Making "green improvements to your home gets easier every year with eco-friendly items like reclaimed wood and organic fabrics, becoming more available. Eco-paints have now entered the mainstream as well. Home-supply stores increasingly carry a wide selection, sometimes in hundreds of colors, with zero or very low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These gases, which are emitted from common paint ingredients, may have an adverse effect on your health. Conventional paints produce fumes that pollute the indoor environment and contribute to smog outside, while eco-paints minimize such contaminants without sacrificing performance.
How do you know what's "green"? Check the label. Those certified by Green Seal, GreenGuard Environmental Institute, or Scientific Certification Systems will bear an official seal. These groups ensure that paints meet tight emissions standards and have good coverage (since extra coats would negate the benefits of a less toxic formula). Some companies skip certification to save money, so you can also look for VOC levels directly on the can (products with higher levels may not tout them on the label, so stick with those that offer this info). Regular interior flat paint contains up to 2.1 pounds of VOCs per gallon. Greener options have no more than 0.42 pounds per gallon. We've chosen brands that go even further: They limit risky additives, avoid petrochemicals, or broaden color palettes. So give your summer project the lasting sheen of a healthier environment -- inside your house and out.
Goodbye, Old Paint
The new breed of eco-paints offers plenty of style without the fume-induced headaches.
Sherwin-Williams Harmony Interior Latex in Luau Green
This zero-VOC formula earns Sherwin-Williams' in-house GreenSure seal, which designates paints that meet or exceed Green Seal standards. (They forgo third-party certification.) Hundreds of colors. $35 per gallon, sherwin-williams.com
Benjamin Moore Eco Spec Interior Latex in Hidden Sanctuary
This ultra low-VOC paint meets Green Seal and GreenGuard standards. Tint it to one of the hundreds of hues in light to mid-tone palettes. $31 to $39 per gallon, benjaminmoore.com
AFM Safecoat Interior Zero VOC in Sun Drenched
Designed for people with chemical sensitivities, AFM paints contain no ammonia, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, or other additives that may trigger severe reactions. Available in hundreds of colors. $32 to $37 per gallon, afmsafecoat.com
YOLO Colorhouse Zero VOC Interior Paint in Clay.02
Poster-size swatches made with real paint allow you to test-drive any of YOLO's colors before committing to a whole gallon. All 40 shades are nature-inspired and Green Seal certified. $39 per gallon, $6 per swatch, yolocolorhouse.com
BioShield Casein Milk Paint in Verdellino
For a time-honored wall finish, just add water to this zero-VOC powder made from ingredients like casein (a component of milk) and lime. Available in milky white plus 10 Italian pastels. $29 per 1.5-gallon yield, bioshieldpaint.com
Text by Jennifer Roberts