Green apples and plant in eco-friendly surroundings

There are plenty of ways to go a little greener around the house. You can recycle. You can switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. And now, you can keep the environment in mind, even when you paint.

By using paints and primers with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), you can be more eco-friendly no matter what color you choose. These paints and primers have fewer harmful compounds than traditional paints, making them better for the environment. Low-VOC paints can also improve your indoor air quality — a better choice for your home, your family and Mother Nature.

Know "Low-VOC" and Your Green Painting Options

You've probably noticed the strong smell of a freshly painted room. The odors come from the VOCs that are in the paint. For decades, VOCs have been a key ingredient in the composition of latex and oil-based paints, solvents and varnishes. VOCs are also present in the following household items: wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, stored fuels and automotive products, hobby supplies and even dry-cleaned clothing.

Prolonged exposure to these compounds can trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, irritate eyes, cause nausea and dizziness. Extended exposure has also been linked to kidney and liver disease and even cancer. After traditional paint is applied to walls or other surfaces, it can "off-gas" VOCs for years.

In response to changing environmental regulations and consumer demand, many high-quality, low-VOC products, such as True Value EasyCare® latex primers and paints, are available for purchase at your local True Value hardware store. These alternatives are water-based and release fewer toxic fumes than traditional paints. What fumes they do produce dissipate more quickly than traditional paints. Low-VOC primers and paints are applied the same way as conventional primers and paints, and they cost about the same as most manufacturers' top-of-the-line paints. Because they are not deemed "hazardous waste," low-VOC paints can be cleaned and disposed of easily without the use of strong solvents.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) standard for paints and stains to be considered "low-VOC" is a maximum of 200 g/L of VOC content. True Value EasyCare® paints are among the lowest-VOC paints on the market, with 50 g/L of VOCs.

Your local True Value hardware store sells a number of eco-friendly painting tools and accessories, such as low-VOC stains and wood finishes, paint thinners and removers and paper drop cloths. True Value's EcoSmart line of products includes paint pails, paint tray liners and more.

Paint Properly

Using low-VOC paints and green painting accessories and products is only one way to make your indoor air fresher and healthier. To be an environmentally conscious painter, be sure to remember the BUD rule — the first rule of environmentally conscious painters:

Buy no more product than you need.

Use the product you buy.

Dispose of leftovers in a safe, responsible manner.

Store Excess Properly

You can get more use out of your paint if it's stored properly. Always store paint in a dry location where the temperature is above freezing. Replace the lid firmly and store the can upside down to prevent air from entering the container, This will keep your paint usable longer.

Helpful Tip

When purchasing low-VOC paints, buy only what you need for the job at hand. Before you begin, measure the area carefully (height x width = total sq. ft.). One gallon of paint will cover approximately 350-400 sq. ft. To calculate how much paint you'll need for your specific painting project, check out the paint calculator tool.

Reuse Paint

Don't waste paint. Use excess for touch-up jobs or to paint a small area of your home. Think about donating extra paint to someone who can use it, like an artistic friend or a theater group trying to stretch its financial resources.

Dispose Properly

Latex paint must dry before you can dispose of it in the trash. Even if you have used all of the paint, allow the empty container to dry with the lid off before discarding. If you have less than one-fourth of the paint from a can left over, you can dry it by simply leaving it out in a well-ventilated area until it hardens, stirring once every few days.

Be Safe

When leaving paint out to dry, be sure to keep it away from children and pets. Also, keep drying paint away from all open flames and outdoor weather.

Safety Alert!

Even though low-VOC paints give off fewer fumes, they still release some substances into the air until dry. Remember to wear a facemask when painting and paint in a well-ventilated area. Open windows and/or use fans to remove fumes from the room.

Well done! With your new environmentally conscious outlook on painting, your household is on the way to cleaner, healthier air.

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