There are several natural paints available on the market, all of which claim to be suitable alternatives to synthetic products. While it is true that products similar to these have been used for centuries, there are also well documented issues.
Natural Does Not Mean Safe
“Naturally occurring ingredients” does not necessarily mean better, either for the environment, or for your health. Open cast mining to produce the minerals needed for “natural paints” is not a practice which is considered to beautify the landscape, and this process often leads to pollution and degradation of ecosystems. In addition, milling of marble and chalk into very fine particles can cause significant environmental damage. Some naturally occurring minerals are hazardous, or even poisonous. Radioactive chemicals occur in abundance in certain rocks, and others (like asbestos) can also be harmful. Introducing these into the built environment is clearly not a good idea. Finally, many naturally occurring mineral and biological pigments are toxic.
“Renewable” Resources Have an Environmental Impact Too
Milk, bio-based, whey, and soy paints are often promoted as sustainable, and as if they have no environmental impact at all. However, many cows are required to produce milk paint. Livestock has a significant environmental impact, producing large amounts of methane gas and using a great deal of energy. In addition, vegetable casein requires harvesting of leguminous plants such as peas, corns, lupines, and beans. These, and other bio-based alternatives such as soy, whey, and plant oils, compete with food production for arable land, and have the same impact on the environment (chemical and pesticide uses, and water consumption) as other crops. Despite the contentions, it is clear that there is no “zero impact” raw material.
Natural Products Often Have Performance Consequences
There are several recurringly noted performance issues (including ease of use and durability) with natural paints. Milk paints are often described to have a strong odor when applied, whey products separate in the can and are very hard to re-mix, and bio-based products can dry very unevenly. The mineral paints are delivered in powder form, requiring water to be added prior to mixing. This step adds complexity and an element of variation, as mixing is imprecise. If colors are being matched, or uniformity is a requirement, this can cause problems. Beyond the formulation and application issues, there are also questions about durability. Natural paints typically perform less well in scrub, adhesion, and color fastness tests than synthetic products.
ECOS Products, the Perfect Choice
If you are focused on environmental pedigree, and product performance, ECOS products are the ideal choice. Our paints offer the durability and ease of application benefits inherent in synthetic products, but without the high VOC levels and strong odors normally associated with traditional paints.