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Most people go through the same paint cycle: a decision is made to paint, colours are chosen, paint is purchased, the job gets done, you decide that you hate painting and will hire tradesmen next time, and finally, you forget about it and do it again a year or two later.
With about 61 million litres of household paint sold in Australia every year, there is great potential to reduce the ecological impact with a few simple tips.
1. Consider environmentally certified products first
Some paint products carry the Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) label.
While assessment via this scheme isn't mandatory, you can trust the independent certification.
2. Go natural
Opt for non-Volatile Organic Compound (non-VOC) paints to avoid all the nasty volatile organic compounds that can cause health and environmental problems. (Note, however, that some 'low-VOC' paints no longer meet GECA VOC limits once they are tinted.)
Use natural, plant-based or mineral paints that are made from renewable resources and don't require a lot of processing.
Most of these also have low VOC levels since their solvents are not synthetic; some might be high in VOCs, like citrus oil, but these are a lot less toxic than petrochemicals.
3. Select paint that lasts
If you must paint, use paint 'systems' that have the longest service lives (check manufacturer data).
Use the recommended primers and undercoats because most high-quality paints are designed as a 'system' to achieve the best finish and longest life.
4. Use less paint
Use paint finishes that actually benefit from weathering and ageing, like 'lime-washes' and mineral silicate paints.
Measure the quantity you will need using the manufacturer's specifications (usually in meters per litre); don't simply guess.
Avoid thinning down paint to make it stretch further - this simply degrades the paint and shortens its life.
If you regularly repaint to cover graffiti, consider other control measures, such as an anti-graffiti coating, and contact your local council, since most can help you in many ways.
5. Control waste
Use top-quality equipment and keep it in good condition for a long life - but be sure you clean safely (see tip 6).
Wrap brushes and rollers in cling wrap between coats to avoid having to wash them too frequently.
If you use natural paints, the wastewater can safely be used on the garden.