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3 easy ways to make painting more earth-friendly

Green background with word Breathe in neon/Photography: Runze Shi/Paint can be problematic for both human health and the environment, but there are ways to mitigate its impact.

Let’s face it: Painting isn’t known for being the most environmentally friendly activity, from releasing what’s known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the drying process and producing air pollution, to irritating your eyes. 

Susan Inglis, founder of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, a group of manufacturers, retailers and designers dedicated to environmentally sustainable practices in the home furnishings industry, shares two super-simple ways to help you paint in a more sustainable way.

1. Choose VOC free.

Avoid those pesky compounds we mentioned above. "Please choose a no-VOC paint, for your own health and the health of your loved ones," says Susan. "All major paint brands offer no-VOC options now."

2. Keep a good thing going.

Buying new furniture also exerts a major environmental impact. "Use paint to refurbish a piece of furniture! Sometimes a coat of a new color adds years of new life—it is a quick and simple way to make something old and dingy new again, extending its useful life."

3. Go old-school.

"Besides always choosing the no-VOC option from your favorite paint brand, I suggest you consider some of the very old-fashioned options that are even more eco-friendly because they do not contain any petroleum products or plasticizers. Lime paint, for instance, is like a very thin layer of plaster. Like plaster, it 'breathes,' absorbing moisture and slowly releasing it back into your interior, a [healthier] attribute!"

Another option, says Susan, is linseed oil paint. "If you want a tight seal rather than breathability, try pure natural linseed oil paint. It hardens and glistens and lasts for many years. Both these take expertise to apply correctly, but the internet, and the vendors, offer detailed instructions and excellent how-to videos." Happy painting!

Want to learn more? Check out the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s Buying Guide for even more ways to improve your own impact. 

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