Environmentally Friendly Decorating

Updated Apr 11, 2024 | Posted Oct 4, 2021 | Professional insight, Miscellaneous, Tool Insight | 9 comments

How do your decorating choices benefit your homes, health, and the environment? 

Are you excited about decorating your home with vibrant colours and beautiful interior design styles? Sprucing up your living space is always fun. But have you considered the environmental impact of your decorating choices? Making environmentally friendly decorating choices can benefit both your health and the planet. 


How to Choose Environmentally Friendly Paint


Paint contains materials that are harmful to the planet and our health. Volatile Organic Compounds, more commonly known as VOCs, impact air quality and may introduce health risks. They can irritate the respiratory system and cause headaches and allergic reactions. These toxic chemicals vaporise at room temperature and can be emitted up to five years after decorating. 

“The average person spends almost 90% of their time indoors where air quality can be 2 – 5 times worse than outdoor air quality.” Source: WELL Building Standards. 

You wouldn’t knowingly expose your children to health risks, which is a vital consideration for decorating nurseries and children’s bedrooms. Little Greene’s range of Intelligent paints is washable and robust and carries child-safe certification, making them the perfect choice for children’s rooms.

They also have the industry’s best eco-rating, with VOC content now almost zero.  

Little Greene’s Intelligent Matt Emulsion paints has an amazing colour range, and it’s very good quality. You’ll find it has great flow and leaves a fantastic finish with little effort. 

Little Greene Absolute Matt Emulsion ready to test and review

Other toxic ingredients present in paints include petrochemicals and plastics. When disposed of, these often end up in landfills and contribute to microplastics found in the seas, harming marine life and ocean ecosystems. 

Paints are available formulated from natural ingredients, such as replacing oils from fossil fuels with plant oils. Little Greene’s oil-based paints have been reformulated using sustainable vegetable oils. If you need extremely durable paint for your woodwork and want to avoid petrochemicals, check out them out.

Little Greene's oil-based paints are eco friendly

Water-based paints are inherently less toxic and are always environmentally friendly. 

In the past few years, there has been a move away from solvent-based paints. According to the British Coatings Federation, over 85% of paints sold in the UK are now water-based and, therefore, contain very low levels of VOCs. This is excellent news for UK families. 


How to Make Wallpapering Eco-friendly 


Using wallpaper is a fabulous way to quickly impact your decor and inject a feeling of immediate delight into your home. 

Paper products, including wallpaper, account for over 40% of commercial timber cut worldwide. Deforestation and irresponsible timber production are considerable threats to wildlife and communities. 

Using wallpaper fabricated entirely from recycled materials or a portion of recycled materials minimises the impact on virgin paper production. It is also very easily recyclable at the end of its useful life.  

If you choose to use paper made from virgin materials, it should be FSC certified (or something equivalent) to guarantee that it is sourced from sustainably managed forests. 

These vibrant wallpapers from Ohpopsi will instantly boost your home – and all FSC certified. 

eco firendly wallpaper

As with paint, toxic materials can enter the wallpaper world. VOCs are present in solvent-based adhesives, so choose a water-based adhesive to protect your home environment. Environmentally friendly companies have products they recommend for the non-toxic application of their wallpapers. 

Water-based inks are now widely used in wallpaper production and are safer for your home and the wider environment. Avoid wallpapers that contain harmful chemicals, including PVC and phthalates. You simply don’t want to expose your family to these over the long term. 

If budget allows, you can consider alternatives to paper for wallcoverings. These are often intrinsically beautifully textured and add an extra dimension to your décor. Finishes available include bamboo, hemp, grass cloth and other natural materials. 


    How to Reduce Decorating Waste


    How many old tins of paint are lurking in your shed or loft? Accurately estimating the quantities required for a project is a great way to avoid high levels of waste. Many guides and tools are available online to help you work this out. You can also speak to suppliers, offering advice and guidance to calculate your requirements. 

    Most paint is mixed to order, an environmentally friendly approach to avoid over-production. Wallpaper printed to order, ideally in the UK, is also a great way to make your decorating kinder to the environment. 

    Initiatives such as Crown’s Can Back recycle thousands of empty paint cans from any manufacturer annually and, in conjunction with Nimtech, reuse leftover paint for charitable projects.  

    Most local councils support sustainable options for disposing of paint, and there are charitable organisations that accept unopened cans of paint for community initiatives. So don’t banish leftover paint to the understairs cupboard – think about how best to dispose of waste in a planet-friendly way. 

    Community Repaint is a useful resource to see what is available in your area:  



    How to Decorate Your Home to Last


    Finally, decorating from the heart is the most exciting way to make decorating more environmentally friendly. Don’t be swayed by the latest trends and media hype; this is the most enjoyable way to reduce waste and be kinder to the planet. 

    By looking internally and making choices you deeply connect to, you will create a home that will stand the test of time and that you will love for many years. Follow your instincts in colours and patterns that speak to you. Take your time when making decisions and reflect on your ideas and vision. Selecting high-quality, environmentally friendly decorating materials that will stand the test is always a good decision. 

    If you are nervous about committing to a colour scheme for the long term, opt for timeless neutral-based paints and wallpaper that will provide a backdrop for your furniture, artwork, and accessories. 


    In Summary


    Making mindful decisions about what we buy and use in our homes is essential to create harmony in the décor and for the well-being of our families and the planet’s future. Here are the top tips for making a positive impact: 


    • Choose water-based paints where possible and look for low and almost zero levels of VOCs. If you need an oil-based paint, look for natural ingredients 
    • Choose wallcoverings that are FSC-certified and use water-based adhesives. 
    • Be mindful of overestimating to reduce waste (and cost). 
    • Dispose of leftover materials in a kinder, more sustainable way. 
    • Take time to reflect on colours and styles that bring you joy to ensure your decorating stands the test of time; this will also save you time and money while positively impacting the environment! 


    Environmentally Friendly Decorating for The Decorators Forum UK

    Written by Anna Bennett of Grove Design London

    Updated Apr 11, 2024 | Posted Oct 4, 2021 | 9 comments


    1. Mark Smith

      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?

    2. Andy Smith

      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.

      • Mike Cupit

        I strongly disagree with what you’re saying

        • Andy Smith

          Care to say why?

      • Alison John

        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/

        • Mike Cupit

          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.

    3. Mindful Market

      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.

    4. Mary Ali

      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

    5. Madison

      Thanks for talking about eco -friendly solutions! Very timely and important topic to discuss these days. And yes to eco -friendly paints, better for you and the environment.


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