Petrochemicals? VOCs? Solvents? It’s enough to make your head spin. Here’s the truth about eco-friendly paint: it’s complicated.
With that in mind, we’ve done our research so you don’t have to! We’ve looked around to get to the truth. Can paint ever be eco-friendly? What is the criteria? And just what do all of the ingredients mean?
The first thing to acknowledge is that as paint is manmade, it can’t fit into every definition of being truly ‘eco-friendly’. However, there are plenty of paint companies that are trying to create a product that is gentler on the environment.
Each of these paint brands says something different about what being eco-friendly means to them. To help you, we’ve put together 3 things that we consider to be of the utmost importance when choosing eco-friendly paint.
Eco-friendly paint consideration 1: The ingredients
First of all, for a paint company to be truly eco-friendly, they should be able to provide evidence by telling you what ingredients they use. The paint pots should display this, or it should be available upon request from the company.
Eco-friendly paint consideration 2: The manufacture
Of course, the way any product is manufactured has an environmental impact. Therefore, it makes sense to consider a paint company’s carbon footprint when deciding how eco-friendly they actually are.
Eco-friendly paint consideration 3: Breathability
Traditional paints that contain plastic create a plastic barrier on walls that trap air. This then leads to mould and other problems. Therefore, eco-friendly paints should be breathable as a result of using only natural ingredients.
By now, you’re probably wondering about VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). They are the gases given off by paints that contain solvents.
The government regulates how much VOC paint can have in it in order to be safe for retail. Sometimes, a company says it’s eco-friendly because they have a low VOC. However, what they’re really saying is that they comply with government regulations. VOC remains a contentious issue in the paint world, as some companies say that no paint can ever be VOC-free.
Here’s another red herring: paints that are ‘water-based’. This might just mean they’re watered down, but still harmful to the environment.
Ingredients like vinyl resins, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals derived from oil, acrylics, formaldehyde, and ammonia can contribute to health issues (particularly for anyone who’s already living with asthma or eczema). However, the effects of these ingredients are hotly debated. Some companies claim that as they can be found in natural sources, they aren’t inherently bad, but other companies disagree.
If you’ve got any doubt, just reach out to the company to have a look at their ingredients list.
Our favourite eco-friendly paint brands
But onto the good stuff. Here are our top picks for eco-friendly paint companies.
This is one of our favourite paint brands – both for its sustainability credentials and for the finish. Farrow & Ball makes its water-based paint using the finest quality ingredients, such as titanium dioxide, china clay, high levels of pigments which are fully traceable and contain low levels of VOCs. Additionally, The Modern and Estate range of paint is safe to use in all rooms of the home, including children’s rooms.
They make every effort to reduce the environmental impact of their day-to-day operations, for example including recycling 100% of the dry waste from their Dorset manufacturing plant. As well as this, they’ve recently introduced a programme to consolidate their deliveries, which will help to reduce the number of miles their delivery vehicles – and your tins – have to travel.
- Ingredients: Farrow & Ball makes its water-based paint using the finest quality ingredients, such as titanium dioxide, china clay, high levels of pigments which are fully traceable.
- Manufacturing: As well as what we’ve mentioned above, they also have their own water treatment facility and recycle 97% of their liquid waste. They’re now working to get this to 100%.
- Breathable: Yes
As well as being sustainable in ingredients, manufacturing and breathability, Little Greene makes a point to oppose animal testing. All their paint finishes are, of course, free from any animal products and the environment and related ethics inform their business decisions.
- Ingredients: They have reformulated their paints to use sustainable vegetable oils, without compromising their quality. For their water-based paints, you can expect a very low – virtually zero – level of VOC content.
- Manufacturing: All their paints are manufactured in the UK, and they actively source from suppliers who match their commitment to local industries.
- Breathable: Yes
Earthborn Paints were the first company in the UK to get a licence with the EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes showcasing their commitment to eco-friendly practices.
These paints are made out of clay, which has the bonus effects of reducing condensation, mould and mildew.
- Ingredients: Do not use vinyl, acrylic or oil. All of their ingredients are on their paint pots.
- Manufacturing: No information available.
- Breathable: Yes.
Nutshell Paints pride themselves on providing an excellent non-toxic alternative to traditional paints. They don’t test their paints on animals, providing a second layer of assurance for those seeking truly environmentally friendly products.
- Ingredients: Oils, herbs and minerals. No petrochemical solvents, vinyl resins or formaldehyde.
- Manufacturing: Recyclable packaging.
- Breathable: Yes.
Eico Paints manufacture their products in Iceland and Sweden using geothermal or hydropower energy, making the production process carbon positive – A 100% plant-based paint. Their paints have one of the lowest VOC percentages in the UK market, making it great for allergy and asthma sufferers.
- Ingredients: 100% plant-based
- Manufacturing: Carbon positive, using free solar energy
- Breathable: Woodwork, no – Walls, yes
A note for anyone pursuing a more vegan lifestyle: most eco-friendly paints use Casein, a milk protein, making it unsuitable for vegans. It’s always best to double-check the ingredients list or with the manufacturer.