Look for paints with zero or very low levels of VOCs.
According to the EPA, the concentrations of VOCs and pollutants found indoors are consistently higher than levels found outside (up to 10 times higher!). One of the biggest emitters? Paint. VOCs are the fumes you smell while painting, and they sometimes last for weeks. They usually come from color additives and spreading agents.
“Most people can attest to that all-too-familiar chemical smell that fills the house when a paint can is opened,” says Michael McCutcheon, a certified green builder who founded McCutcheon Construction. “What they don’t know is that these chemicals continue to be released in their home long after the paint has dried, and make their way outside into the environment.”
Breathing in these chemicals is not good. In the short term, exposure may cause dizziness, headache, and nausea. In the long term, the National Cancer Institute reports that individuals who routinely work with paint are at a significant risk of developing cancer. True, you’re probably not a pro painter, but it’s important to note how bad these chemicals are for the body.
To minimize health risks, use environmentally friendly paints. Today’s options are on a par with standard ones, both in quality and color. Many green paint companies will mix custom colors to match shades from other companies.
When shopping, look for the following on the label:
» Zero or very low levels of VOCs—not to exceed 50 grams per liter (GPL).
» Natural ingredients like plant dyes, clay, oil, and waxes.
What follows is a list of green paint companies.
Approximately $30 per gallon
Developed by polymer science researchers, and approved by the Master Painters Institute and Green Seal, two independent organizations that advocate products that meet their strict quality and environmental standards. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $60 per gallon
Luxury paint made from food-grade ingredients—you can even eat it. If aromatherapy is your thing, ask about the custom fragrance option. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $42 per gallon
Handmade in small batches with colors derived from clay and minerals. Soft finishes that you’ll want to touch. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $37 per gallon
Paint giant Sherwin-Williams joins the green game with Harmony. Pick from the company’s existing color library, which numbers in the thousands. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $45 per gallon
The packaging is fun and vintage-inspired, and the paint is durable, easy to clean, and has little to no odor. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $45 per gallon
Making healthy paint since the 1980s, Safecoat continues to work with physicians and allergists to update its product. Recipient of numerous awards and certification for high indoor air quality. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $46 per gallon
Organic, biodegradable paint made from milk, sold in powdered form. Just add water to make the soft, matte colors. Zero VOCs.
Approximately $40 per gallon
Small palette of 40 rich, earthy colors like Air and Grain that add a natural-feeling warmth to a room. Zero VOCs.