How to save paint from greenwashing

Edward Bulmer Natural Paint_Hall in Invisible Green HR-min


When choosing paint, it’s becoming evident that the contents might not always be exactly what it says on the tin! Many claim to be ‘eco-friendly’ or contain low levels of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) but when you look further, there is more to it than meets the eye.

Greenwashing is a big issue in the design and paint industry and, at this present time, it’s so important to get the facts right. We have noticed a rise in the practice of greenwashing which is extremely misleading for consumers. Like whitewashing, it is a device used to deflect ‘heat’, in this case to give the impression that something embodies an intent to be ecologically or environmentally responsible – the term many use is ‘eco-friendly.

Basically, paint is called eco-friendly when it is water-based, despite almost all paints containing resin binders that are forms of acrylic, vinyl or alkyd – all polymers that are derived from petro-chemicals. Also, for the record all paint is water based, that is how paint is made!

So, while the world’s governments now accept that using fossil fuels, fossil sources and petro-chemicals must be reduced to be eco-friendly and address the climate emergency, the paint and coatings industry apparently does not.

Greenwashing is on the rise – it is a useful tool for companies to deflect criticism or attention while they figure out how to address future production without fossil derived materials and carbon emitting processes. It is not necessary, however, if the plans to meet this reduction in environmental damage stack up and are acted on within an urgent time frame.

So, we have always strived to give our customers as much information as possible for them to make an informed decision. We are the only paint brand on the market that uses plant-based binders: the alternative is a polymer derived binder, which is full of micro-plastics and other nasties. We use our plant-based binder to bring all our natural ingredients together and then inject this base white paint with a combination of our mineral and earth pigments.

I think that the paint industry could lead the charge for the appropriate use of plastic by switching to natural binders.

Currently, it uses a lot of water, a fair amount of theoretically recyclable packaging and writes ‘eco-friendly’ on the tin.

This is basic compliance, but it must go further. Legislation always helps when an entire industry needs to change and the first and obvious step to this is to make a clear declaration of ingredients mandatory.

Bulmer Natural Paint are sponsoring the Big Tent Ideas Festival, taking place in Queen Square, Bristol on 11 June. For more information visit

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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