Dear Lazy Environmentalist, 

How can I paint my walls and be eco-friendly?


Our walls surround us, so it’s natural that the way they look would influence our sense of well-being and comfort. This is why it makes sense to use high-quality paints that also eliminate what are known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the solvents found in standard paints that contaminate indoor air. That strong, unpleasant odor accompanying a new paint job is not your brother’s B.O. — it’s VOCs seeping into the air. Unfortunately, they continue to do so as long as the paint remains on the wall. But fortunately, healthier, low- or zero-VOC options are priced competitively with most premium paints. While there’s no widely available budget option, this is one area in which it’s advisable to trade up for quality. Plus, splurging on a few gallons of high-quality paint is still one of the most cost-effective ways to upgrade your home’s aesthetic and improve its indoor air quality. Larger companies such as Benjamin MooreSherwin Williams, and Olympic offer lines that are low or zero-VOC. Smaller, innovative paint companies like BioshieldYolo Colorhouse, and Mythic Paint do, too. 

Green builders go for zero

Professionals who run green building supply companies tend to prefer the indoor and outdoor zero-VOC paints and finishes from AFM Safecoat. The company’sAyurveda Essence collection features 108 colors in three distinct palettes (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and is designed to bring beautiful hues as well as the ancient healing properties of Ayurveda into your home. A quart of paint costs about $12 and a gallon costs about $36. AFM Safecoat paints have been awarded Indoor Air Quality Gold Certification by Scientific Certification Systems, a leading third-party testing and certification service, for achieving the most stringent air-quality standards in North America.

And some can even use recycled paint

Those who live in the Pacific Northwest can take advantage of one the most innovative recycling programs in the country — high-quality, affordable, and 100-percent recycled natural latex paint. Called MetroPaint, the program is administered by Metro, Portland, Oregon's regional governing body. Think about those half-full tins of unused paint sitting in the basement or garage. By collaborating with local hazardous waste facilities, MetroPaint processes unused paint into new paint. Prices are pretty much unbeatable at $6 to $10 for a gallon and $25 to $44 for five gallons. What’s fascinating about the process is that when paints of a similar hue are all collected and combined in a 300-gallon sized vat, the resulting mixture always defaults to the same color. This makes it possible for MetroPaint to offer a consistent color palette for its customers who also love the paints for their high quality and easy application.


Excerpted from Josh Dorfman's latest book, The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.

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How can I paint my walls and be eco-friendly?
Color your walls with planet-protecting paints that don't contain volatile organic compounds.