This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m quite proud of the current generation. I honestly believe we’re the “generation of change” and I see more and more of us outraged by the amount of waste and pollution mankind creates. More and more of us are starting to do what we can to preserve planet Earth.
I’m also a professional painter and decorator. In fact, I’ve been in the trade for almost 20-years. I thought I’d put pen-to-paper and explain a little bit about environmentally friendly decorating, and what we can all do to cut down on waste when painting peoples’ homes by making our businesses green. I really hope this helps.
The first thing you should do is steer well clear of any oil-based products. The alkyd oil they use isn’t good for the environment if it comes into contact with soil, or finds its way into the water-system. However, that isn’t the worst of it. It’s the manufacturing of oil-based paints which is not very clean compared to water-based. The paints are mixed at a higher temperature, and so use more energy. There are more harmful chemicals added to the paint. Plus the industrial sized machines used in the manufacturing process are cleaned using tankers full of white spirit.
Luckily, due to eco-friendly consumer demands and ever-changing EU legislation on the chemicals paint manufacturers are allowed to use, water-based technology has come a long way. Emulsion isn’t an issue, as it’s all water-based anyway.
When it comes to trim paint such as gloss and satinwood, you need to do a little bit of research when choosing paints. We have simple guides on the best water-based satinwood, and the best water-based gloss options out there, which you may find useful.
Another good environmentally friendly tip when choosing paint is to avoid imports. Brands such as Benjamin Moore can be shipped from as far afield as the US. Whereas Johnstone’s, Dulux and Crown paints are manufactured in the UK. This means less fuel and ultimately less carbon.
Getting Tooled Up
I’d like to draw your attention to a brand called Eco Union, who manufacture a whole range of tools in the most environmentally friendly way possible. I’d stay away from their rollers as the quality isn’t quite there, but their brushes and paint containers are great. You can do your bit for the planet and achieve a nice finish whilst decorating, all at the same time. They’re not a bad price either. I’ve found their whole range available from Tikkurila UK.
Protect the Earth from Plastic, with Plastic
Single use plastic sheeting is something I use a lot of when decorating. There’s no getting away from it, whether I’m trying to protect wallpaper or kitchen units. The easiest way is to cover it all with thin sheets of plastic, which ultimately goes to landfill.
Again, Eco Union have the answer!! It is still single use plastic, but the Eco Union plastic is biodegradable!! This helps massively with my conscience!! A lot of the plastic waste I produce as a decorator will now simply rot and return to the earth, rather than polluting it for 10,000 years longer than it needs to. You can buy this stuff online.
Waste Paint Tins
This is a tricky one. You should not put your empty paint tins in the wheelie bin, as any paint residue will escape if buried at landfill and potentially find its way to the nearest water source. Nor should you tip paint down the sink or wash it out onto your garden. Big painting contractors spend a lot of money having their waste removed by professionals, but that isn’t practical for us smaller outfits or DIY decorators.
So, what is the answer? For me, it’s schemes like Kick Out the Can from Crown Decorating Centre. They only run this at certain times of the year, so you may need to store your empties for a little while. When they do run it, all you need to do is rock up to CDC with all your empties.
Crown recycle the containers, but also the paint. All the paint is salvaged and donated to charity or put towards community projects. Plus, any money Crown generates from recycling the tins is also donated into charity.
It’s worth mentioning that some of the other trade counters sometimes run similar recycling schemes. Services like these are easily the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of your waste.
Regardless of whether you’re a professional or armature, environmentally friendly decorating can be achieved. The biggest two changes I made was to start using biodegradable plastic and water-based paints. Waste paint tins should not go to landfill. Instead, keep an eye on the industry and wait until one of the trade stores are running a can recycling scheme.
Great article thanks.
Packexe floor protection is worth a mention too as is fully recyclable.
Toying with the idea of donating to the National Trust to plant a tree for every job I do.
Any thoughts or other suggestions?
Exactly Mike – both oil paints and acrylic paints are detrimental in their own way. Some may be a little more eco than others due to the production process but any company claiming there paint is eco friendly is simply chasing the green pound. It doesn’t matter how little acrylic it contains – it’s still not a sustainable product.
Find a paint made without solvent or petro chemicals and maybe it can be called truly eco – Auro / Earthborn come close.
I strongly disagree with what you’re saying
Care to say why?
Here we go…. Graphenstone is a lime based paint but uses graphene as a binder. They have a good range of products, are VOC emission free so much better for your health if you work as a decorator. It also absorbs CO2 once applied. Graphenstone is a relatively small company, but has more environmental certifications than any other paint manufacturer. We won’t specify anything else now. https://graphenstone.co.uk/
I like Graphenstone. I wouldn’t say it’s better for your health to apply it than over other paint brands lol. Does using an alkaline emulsion cause problems for the homeowner further down the line? Can they just emulsion over it, or is there a certain process that needs to take place? Genuine questions, I’ve always wondered.
It’s great to learn about eco-friendly ways to decorate your house. Thanks for sharing your insight. If you want to know more about home decorating ideas, visit Mindful Market.
This is a great article and very insightful. I am looking to start my own eco friendly decorating business in London and would like to know more. It would be great to learn alongside you or another company. Does anyone know of any opportunities?
I am currently volunteering around the world doing interior decorating and construction work.
I am very interested in the environment and saving our planet. I started .y plastic free journey 2.5 years ago and you can check out my instagram page ThinkTwice.plasticfreelife
I will be back in London in April/May 2023.
Thank you in advance