Benefits of Low and Zero VOC Paint

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) are chemicals added to paint for a variety of reasons including color enhancement, increased adhesiveness and increased ease of spreading. Despite these conveniences, VOCs are extremely dangerous to humans, and the use of them in many paints results in indoor air being anywhere from 3-5 times more polluted and harmful than outdoor air.

What can you do to prevent this? Buy low- and zero-VOC paints, which are now available from almost every brand. Though the main, and obvious perk to using low-VOC paint is reducing the toxicity of your breathing air, benefits do go a bit deeper.

Lower Toxicity

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), VOCs are some of the environment's arch enemies and a huge risk to humans as well. One of the easiest ways to reduce this risk, both for our environment and our bodies, is to use paints with lower or no VOCs.

VOCs are even more toxic to those with high vulnerability to smells and chemicals as well as allergies. Using lower VOC paints reduces the uncomfortable side effects for this group of people as well.

High exposure to paints with excessive VOCs can result in a wide variety of complaints, from watery eyes to respiratory infections, and in some cases, even cancer. Using paints with a lower level of VOCs can directly reduce these health risks.

No Smell!

Low VOC, No VOC paint contains zero or a minimum amount of compounds, which basically makes the paint almost unscented when wet, and leaves it with no smell at all as soon as it is dried.

Better for the Environment

The toxins emitted from regular, high VOC paints end up in the atmosphere and ultimately the ozone, adding to an already colossal problem of greenhouse gases. Using paint with reduced VOCs significantly decreases the amount of toxins that are released into our ozone. In addition, these paints reduce toxicity in landfills and water, as excess, discarded paint is nowhere near as toxic.

Low or zero VOC paint is also very easy to clean and requires only soap and water, rather than heavy chemicals. One more point for low VOCs versus air-killing chemicals.

by Anjie Cho


What No One's Telling You About Paint and VOCs

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We've shared plenty of information about paint, from how to choose the perfect color to why you'd want to look for paints with lower VOCs, but here's something not many homeowners are aware of: even paints labeled as "low-VOC" can cause significant damage to your health and the environment. Let's break it down. 

First of all, let's be clear. Opting for lower VOC count in paint is definitely healthier than just grabbing whatever color you like without checking the label. But as with many sustainable and eco-friendly options, lowering VOC levels in paint doesn't necessarily make it completely healthy. Though they do contain fewer volatile organic compounds, paints labeled as low- or zero-VOC do contain VOCs. What's more, the number used to classify these paints as healthier is measured before the addition of pigments and certain additives, which can contain additional VOCs. And some of the dangerous chemicals added to paints aren't considered to be VOCs, so they're not taken into account when determining the safety of the paint. 

Even when the paint you've chosen has the lowest possible levels of VOCs, those compounds will still off-gas into your internal environment. Though this small amount of toxicity may not show up immediately, this is another situation similar to that metaphor we use when talking about the commanding position and clutter. Even if you don't notice, like a stone that has water dripping on it for years, it will eventually begin to affect you in a negative way.  

And, as Joel Hirshberg notes in his article, The Truth About Paintreducing the level of VOCs in paint only does so much for the environment. It is not the most ideal solution. He mentions that when we reduce the use of VOCs, we only slow down the process of contaminating our environment, since our atmosphere can only completely absorb waste if it is healthy and biodegradable. As many of these chemicals are not, even in small amounts, they ultimately return to the atmosphere where they remain forever. 

With this information in mind, most experts agree that seeking out the healthiest possible paint option is worth the effort and cost. In most cases, this option consists of natural paints and finishes. These paints are composed only of natural ingredients, like water, plant oils and natural minerals. In these paints, manufacturers use 100% natural materials for each of the primary components, which would usually be chemicals. For instance, The Real Milk Paint, a popular option, contains casein, hydrated lime and plant-derived fillers, all of which are natural and non-toxic.

