Live Green and Earn Points


Q & A: Eco-Friendly Paints

Written by Diane MacEachern .
"Green" paint refers to more than the color. What to look for from an eco-friendly paint.
Originally Published: 10/19/09

Question: I am renovating my living room and have been seeing more and more eco-friendly paints in stores. I don't quite understand what makes them "green" and don't know which ones will actually last through the wear and tear. Help!

"Green" paint refers to more than the color. It also refers to what the paint is made of and the impact it has on the environment. Conventional paint contains toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that go airborne as soon as the can is opened. VOCs contribute to smog when they hit the outside air. Indoors, VOCs have been linked to respiratory and nervous-system disorders, and contribute to the fact that indoor air can be ten times more polluted than it is outside. You know that headachey, cranky feeling you get when a room is being painted? It's usually because of the VOCs.

Fortunately, virtually every paint company has now developed a no-VOC paint. They roll on smoothly without polluting the air, and because they're water-based, they clean up easily with soap and water. I recently re-painted my entire home (indoors and out) with VOC-free paint, and I couldn't have been happier. I love the finished colors and the fact that I could work and sleep in my home, while it was being painted, with absolutely no ill effects. Even though VOC-free paints can be more expensive than the conventional options, my family's health is priceless, and the cost was easily justified. Here are some options:

Want to know what to look for when you shop? Check the products that meet the independent standards for health and safety set by Green Seal, a non-profit research institute.

Water-Based Paints

Sherwin-Williams Harmony Interior Latex: Contains zero-VOCs and is virtually odorless. Its water-based, anti-microbial formula gives a durable finish that is washable and prevents mildew growth. Available as both a primer and topcoat in eggshell, flat and semi-gloss finishes.

Benjamin Moore Natura: Another zero-VOC, low-odor option that can be tinted to match any color. Water-based, fade-resistant, and washable, it dries in 30 minutes and can be recoated after only one hour.

American Pride Paint: Also contains no VOCs, is almost entirely odor-free, and currently available in over 1,200 colors. Its interior latex and acrylic enamel paints are spatter resistant, with a washable finish.

Natural Paints

BioShield Clay Paints: Made from natural occurring earth borne clays, these paints are available in a range of down-to-earth tones and textures.

Green Planet Paints: Made from plant resins and mineral pigments, contains zero VOCs and are easy to apply. These natural paints come in a palette of 48 durable mineral and clay based colors.

The Real Milk Paint Company: Made with milk protein, lime, clay and earth pigments, this paint not only consists of 100 percent organic material but is also VOC-free. Can be mixed with pigment powders to create any color.

If you feel you must choose a paint that contains VOCs, make sure you read the label. VOC content, which is usually listed in grams per liter, can range from 5 to 200. Choose the product containing the least amount of VOC. Ask the retailer for guidance if you're not clear on your options.

By the way, painting with no VOC paint is just the first step. To get the most out of every gallon of paint you buy, follow these Paint How-To tips, and if you're inspired to green up other parts of your home, check out these eco-friendly home renovation resources.

Do you have tips for buying green paint? Share your tips below!

Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.

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  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    nice info.
  • 5 years ago
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  • 5 years ago
    I have never herad of VOc before today thank you
  • 5 years ago
    In addition to friendly paints I also use friendly materials like canvas drop cloths that can be re-washed or just dried. Reusable painting tools too.
  • 5 years ago
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