What does green mean anyway?

By Tim Wright | May 12, 2008

From pop culture to the laboratory bench, "green" is definitely the theme these days. Consumer demand for healthier options is being driven by the media's focus on issues of health and sustainability. The idea of "going green" has gained widespread support across a broad spectrum of consumers and businesses.

Within the coatings industry everyone has added green products to their portfolios, accompanied with catchy marketing campaigns that appeal to consumers' desires for a cleaner, quieter and more tranquil environment.

However, what does green mean? When it comes to coatings trying to define "green" is like deciphering an encrypted code.

It seems like there are just as many organizations setting standards as there are companies launching products. Environmental organizations such as the U.S. EPA, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS) and Green Seal are some that have established a number of standards regarding VOCs. But there is no universally accepted definition of green as it concerns VOCs and odor.

Generally speaking, VOC levels for interior latex paints are 150 grams per liter for non-flat paints and 50 grams per liter for flat paints. Exterior paints are typically 200 grams per liter for non-flat and 100 grams per liter for flat paints.

However, often these levels do not account for the colorant system that is added to the base paint. Universal colorants can have more than 240 grams per liter of VOCs. From this perspective, green paints may not be as green as they are touted.

To find out about some of the latest products to hit the market that claim to have no VOCs in the colorant, see this month's feature on "Green Coatings Technology."

Tim Wright