as ‘conventional’ paints with less harm to our health and the environment. I'm happy to provide you with quotes for both options so you can compare the cost and make an informed decision. If you’re on a budget or simply want to use your preferred paint brand, that’s fine.
One of the main reasons for people to choose paints which use fewer harmful chemicals is for their health. The chemicals in mainstream paints ‘off gas’ which means we breathe in toxic fumes in our own homes for months after application. Allergy sufferers can often have reactions to the solvents in conventional paints.
The name ‘eco-paint’ is misleading because we can’t say this one is, and that one isn’t, an ‘eco-paint’. But we can say that some paints are less toxic than others, have lower VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) than others, or produce less toxic waste in production than others.
Paints usually contain pigment (colour), a binder or resin (carrier and a glue for the colour), solvent to aid application and a dryer. In ‘natural’ paints, these materials tend to be plant-based rather than synthetic. Synthetic ingredients, such as the vinyl and acrylic used in most conventional emulsion paints, tend to be by-products of the petrochemical industry. Plant based ingredients come from processes which are less damaging than petrochemical-based synthetic processes.
They perform as well, and are actually far better to use in many ways. Paint technology is moving on all the time, particularly in producing high performing water based (as opposed to more harmful solvent based) paints. It seems the reason many people still use ‘conventional’ paints is partly due to the lack of incentives for the big paint producers to change their production methods, lack of knowledge amongst consumers, and because they are seen to cost more. The cost does vary but be aware that when buying any paint, it's important to take the coverage into account.
VOCs are volatile organic compounds. VOCs ‘off gas’ releasing toxic fumes which are harmful to health. EU regulations came into force in 2010 to limit the VOC levels in paints.
Ethical Consumer suggest these simple tips for people who want to make more environmentally and health friendly choices.
60 second green guide
An estimated 80 million litres of paint, enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is stored in homes and garages or just thrown away. This paint tends to be stored and then disposed of in landfill. Never pour leftover paint into drains.
I donate unwanted leftover paint to Community Repaint. They collect paint for community groups, voluntary organisations and charities.