There are a number of companies who produce natural paint for healthier environments. This list from eartheasy is a great start, but as always, do your own research before choosing the best paint for your needs. In fact, if you're handy enough, you can even make your own natural paint! What better way to KNOW your indoor air quality is safe?

by Anjie Cho


Our 6 Favorite Neutral Colors for Apartment Walls

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Painting the walls in your space, no matter how large or small, is one of the easiest ways to make your home more comfortable and personable. I've talked in general about some of the best colors to use in painting living spaces, but let's get a bit more specific on what exact colors work best in holistic spaces. These are my absolute favorite colors for painting walls (and one for ceilings) in any room. 

Benjamin Moore- Super White Flat

I've mentioned this paint and color before, as I find it to be the best option for ceilings. Many people choose to paint their walls with varying colors ranging from calming blues to off-whites and more, but from a feng shui and interior design perspective, it's important to stick to a pure white for ceiling space. Flat finish Super White paint reflects light better than any color, thus giving your space a more open, well-lit quality than other colors. 

 

Benjamin Moore- White Dove OC-17

White is an excellent color for walls, especially if you make the conscious decision to use white, rather than simply leaving your walls as blank slates, but the bright white color we use on ceilings is not appropriate for walls. Instead of pure white, which can overwhelm the senses, much like a field of fresh snow, opt for a warmer white, like White Dove. This is an excellent option for warm white walls that provide a soothing, rather than harsh and sterile environment. 

 

Benjamin Moore- Decorator's White PM-3

If you're looking for a slightly cooler tone, try Benjamin Moore's Decorator's White. Where White Dove provides a warm, welcoming white, Decorator's White PM-3 moves toward the cooler end of the light spectrum, offering a more open upbeat shade of white without the overwhelming purity of Super White.

 

Benjamin Moore- Simply White OC-117

If you've taken a look at these white color options yet, you may have noticed how warm and creamy the White Dove option is. While this is an excellent choice for a relaxing, low-key room, it may be too creamy for some tastes, and that's where Simply White comes in. Still on the warmer end of the color spectrum, Simply White provides a perfect balance between the stark white of Super White and the creamy complexion of White Dove. 

 

Benjamin Moore- Mt. Rainier Gray 2129-60

If you're thinking of going a more colorful direction with your walls, don't worry: white isn't the only option! In fact, one of my absolute favorite neutral tones for wall colors is Benjamin Moore's Mt. Rainier Gray, a beautifully calming combination of light blue and grays that creates a perfectly livable, yet not-so-white shade! 

 

Farrow and Ball- Ammonite 274

Benjamin Moore isn't the only option for sprucing up walls either. For an elegant option with hints of neither blue nor white, Farrow and Ball has created perfection in the elegant gray shade of Ammonite. Not too bright to overwhelm and not too dark to depress, Ammonite is the ideal color for a living space, bathroom or the like. 

 

Don't forget, no matter what shade or brand of paint you choose, aim for an eco-friendly, low or zero-VOC option. Not only will this reduce the negative environmental impact regular paints so often have, it will also greatly improve the quality of the indoor air that you and your family breathe on and everyday basis. 

by Anjie Cho


Perks of Apple Cider Vinegar

I'm a huge fan of white vinegar. I use it in almost every non-toxic cleaner I make and also use it to clean my shoes and furniture. It's a very helpful item to have in your holistic home toolbox. But white vinegar isn't the only kind that can be used for various purposes around the home. Check out these holistic hats for apple cider vinegar!

Dandruff Cure

I've yet to meet the person who is a fan of dandruff, but store-bought shampoos, like many popular hygiene products, can include a huge number of chemicals that, while effective on dandruff, may not be so great for the rest of your body. Instead of bringing more toxicity into your home, try mixing equal parts apple cider vinegar and water together in a spray bottle. After shampooing, spray the mixture on your hair, then rinse after about 15 minutes. Twice a week with this all-natural cure is all is takes!

