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Cutting Through The Greenwash

A survey carried out by Dulux Trade at Ecobuild 2014 found that as many as 31 per cent of construction professionals considered sustainability the biggest challenge they faced in their role. This growing industry focus means that painters and decorators are under increasing pressure to be 'in-the-know' and deliver suitable solutions in all areas of their work.

While it's good news that this is high on the agenda, for many decorators the increased focus on environmental credentials has made it difficult to identify truly sustainable solutions for customers. With this in mind, Sam Balloch, marketing manager at Dulux Trade, offers her advice on how decorators can cut through the greenwash and genuinely reduce the environmental impact of the painting process.

What should I consider when selecting a sustainable coating?

On the surface, when decorators are looking for a sustainable product, it seems like the logical option to select one that promotes its 'green' credentials. Many people might consider this a perfectly suitable option to tick the 'sustainable' box. In reality, while of course it is important to consider a product's impact, there is much more to think about. It is only by considering the entire life-cycle of a product that decorators can help deliver a truly sustainable solution. This requires an approach that takes into account three key elements of a coating: how long it lasts, how much is needed, and what is in it.

It is important to think about the durability of a coating and the way in which the space being painted will be used. A highly durable paint, for example, is ideal for high traffic areas and may be a more sustainable solution over its entire lifetime than a standard paint which might need to be reapplied more frequently. If a paint product needs to be reapplied twice as often, it doesn't just double the environmental impact of the paint, but also of the entire redecorating process including travel, cleaning and waste.

It's equally important to consider the opacity of a product, as a paint that has a poor opacity will potentially need more coats when it comes to application, and this can increase the overall footprint of the project. Similarly, a coating with a low spread rate may need more paint to finish a job, which again could affect the impact of the project.

Prior to starting work on a project, it's advisable for decorators to accurately calculate the amount of paint that will be needed, in order to reduce wastage at the end of the job. Many manufacturers now offer paint calculators to support professionals in estimating the amount of paint that will be required for a project.

How is the paint industry helping to address sustainability?

Over recent years, leading paint manufacturers have been looking at ways to further improve the environmental credentials of their coatings, to create a new generation of solutions that offer improved performance but also a sustainable option. As well as looking at the raw materials they use, they are also working on how they produce and deliver the coatings, and how these products perform over their lifecycle.

To support this, industry analysis tools have been developed to help predict how a coating will perform from production to final application, helping to create new sustainable formulations without compromising on quality. For example, the Environmental Impact Analyser system, which Dulux Trade developed in conjunction with Forum for the Future, analyses three key impact elements - water, waste and carbon.

What other sustainable solutions are available?

Fortunately, many manufacturers are taking steps to improve the bigger picture, meaning that decorators can also have greater confidence in the wider life-cycle of a solution, such as packaging and end-of-life disposal. A number of manufacturers also offer paint disposal schemes, ensuring that left-over materials are dealt with in the most sustainable, and often cost-effective way for customers.

Final thought...

Ultimately, by considering the entire lifecycle of a product as well as its suitability to a specific project - rather than opting for a simple 'quick fix' solution - decorators can limit the negative impacts of the decorating process and meet the sustainability demands of their customers