What Is Organic Paint?

When we pop into our local supermarkets and buy ‘organic’ vegetables, we believe that we’re buying products that are certified as organic by the Soil Association. This means that the minimum amount of petro chemical, synthetic or unsustainable materials have been used to grow this produce and that we can rest assured that we are making a contribution to a more sustainable future for ourselves and our children.

There are paints that are called ‘organic’. But beware…the Soil Association, who are the main body responsible for establishing the standards that determine whether a given product is ‘organically’ produced or not, only have standards for three groups of products -foodstuffs, textiles and cosmetics. No other types of product can be called organic. And so it follows that there is no such thing as an ‘organic’ paint.

Virtually all of the paint that we buy in the high street these days is based on an acrylic emulsion…that is to say it is based on a form of plastic derived from petro chemicals. As such, it is made from unsustainable resources and, as it happens, a great deal of pollution is created in the manufacture of these paints.

There is nothing ‘organic ‘ about such paints in the sense that we have come to understand the term. They are usually merely water based acrylic paints tinted with natural pigments. Their acrylic component, which usually forms the larger part, is no different from the ordinary plastic paints that are available from every DIT outlet. They are by definition, based on non organic, synthetic and petro chemical based constituents.

Such paints can also hide behind the terms ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘traditional’. They’re often very good paints and some do offer advantages over conventional paint, such as reduced solvent content, but part of the reason for their performance lies in their reliance on their plastic constituents. They are ‘organic ‘only in the sense that they rely upon organic chemistry…the chemistry of hydrocarbons [ie petro chemicals].

So, don’t be fooled. The word ‘organic’ is a much abused term. It can be equally applied to sustainable goods or to the science of petro chemicals. If you want a healthy and environmentally friendly paint, look instead for a ‘natural’ paint. These are made chiefly from sustainably produced plant materials and natural minerals and perform as well as conventional paints, sometimes better as they are vapour permeable and allow walls to ‘breathe’…as well as you! Furthermore, they are almost carbon neutral because, being derived from plant oils rather than mineral oil, they are part of the natural carbon cycle -carbon released in the harvesting of the crops is reabsorbed by the next crop.

Until the Soil Association get around to establishing a standard for organic paint, keep it natural!


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