There is More to Green Painting than Mixing Blue and Yellow
The biggest buzzwords in the paint industry (and every where else it seems) are “Green” and “Sustainability”. I think some people’s eyes may glaze over when they hear Green, because it is very easy to associate it with a Granola-eating Hippy mentality.
With that in mind, please allow me to throw out a few disclaimers: I drive a small car because it is cheaper to operate, I wear Birkenstocks around the house because they are comfortable, and both my girlfriend and I bath often. I am not a vegan and I don’t compost. None the less, “Green” or Low VOC paint products make a lot of sense to me. So called Green Painting Practices are not only “good for the planet”, many of them make good economic sense as well!
Traditional painting is a dirty business, and not just from the drips and spills! Traditional oil based paints depended upon highly volatile solvents to carry the pigments. These solvents would evaporate from the paint after it was applied, contributing to air pollution and urban smog. Many of these paints also used poisonous heavy metals like lead as pigments. Even regular latex paints can contain compounds that are unfriendly to the environment and irritating to people exposed to them. Think about the “new paint smell” that can drive you out of the room for a couple of days after painting.
Paint manufacturers have worked to develop “Low VOC” (Volatile Organic Compound) paints. These are usually made with a water based solvent. The manufacturers have also made it a priority that their Green Paints are not just environmentally friendly, but they perform as well or better than traditional paints. Modern Low VOC paints are low odor, safe to work with, and easy to clean, in addition to giving a durable, washable coating. There are several different “Green” certifications, ranging from governmental bodies to various non-profit organizations.
There are a few practices that Green Painting contractors (and bloggers) like to hold up as environmentally friendly, but most of them just make good economic and work sense for the amateur painter. These include not buying more paint than you will need, follow the manufacturer’s advice on how much paint is needed for your project; if you do have left over paint be sure the container is tightly sealed so that the extra can be used later and to prevent the unnecessary release of VOCs; and dispose of waste paint properly. Wet paint fits most municipality’s definition of Hazardous Waste, but it the paint on disposable drop-cloths and in the bottom of paint cans is allowed to dry before disposal, there are no HW worries. Dried paint is simply trash.