George Lucas Educational Foundation

Green Products Guide: Paint

Tap into these tips for finding environmentally friendly materials.
By Evantheia Schibsted
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Now in high demand, low-VOC paint is widely available at affordable prices. This is a healthier alternative to traditional paints, which contain VOCs. Even years after application, these paints have been known to release low levels of toxins, resulting in irritants that cause respiratory and asthma-related reactions. Here are a few suggestions for taking your green efforts up a few notches when selecting paints.

Tips and Product Picks


Choose zero-VOC paint over low-VOC. The zero option may cost about 20 percent more; however, it doesn't emit any odor whatsoever, unlike its low-VOC counterpart. Of course, no paint is truly VOC-free. Pigment in paint always contains some VOC, but the lighter the color the less VOC.


Go with lighter-color paint. This is probably the single best environmental choice you can make regarding paints. Ceilings should be a flat white to avoid reflections and diffuse glare. Choosing a light palate may also add up to energy savings: A lighter room requires less artificial lighting.


Test products before you make a final decision. Take note: One complaint regarding zero-VOC paint is performance in terms of coverage. Make sure your painter is comfortable with the product.

Product Picks:

  • Moore Natura & Eco Spec, made by Benjamin Moore, zero-VOC
  • Harmony, made by Sherman Williams, zero-VOC
  • Pure Performance, made by Pittsburgh Paint, zero-VOC

Third-Party Certifiers:

EcoLogo, Greenguard, Green Seal

Evantheia Schibsted is a freelance writer whose work appears regularly in Edutopia.

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