In many aspects of our lives the recent trend is to “go green.” People want eco-friendly lighting, eco-friendly appliances, and eco-friendly fabric. More and more people are becoming environmentally conscious. So naturally they want to make as many green choices as possible. Not only can home appliances be green but even the walls of your home. Today I’m not talking about the color green, rather the ingredients in the paint mixture that are environmentally friendly.
But how exactly do you find a “green” paint to use? Well a simple test is just by the smell that emerges from the paint can when it’s first opened. Regular paint emits a toxic array of greenhouse gases and harmful chemicals that can be headache inducing. That’s why it’s important to have good ventilation while painting a room. Environmentally friendly paints, however, don’t have those same chemicals and therefore do not have that jarring smell.
Of course there are other ways of determining “green” paint before cracking open the can. Here’s what to look for:
Check the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) level of the paint by looking at the paint can’s label. “Green” paints have low levels of VOCs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements are no more than 250 grams per liter in latex-based paints and no more than 380 grams per liter in oil-based paints. However there are paints out there with even lower levels of VOCs.
Fungicides and Biocides Levels
Paints also contain fungicides and biocides. Fungicides prevent mildew and biocides are preservatives meant to increase shelf life. These chemicals contaminate the air and if paint isn’t disposed properly the chemicals can leak into groundwater. It’s important to check the levels of both on the label of the can.
Natural paints, used for interior rooms, have no biocides or fungicides. Therefore natural paints are the most eco-friendly. There are also latex paints with low biocide levels that are also good “green” choice.
Exterior paints offer limited green options. For instance there are no low-biocide options and they all have fungicides. For the most green choice its best to look for an exterior paint with zinc oxide as the fungicide.
Certified Environmentally Friendly
Now there are paints out there that are labeled “green” or “environmentally friendly.” These “green” paints usually feature zero-VOC, have VOC-free colorants, no biocides, and have no vinyl or plasticizers. You might find a label from organizations such as Green Seal, Greenguard, and Ecolabel. In fact Sherwin-Williams has products certified by Greenguard. However it doesn’t hurt to check the levels of VOCs and chemicals. The more you know about the paint you’re using, the better you can help the environment.