No longer does "going green" mean a sacrifice in paint or color quality.
The eco-friendly paint market has grown and evolved: the paints we feature here perform like premium conventional paints (offering good coverage, vibrant colors, durability, and longevity) but without harmful odors, chemicals, or added solvents. For a quick primer on the definitions of paint toxicity and the like, see What is the Greenest Can of Paint? by one of our favorite paint experts, Philip Reno of G&R Paints in San Francisco. One tip: Look for products that are low- or no-VOC in both the paint and the colorant.
Most of the brands featured offer large painted color cards and/or small sample pots, a low-waste way to test the color in your space.
Above: Several years ago Farrow & Ball moved its paint to a water-based formula, significantly reducing the solvents in its products to low and zero VOC. Colors are derived from natural pigments, as well as other natural ingredients such as china clay, lime putty, and linseed oil. And the company doesn't use harmful ingredients like ammonia or formaldehyde. The price for a standard gallon of Farrow & Ball Paint is $95 from Farrow & Ball.
Above: Developed by UK-based Marston & Langinger after the garden rooms company found most paints were too toxic to use for its greenhouses, the Marston & Langinger Paint Range ($75 for 5 liters) offers 72 shades available in matte and eggshell for interiors and in eggshell for exteriors. Marston & Langinger architectural paints are water-based, non-toxic, non-flammable, and virtually odorless—and when dry, are safe for pets and children.
Above: C2 LoVo Paint is a premium, non-toxic, low-VOC paint with infinite color options. The only pigment system in the United States to use European colorants, C2 Paint can be customized in any color and is available in the full range of Philip's Perfect Colors (see Paints & Palette: Philip's Perfect Colors). More recently, C2 Paints introduced C2 Studio, a low-VOC, value-priced paint available in all 496 C2 colors. Both paints are available at G&R Paints.
Above: Returning to methods used before the advent of petrochemicals, Ecotrend Collagen Paint is a no-VOC, odorless paint that uses collagen (eggshell lining recovered from commercial bakery waste eggshells) as the paint's binder. It is rated very high in coverage.
Above: Another historic paint formula, SafePaint from the Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company uses casein (milk protein) as a binder. Both organic and biodegradable, SafePaint is a zero-VOC, newly formulated milk paint designed for use on walls. Milk Paint is environmentally safe and non-toxic (there is a slight milky odor when it is applied, but it is completely odorless when dry). One gallon of Safe Paint for Walls is $45.95.
Above: Natura Paint is Benjamin Moore's zero-VOC, non-toxic, most environmentally sensitive paint offering. The waterborne paint is available in all Benjamin Moore colors; $56.99 per gallon.
Above: Mythic Paint is a non-toxic, ultra low odor paint that provides the durability and coverage you expect from a premium paint, without emitting the VOCs or toxins that can continue to be released into the air for years after application. Made by Auro, a German company that now distributes in the US, Flat Mythic Paint is $43.99 per gallon.
Above: Stark Paint, with colors by British designer David Oliver of Paint and Paper Library, is a water-based paint with no VOCs in the paint and colorants. All colors are available in three paint finishes: velvet emulsion, porcelain shell, and lacquer gloss. A Sample Pot of Stark Paint is $9.75 each.
Above: Devine Color is an Oregon company founded by artist Gretchen Schauffler. The paint is low odor and meets the strictest green standards, requires only one coat, and creates a luminous surface. We especially like the Northwest-inspired palette. Devine Delicate Wall Finish is $59.95 from Devine Color.
Above: A truly sustainable product made from plant resins and mineral pigments, Green Planet Paints are zero-VOC paints that have moved away from petroleum. Available in three finishes (flat, eggshell, and semigloss) and 120 mineral- and clay-based colors. One gallon of Premium Interior Flat Paint is $52.99 from Green Planet Paints.
Above: For exterior or interior woodwork, consider Eco by Fine Paints of Europe, an American-based company that makes its paints in Holland. The Eco Satin Paint is $50 per liter from Fine Paints of Europe.
Need advice selecting paint shades? See our posts: 10 Happiness-Inducing Paint Colors, Architects' White Paint Picks, and Architects' Moody Paint Picks. And for even more possibilities, peruse our Palettes & Paints section.
N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on January 28, 2009.