August 19, 2008

ele: SUSTAINABILITY — Green, Non-Toxic, Non-VOC Paint [Friendly Painters]

From the Spring 2006 issue, via Todd Ansted

Is it possible for all paint colors to be green? To use an environmentally-friendly paint is much better for to our earth—but is it practical? I started my house painting business some eight years ago, upon my return from Thailand, where I’d spent eight months following my graduation from Naropa University (with a degree in Environmental Studies). I had strong ideas about sustainability, about what it meant to live on this earth with integrity. I tried to eliminate actions that negatively impacted the earth and those around me. So the idea of painting for a living was a bit of a stretch—conventional paints are pretty bad for humans, animals and the earth. But I thought, “Well, in Boulder, we could try using these new ecopaints—I could make that my business.”

Our first house wasn’t painted with eco-paint, nor the second. But I kept on researching the alternatives and found out that the new, greener paints were out there, even if you didn’t hear much about them. Eventually I went down to our local green building store, Planetary Solutions, introduced myself and told them what I would like to do. Back then, eco-paint was expensive and people weren’t confident that it was a good product—but still there was a small group of people willing to give it a go. I became one of them.

When someone gets their house or room painted, it isn’t cheap—so people want the best they can get, and eco-paint was thought to be of lesser quality. But I discovered that this cynicism came more from we painters than from you customers.

Eco-paint doesn’t go on as quickly, it takes longer to dry, and, when it’s wet, it smells funny (like bananas). Painters were naturally resistant to switching over to this strange, new, pricier product. Eight years later, conventional lead, oil and now even latex paints are being pushed out for friendlier paints by the basic goodness of human nature. As the word gets out there and demand grows, paint companies are investing more and more in green paint. For my part, I now have complete confidence suggesting it to clients—it’s a winwin situation for crew and client. Eco-paints have a lower Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content (Formaldehyde or Ammonia), which is what you smell, and is what helps the paint cure (dry). These VOCs do not become inactive until they dissipate into the air—and they often get into our water stream. This past winter, we finished a 7,000 square foot house and studio, as well as a new spa, with ecopaints. You can feel the difference in air quality, in atmosphere. Green paint no longer feels experimental. I know it works.

Todd Ansted is, indeed, a friendly painter: [email protected]


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