Paint choices and the Environment

There are lots of decisions to be made when it comes to interior design in your home. Being kind to the environment and using sustainable materials and finishes should be a factor in those choices. Using the correct paint is one of the easiest ways to contribute to a greener future. 

Paint can be divided into 3 categories;

  1. Toxic i.e high VOC
  2. Non-toxic i.e low VOC
  3. Natural-made from naturally occuring materials e.g. clay, lime, linseed oil

What does VOC mean?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are compounds that release high pressure vapour in usual room temperatures. This causes molecules to evaporate into the air and is called “off-gassing”. It happens over time and not just during the painting process.

VOCs are found in paint and building materials. Certain VOCs are hazardous to human health and the environment. When inhaled they contribute to health problems including irritation to airways, headaches, nausea and sometimes even damage to the liver, kidneys or central nervous system. This is why it is always recommended to have good ventilation in a space when painting.


Sick Building syndrome is a medical condition that makes a building’s residents suffer from ill health for no reason. Symptoms include eye/nose/throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, nausea and dizziness. Symptoms tend to be worse the longer is spent in the building. It is thought that poor indoor air quality is the cause. 


How do I know what paint is best to use?

The EPA has classified paint by VOC level using the following guidelines;

low VOC  <250g/L (latex & flat-finish paints)

low VOC <380g/L(oil based and other paint)

VOC free <5g/L (for all paints)

Choosing a paint brand that is low VOC or VOC free is much better for your home, health and the environment. All paint brands are obliged by law to display their VOC rating on the packaging so it is easier to make an informed decision.

Low VOC paints still contain harmful chemicals but lower amounts in comparison to standard paint. 

Zero VOC paint brands

  • The Real Milk Paint Co.
  • Sherwin-Williams Harmony range
  • Graphenstone
  • Berling-Formafree range
  • Tikkurila-Joker range
  • Benjamin Moore-Natura range
  • Clare
  • ECOS
  • Green Planet paints
  • Auro

Becoming more aware of what is contained in the paint you use in your home will make it easier to choose products that have less impact on the environment. Paint companies will continue to expand their ranges of non-toxic and zero VOC ranges in the future to match consumer demand for more sustainable choices. 

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Boston fern