Sunburn Soother

Though we're getting ready to say goodbye to the sun for a while, at least in New York, it will be back, and it will bring its old friend, Sunburn, with it. There may not be anything worse than enduring the pain after spending a little too much time in the sun and not re-applying sunscreen often enough. Trouble putting on clothing? Check. Trouble turning over at night? Check. Excruciating pain at the lightest touch? Check. Using apple cider vinegar at bath time can effectively reduce sunburn symptoms and actually restore the body's pH balance. Just a cup or two is all you need!

Laundry Buddy

Most of us wash our clothing on a regular basis, but sometimes soap and water alone are no match for smelly clothes. Ever pulled your gym clothes from the dryer to find they still smell like yesterday's squats? Have animals who consistently mark "their" territory? Apple cider vinegar to the rescue! Combine one part apple cider vinegar with four parts water for a natural laundry deodorizer. For an average load, 1/2 cup of this mix is enough. 

Vinegar of All Trades

You can even substitute apple cider vinegar for white vinegar in some cases. It works just the same. Try apple cider vinegar as a multi-purpose cleaner, mold-removing agent or coffee-pot scrub. The uses are almost endless! 

Are you already an apple cider vinegar user? What's your favorite non-kitchen use for this miracle substance? If you haven't already tried it out, get to the kitchen, grab a bottle and see what good can come! 

by Anjie Cho


Understanding Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

First things first, indoor air quality (IAQ) is precisely what it sounds like: the measure of the quality of air inside a building or other structure meant for occupation. It is widely known that our planet suffers from a significant amount of pollution, but this pollution isn't limited to the air we breathe outside our homes. In fact, studies show that the air we breathe inside our homes and other buildings, where we spend most of our time, can be anywhere from two to five times as toxic as outdoor air due to a variety of chemicals included in paint, cleaning agents, etc. 

From a feng shui perspective, indoor air quality affects the energy flow in your home. You want the most positive and supportive "qi" around you to support your health and livelihood.

Since, as I mentioned, humans spend the majority of our time inside, it is extremely important that we improve the condition of our IAQ. Poor IAQ can lead to many negative side effects including nose bleeds, asthma, upper respiratory irritation and much more. In addition to physical ailments, polluted IAQ can be very costly, whether in company terms, where it can cost in the form of employee compensation and negative publicity, or on a more personal level, which can lead to increased medical bills and purchasing of excessive products to eliminate symptoms. 

Fortunately, as with most environmentally unfriendly issues, there are ways to reduce the level of harmful substances in your indoor air and increase the quality of the air your family breathes. 

One of the easiest ways to increase your IAQ is by monitoring the chemicals that are used, and subsequently released into the air, in your home. Rather than using commercial, toxic cleaning supplies, try switching to non-toxic, DIY cleaning agents, as they provide a much cleaner, safer air quality for your home's inhabitants. Oh, and they're easier on the wallet. 

Another easy way to control the quality of your home's air is by ensuring that atmospheric conditions are optimal for human living, not life of micro-organisms. Keep humidity in the home between 30% and 50% by taking steps like venting your dryer outside your home, using a humidifier or air conditioner in the home and taking care not to overwater houseplants

Taking time to ensure your home is properly cleaned and free of dust particles and other tiny organisms will also help with controlling the amount of allergens in your family's indoor air. Mop often with just water or non-toxic soap to ensure that dust doesn't settle on hard floors, and vacuum on softer floors. Clear your indoor space by opening windows and letting in fresh air, and instead of harmful chemical air fresheners, try the naturally refreshing scent of lemon or other citrus peels (like orange, feng shui's favorite!). 

IAQ is becoming increasingly important as we face growing danger due to pollutants in our atmosphere. Bettering and maintaining a high quality for your family's home is as easy as changing a few patterns and trying new things. You have nothing to lose, except for allergens and ailments!

by Anjie Cho