The Truth about Eco Friendly Paints

by Olga Alexandru
Two paint brushes

Petrochemicals? VOCs? Solvents? It’s enough to make your head spin. The truth about eco friendly paints is that it’s complicated. 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? What do all of the ingredients mean?

Paint by definition is not eco friendly. It is not a natural product found in the environment. However there are some paint companies who are trying to create paints that are less harmful to us and the environment. Different paint companies will tell you different things about what eco friendly means to them. We’ve put together three points that we think are important considerations when sourcing eco friendly paint.

  • Ingredients – For a paint company to be truly eco friendly they should be able to provide evidence by telling you what ingredients they use. This should be displayed on the paint pots or available upon request from the company.
  • Manufacturing – The way something is manufactured has an environmental impact so it makes sense to consider a paint company’s carbon footprint when deciding how eco friendly they actually are.
  • Breathability – Traditional paints that contain plastic create a plastic barrier on walls when applied trapping air leading to mould and other problems. Eco friendly paints should be breathable as a result of using only natural ingredients.

If you would like an ingredients glossary to reference there are a couple of good ones from Edward Bulmer and Auro.

You may be wondering why we’ve not mentioned VOC. Volatile Organic Compounds are gases that are 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 so when a company says they are eco friendly because they have a low VOC this is really only saying they are in compliance with government regulations. VOC is still a contentious issue in the paint world as some companies claim that no paint can ever be VOC free with others claiming that they are in fact VOC free.

Another red herring is when companies label their paint as water based. They might still be largely made from acrylic resins but diluted with water allowing them to say they are water based. If in doubt get in touch with the paint company and ask to see their ingredients list.

Regular paints are filled with vinyl resins, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals derived from oil, acrylics, formaldehyde, ammonia among other nasties. These can contribute to health problems especially for people already suffering from asthma or eczema. The effects of these materials are hotly debated as some companies claim that they aren’t inherently bad as some of them come from natural sources themselves. Other companies say that the alternatives to these materials are even more damaging to the environment.

Colour paint palette

Here are our top picks for eco friendly paint companies:

Edward Bulmer Paint

Edward Bulmer Natural Paints are the super heroes of the eco paint field. They are pioneers of natural paint methods and are completely transparent with their ingredients. They are currently setting the bar in the industry.

Ingredients: Plant, Animal and Mineral sources. All of their ingredients are listed on their paint pots.

Manufacturing: Carbon neutral.

Breathable: Yes.

Earthborn Paints

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. Their 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 listed on their paint pots.

Manufacturing: No information available.

Breathable: Yes.

Auro

Auro’s commitment to being eco friendly goes beyond just paint. The ways in which they manufacture their paint ensures that they are doing everything they can to have a positive effect on the environment.

Ingredients: Coconut fat, palm kernel fat, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, soy oil, sunflower oil. No petrochemicals or synthetics. All of their ingredients are listed on their paint pots.

Manufacturing: Carbon neutral factory, paint is biodegradable, harvest rain water, run on solar energy.

Breathable: Yes.

Nutshell Paints

Nutshell Paints pride themselves on providing an excellent non-toxic alternative to traditional paints. Their paints are not tested 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

Eico Paints is an interesting company in that their manufacturing practices are carbon positive but they use acrylic as their main ingredient so it’s hard to know whether or not it’s accurate to call their paint eco friendly.

Ingredients: 100% acrylic.

Manufacturing: Carbon positive due to being manufactured in Iceland and Sweden where they harness geothermal and hydropower.

Breathable: No information available.

* A note for vegans: 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.

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