Paint or Wallpaper?
Considering doing some spring upgrades at home? Trying to make the most ecologically sound choice for your new apartment? Tell us your ideas and strategies for climate-friendly home improvement ideas - and check out our green team's answer to the question:
Many of us have had the joy of spending time in freshly painted home or work environments. It is parallel to the “new car” smell which some people like. Personally, those “aromas” give me a headache and make me want to run outdoors for some fresh
When my family moved into a new place last year, let’s just say the kitchen was not our color, think “Electric Lime” (RGB 33, 235, 86). We wanted something like a light, subtle yellow. Aside from the environmental issues, I didn’t want to smell the paint for the next few months in the kitchen while it “off-gassed” nor for the 10-20 hours it would take me to paint the kitchen. So, we turned to a low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. It really was amazingly different – no smell while using it, and certainly not after.
The problem with many kinds of paints and wallpapers is not limited to the VOC’s. And, as you may have already guessed, these off-gassing chemicals stem from fossil fuels and synthetic ingredients. While those present the most issues for human health, the production, application, removal and disposal of paints and wallpapers have broader environmental impacts.
Synthetic and oil-based paints used to be the standard. Wallpaper was mostly made from vinyl – now you can get organic fabrics and wood wall coverings. It is easy to find green alternatives even at your local Home Depot or Loews, although an online or specialty store might have a larger selection. These products are less noxious while you work and live with them, and certainly better for the environment overall. Be prepared for some cost difference, but it is worth it.
What to look for in general:
- Low or No VOC’s – both paints & wallpapers – this also applies to the removal and cleaning supplies, and wallpaper adhesives.
- Look for paints made from water based materials or latex and not fossil fuels
- Look for wallpapers made from paper, cloth, or other sustainable materials, not vinyl
- Spend some time estimating how much paint or materials you need for the job, so you minimize waste – Healthy Home has a good calculator to help: http://www.healthyhome.com/ShowPage.asp?page=PaintCalculator.asp
- For a multi-day job, wrap brushes in a plastic bag out of heat and sun to avoid daily cleanings - (http://tips-painting.blogspot.com/2007/10/green-painting-environmentally-friendly.html)
- If you do have old paint, turpentine or other hazardous chemicals, dispose of it properly. You can start here: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/regions.htm#reg, or just search in your own area for drop-off locations.
Or, you can go straight to Green Seal which lists over 20 green paints and coatings:
http://www.greenseal.org/findaproduct/paints_coatings.cfm. To learn more about their standard, visit http://www.greenseal.org/certification/standards/paints-gs11.pdf