Paint and Sustainability

I recently relocated, and the need to paint walls came up. Initially, I had a couple of questions that only produced more as I began the research. Paint is often perceived as an almost intangible layer of pigment on walls (and some other surfaces), and not viewed as a substance with much environmental and health impact. However, paint is just about used in every indoor space; it’s extremely rare that drywall is left as is in its raw state; one cannot avoid using paint in some shape or form.

Did you know that commercially available mass-produced paint was initially a by-product of the refining of fossil fuels? Over the years, oil-based paints were retired throughout the industry, with water-based paint replacing the former. While water-based paint may sound more sustainable, it is predominantly an optical one as all synthetically rendered water-based paints are actually emulsions of plastics and acrylics suspended (fairly) uniformly in water. While many brands in more recent years have / are now advertising paints as being low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), this need alone betrays just how toxic industrial paint is for all living forms. 

Smelling paints, even low-VOC ones, give me massive headaches and nausea, as it should. My body knows what’s good for her, and she does not lie. Why do we accept that beautifying a space needs to involve toxins? In fact, why does ANY modern definition of beauty involve sacrificing something of undefinable worth; why is this notion of cosmetic “beauty” anything but beautiful? In other words, why have we completely lost touch of what “beauty” means? (I feel this is a topic I would very much like to write about down the road).

I wound up landing on Farrow & Ball. What struck me was the lack of smell, which made sense, because each colour made with clay pigments rather than plastic / acrylic synthetics.And despite their palette totaling to less than 100 rather than thousands of colours, each colour is gorgeous and flattering. Beyond just what my family and I breathe in, it’s also important to consider what happens to our water when we wash the rollers and brushes, as it’s not just shower gels containing microbeads we need to be aware of, but the synthetic molecules via paint and other substances released into our water systems. Farrow & Ball was also my choice because they recycle 97%-100% of their liquid and dry waste. Of course, they are the only paint brand that are producing with natural alternatives and methods; among them Bauwerk, Little Greene, Eico, Edward Bulmer are also ones I have considered, though many are not available where I live.

While I understand oftentimes, most decisions we make are not black and white in terms of impact, and it’s easy to lose focus by hyper-ranting on plastic straws when there are much larger issues, I feel that personal consumption is always scaled across the population, so even small changes can lead to a consequential tipping point. I also feel the process of sorting out my personal environmental priorities is an important process to continue to engage in, even on something as “basic” as deciding on the colours of the surfaces in my home that is beyond aesthetics alone.

PS. This is NOT an ad; my opinions alone.

Founder, spirit communicator and shamanic occultist