The price of green

 

This holiday, the spouse and I have decided to use some of our days off work to catch up on long-overdue home maintenance projects. For us, as for most other people, money is tighter this year, and we’re looking for ways to save on the supplies we’ll need. However, we’re also hoping to be as “green” as possible, and combining these two values has turned out to be quite a challenge. Because we hate painting and have avoided it as long as possible, this chore will be our main focus and the paint itself will take up most of our funds. For indoors at least we’re planning to use low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints. These products have gotten a lot of publicity in the last few years and are now pretty widely available, although their cost is still considerably higher than the old-school, smelly paints we’re more familiar with.

As I’ve written before in this blog, I’m not completely sold on “green” and “greener” products, for two reasons; the first is the widespread use of “greenwashing” by manufacturers to exaggerate their green claims. The second is cost, which keeps them (presuming they are indeed safer for people and environment) less accessible to everyone but especially the underprivileged, who can be disproportionately affected by both indoor and outdoor pollution.

 

Photo courtesy of Bree Bailey, licensed under Creative Commons.

So in light of this skepticism, why have I decided to shell out for low- or non-VOC products? Well, one reason is rather prosaic, I’m afraid: The last time we painted, our cats developed nasty cases of diarrhea, even though we kept them out of the area and were careful about ventilation. Was this due to the VOCs? We’re not sure, but we’d sure like to avoid a repeat, if possible! Another is that the paints generally seem to pass muster with testing organizations like Consumer Reports, and with users, who posted extensively awhile back in response to a piece in Treehugger.com about them.

The EPA has weighed in on the negative effects of VOCs, and it also appears that organizations who work to provide affordable housing are paying closer attention to indoor sources of VOCs, and taking steps to avoid them. A Google search of “affordable housing and volatile organic compounds” reveals sites chronicling such projects in several states, including New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Perhaps the combined efforts of these groups and small-scale consumers like me will continue to drive research into the effects of these chemicals, as well as product improvements and cost reductions. In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you’re enjoying an eggnog or two by the fire as we drag around our ladders, drop cloths, and cans of pricy paint. Best wishes to all HCN readers for a safe and happy holiday!

Jackie Wheeler teaches writing and environmental rhetoric at Arizona State University, where she is also the Associate Director of Writing Programs. Outside academia, she’s an avid rafter, kayaker, and horsewoman who also attempts to garden. When possible, she escapes the Phoenix metro area for an undisclosed location in Southeastern Utah.

Essays in the Just West blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

High Country News Classifieds
  • OPERATIONS AND FINANCE MANAGER
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national grassroots organization led by women, seeks a resourceful, self-motivated, team player to serve as Operations and Finance Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) fosters community stewardship, education and awareness of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • WYOMING STATE DIRECTOR
    Save the World ... or at least a piece of it! Join The Nature Conservancy and make a tangible and lasting impact by creating a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY NON-PROFIT NEAR YOSEMITE
    Demanding, but rewarding, advocacy work on forest, water, wildland, and wildlife issues. Applicants should have experience dealing with land management planning, public speaking, grassroots organizing,...
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR AT WILDERNESS WORKSHOP
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.