Environment Paint

Environmentally Friendly Paint: An Introduction to Green Finishes

Environmentally friendly paints
Michelle Tether
Written by Michelle Tether

Sooner or later you’re going to want to decorate something by applying environmentally friendly paint of some sort, it could even be varnish, stain, urethane, or what have you. It’s a common urge, a very natural part of living. Just about everybody does it but it’s probably not surprising to hear that something preventing wood decay is also not all that good for the environment. In this article, I will offer solutions but more than that, I want to create a little awareness as such of these products responsibly is far more important – after all we have to be realistic, we don’t want new windows or a hand railing to start rotting early because we didn’t use a treatment and the correct paint. Did you know you can make brilliant indoor decor finishes cheaply with environmentally friendly paints? It’s outdoors where we have to step up the chemicals – this is probably unsurprising. Here’s an example of what you can do with Farrow and Ball. Beautiful and this kind of decorative finish can be achieved quickly as well.

Decorating with Environmentally friendly paints

Decorating with environmentally friendly paints. Image source.

If you’re like a lot of people, the first thing you’ll think of is, What colour do I want this thing to be? Then you might say to yourself, Well, what sort of paint will stay on there the longest? Latex? Alkyd? Oil? As you can see above it doesn’t need to be that complicated indoors, just come up with a good design plan, and then you’ll only need to buy the correct amount of paint. This is equally as important in helping the environment.

But if you’re concerned about your environment, you will also be thinking in terms of the effects that paint will have on you and your world – and you’ll want to know a little more about the paint you’re using.

Maybe you’ll want to find some practical, environmentally responsible alternatives to standard finishes.
If you’re trying to live on this planet in a sustainable manner, with a view to minimising your ecological footprint, one of the things you’ll probably have to do is preserve the shelter you’re living in – so that it lasts longer, and so you don’t have to go out at odd intervals and cut down trees to make clapboard to seal your home envelope. This is the advice I would offer. Timber is extremely poor quality these days. Use preservatives carefully. Insure they are applied well, and none spills or runs off into the ecology. The fumes are collateral damage. Let’s be real here. You just paid £1000 + for a beautiful hand rail. You are hardly about to let that rot, and don’t feel guilty about it. Just be aware of how your treating it. A lot of professionals are using Cuprinol 5 Star. It’s not brilliant for the environment, what preservative is, but you shouldn’t need to feel guilty about using it.

Environmentally friendly preservatives

Environmentally friendly preservatives

You can, of course, live in a cave or a teepee, and thereby rid yourself of the need to paint. That’s a great way to limit your ecological footprint but hardly realistic! More power to you but there’s a positive to preservative. Your timber lasts longer, and so you chop down less trees.

What environmentally friendly paint is out there

Most of the paint available these days for external use comes with a fairly high environmental price tag: yeah, it’ll stay put all right, if properly applied. The more dangerous, less environmentally friendly paints tend to be cheaper but it might make your world a little harder to live in, by putting more smog in the air (due to the Volatile Organic Chemicals [VOCs] it contains), or it might even make you sick, or shorten your life – in other words, kill you, extreme but true and I said this article was about awareness. Breathing in lead paint from refurbishing your original sash windows is hardly good for you, but no wonder the old wood lasts so long with that kind of quality protection.

What’s in it

But in fact we do know that many paints and finishes in common use today contain solvents and chemicals that, once airborne or put in contact with your skin, promote cancer – are carcinogenic effects, in other words. The list of carcinogens and neurotoxins commonly found in paint include benzene, formaldehyde, kerosene, ammonia, toluene, and xylene.

And we also know that “causing cancer” is not a matter of a one-time exposure to a given chemical or any other biological miscue. Broadly speaking, cancer is caused by the accumulation of oncogenic information, i.e. little chemical “signals” that tell cells to multiply out of control. (Would that we could find the offcogens!)

In every case, the question is, how much oncogenic information have you already been exposed to? Have you ever been exposed to carcinogenic airborne chemicals? Probably but then, you want your garden trellis to look something like this and we must compromise:

Outdoor paint protecting wood but what cost to environment

Image source. Outdoor paint protecting wood but what cost to environment

Ever smell paint? Of course. Then you have been exposed to those carcinogens. Now you need to ask, What kind? How often? How long? And how long before your own exposure exceeds that oncogenic limit, and you begin to get sick? Are you playing chemical roulette by putting more carcinogens in your environment?

Or perhaps you’ve been overexposed to various chemicals over the years, and now any whiff, any taint of that compound or chemical will make you nauseous, dizzy, and just plain sick. This is called “chemical sensitivity,” and it happens to a lot of people. If you’re chemically sensitive, you’re going to want to limit your exposure to airborne chemicals and solvents, to say the least.

Ok, I will get to the point. Dulux Weathershield is incredible for protecting your home. But it is not all that good for the environment. Make sure you use it correctly, you don’t pour the cleaning overspill of white methylated spirits down the drain, in short act responsibly!

If your still unsure this is a very good video on how to handle excess paint.


About the author

Michelle Tether

Michelle Tether

I love everything home. I write as a passion for non profit about the things I love.