Environmentally-friendly paint refers to interior and exterior paint that does not contribute to pollution or harm the environment in production. Thanks to growing concern over potential health hazards caused by traditional paint, there are now many different varieties of environmentally-friendly paint that are commercially available. Some common traits that make paints eco-friendly include the use of natural materials for bases and colors, and the reduction of chemical additives that contribute to pollution.
Traditional modern paints are often made of petroleum-based products that allow for durable, hard-wearing finishes. While using traditional paints can cut down on the amount of retouching and repainting needed, there are some fairly significant downsides, such as health hazards and increased pollution. Moreover, as an oil byproduct, petroleum is a non-renewable resource, and thus available only in limited quantities. Spurning traditional paints in favor of environmentally-friendly versions may actually help protect precious natural resources and cut down on fossil fuel and non-renewable resource use.
Environmentally-friendly paint usually abandons petroleum or oil bases in favor of non-polluting materials such as milk, water, soy, clay, and limestone. Natural oils, such as linseed oil, may also be used as a substitute for traditional oil sources. People with allergies to petroleum may find relief by using these naturally-sourced paints, while many have the benefit of producing no unpleasant smell during painting. Storage and mixing of these paints may be somewhat more complex than with traditional paints, and the color choices may be more limited.
One of the biggest problems with traditional paints is the phenomena known as “off-gassing”. This occurs when chemicals in the paint, such as ammonia and formaldehyde, release over time, dramatically increasing pollution in poorly-ventilated interiors. The chemicals that cause off-gassing are frequently referred to as volatile organic compounds or VOCs, and they can potentially cause health hazards to people with allergies, chemical sensitivities, and asthma. Many traditional paint companies are combating the risk of VOCs by releasing zero or low-VOC paints, which greatly reduce off-gassing. Like other types of environmentally-friendly paint, low-VOC paint also has less of an odor, meaning that newly painted areas can be occupied as soon as the paint is dry.
A third category of environmentally-friendly paint relates to the use of animal or chemical ingredients in the creation of tints, colors, and finishes. People who prefer to avoid animal and chemical products may have trouble finding a safe paint or finish, thanks to the use of insect-based agents such as carmine and shellac. Some paint companies now offer paint that uses only vegetable or plant-based dyes, without the use of chemical or animal additives. While these may be available in a smaller range of colors, some consider it a small price to pay for adherence to their beliefs.