This article was republished at http://livinggreenmag.com/2013/11/01/home-garden/color-long-green-5-reasons-try-natural-paint/
5 Big Reasons to Try Natural Paint
There’s plenty of talk about the benefits of “going green” but most of us still use conventional products because they’re cheaper and you don’t have to think about them as much. With so much going on in our lives it’s more convenient to go to the hardware store and pick up the big box brand that’s well priced and widely advertised. Never mind what’s in it – I just want it to look good!
Paint’s a great example. Widely touted as one of the fastest and easiest ways to change up your home, it’s one of those things we choose just because the color’s nice. Even though it’s convenient, conventional paint can harm your health and the environment, and finding a natural alternative is usually worth the effort. If you’ve been thinking about moving away from conventional paints, here are 5 big reasons to take the plunge:
Natural paints contain recyclable and biodegradable ingredients
Natural paints are based on plant materials, not synthetic chemicals, and the ingredients are better for the environment. Pioneering natural paint manufacturer Livos (from Germany) uses raw materials that are completely biodegradable, and the company has a strong focus on closed loop recycling systems and eco-friendly production. Natural paints generally have fewer production processes, and that helps the environment too.
Image: Murobond – see their range of natural paint here
Natural paints are breathable
Conventional paints often contain synthetic materials that form an impenetrable barrier to moisture. Natural paints, on the other hand, are breathable, which is good for water vapour exchange. Breathable surfaces are an important factor in “healthy homes” – they help regulate humidity, withdrawing moisture from the environment when humidity levels are high and making conditions more comfortable inside the home. If moisture can escape the building envelope there are less potential issues with damp and mold as well.
Natural paints are generally less-toxic
Conventional paints (like standard acrylic paints) contain a wide range of chemicals that “off-gas”, producing toxic emissions called VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Some VOCs have a strong smell but others are imperceptible. VOCs can cause a range of symptoms including minor skin, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea and fatigue. According to the US EPA they can also cause more serious long term damage including cancer. Some of the health risks of VOCs are linked to high levels of short term exposure, but any level of contact with toxic chemicals should be avoided, especially since the body already processes hundreds of other contaminants on a daily basis.
Natural paints generally have non-chemical ingredients like linseed oil, beeswax, milk, pine resin, shellac, and mineral pigments, and few of these are linked to any serious health issues.
Natural paints deliver unique color results
Acrylic paints deliver flat, even finishes, but natural paints have molecular differences that result in subtle variations in color depth and tone. These differences bring a sense of life to walls that’s not easily replicated by conventional paints. The earth and mineral pigments used in natural paints are a big factor in the results. As Edward Bulmer from Pots of Paints says “So much ‘plastic’ paint seems lifeless or too dense [but] when mixing with natural pigments it’s impossible to make a nasty colour”.
Natural paints are often made by artisans who put lots of love and care into their products
Lots of natural paint products are made by small companies that are passionate about what they do, and most are driven by a genuine concern for the environment. Hand-crafted artisan products always seem to have a better “feel” about them, and supporting small business brings economic benefits too.
Lots of us think that low-VOC or no-VOC products from major paint manufacturers are a healthy alternative to conventional paint but unfortunately that’s often not the case. As German consumer organisation OekoTest says:
“Many new products have been introduced by … paint manufacturers … which are touted as environmentally friendly because of their reformulation as a “low-VOC” or “non-VOC” paint. However, one look at the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) information provided by the manufacturers shows that the long list of toxic additives, preservatives, fungicides, mildewcides, drying agents, emulsifiers, etc remain. In addition, it’s important to note that the VOC content published in the manufacturers’ literature applies to unpigmented white paint… so unless you want only white walls, you really don’t know what you’re getting” (OekoTest, in Living Spaces – Ecological Building & Design).
Take a little time to investigate the ingredients in your paint, and give some natural paints a go. They’re not always perfect but they can make a positive difference to your health, your décor, and the planet.
Next time: Places to Buy Natural Paint