The “Eco” in Ecopainting

The economy of the last 2 years has had an affect on the daily operations of many companies including ours. Everything became a survival game (not an excuse) and we became complacent. As a result our “Eco” mandate was put in the back-burner for too long. We are again starting the discussion with our painters, our customers and the community. Our intent is to initiate action and turn our small painting company into a true environmentally responsible company.

The following “COMPANY INTROSPECTIVE” was prepared by Rachel, one of our Painters.

A) PROBLEM: Waste, in various forms

Excess Paint

– Too much paint was ordered – Leftover paint – Leftover paint cans or pails


– Ensure that if the paint is pre-mixed and can be returned, the outsides of the cans are kept clean and returned in the same condition as they were bought.

– Whoever is ordering paint, make sure and take the time to order the correct amount. – Leave small amounts of extra paint with homeowner/business owner for touch ups. Include directions on safe disposal of paint cans when emptied. (Create and distribute short pamphlet?) Disposal

When a paint can is empty of paint, it should be either: Washed out and used as a cut bucket, or the remaining paint should be allowed to harden, peeled out and discarded as solid waste, and the metal can may then be recycled. The same system applies to paint can lids.

Plastic The use of plastic should be limited as much as possible, and if it is decided as necessary, then hopefully at the end of the job the painter will use his/her judgement to decide if the plastic is suitable to be re-used. Clear-plastic Garbage bags to contain re-usable?

Rosin Paper drop-sheets Can we only purchase Paper that is recycled? And again, note if it can be re-used at a future job-site.

Waste-Water (washing of tools) Awarenes of the amount of water used when washing tools. Can we use spinners? Using some of the new type of brushes and rollers that are easier to wash, will minimize wash time? These should be promoted and/or purchased

Garbage in General Personal garbage, and recyclable items such as water bottles, should be kept to to a minimum.

Can we be provided with recycling bins, to sort garbage? Reusable water bottles? Etc.

B) PROBLEM: Potential Environment Impact of Products

I think we cover this all the time, we are aware that its important to use low VOC paints etc,

and that recycled and less harmful paints are available for use. There is some thought that less harmful paints are less durable, and sometimes people demand stuff to be painted in oil, thinking that’s what is necessary to ensure a long paint life-cycle. We can always suggest the low-impact options first and foremost, prep surfaces more for adhesion or attempt to wash stains off surfaces to eliminate the need to coat them with solvent-based products. Can we refuse to accept jobs that don’t meet our low-zero VOC mandate? If not can we make sure they only take up a certain (small) % of our business?

C) PROBLEM: Transportation – Excessive number of vehicles being driven by Managers and Painters to each job site. – Jobs are being assigned that are not local to each painter when local jobs are available. – Company Vehicles are not environmentally friendly

– Managers are driving huge vehicles filled with stuff and ladders unnecessarily Need of shop to store equipment

– Estimator/ Operations manager should not be driving huge trucks filled with stuff either, unless picking up of dropping off equipment. Smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles can be used instead. – Lack of Efficiency at job-sites, returning to job-site to fix a mistake, redo a task, etc

and driving work vans are driven around unnecessarily.


– Can incentives be created to reward painters who carpool? Use the TTC? Bike? – Painters should be assigned jobs that are close to their homes to cut down on driving time, when possible. – Can estimators quote jobs that are on the TTC routes/ local to painters at a slightly lower cost then those that are not, and vice versa?

– Ideally, all the tools, ladders, paint could be kept in a fairly centrally located shop, so the managers can access what they need, and only when they need it, so they don’t have to drive around a tool shed all day long.

– Purchase locally made products, such as uniforms, office supplies etc. 

D) PROBLEM: Office/ Managerial Procedures

Remember: These things start from the top and trickle down.

– Create recycling procedures for office/job waste – Implement a system to deal with waste-water: such as Glidden’s “wash system” – Paperless office? – Re-think job manager’s meetings: Can they be held over Skype? Other methods? – Work orders – paperless? But are they really that big a deal? – Eco Signage – How to encourage carpooling – Show leadership, and also take ideas from other companies – Community oriented – Create awareness, dialogue and discussion – Ensure Green Purchasing

“Eco” Painting: Policy Draft

Environmental Policy. As a painting company, EcoPainting realizes the serious and negative effects that products used in painting can have on the environment. It is therefore our mandate to conduct our company in a manner that reflects our concern for the environment, and utilize the products and resources available to maintain a low-impact, sustainable and environmentally friendly painting business.

Current Procedures:

Paint and Paint-related Products:

– The use of low or zero VOC paints where possible
– Frequent review of safety data sheets re: materials being used
– If solvent-based primers are deemed necessary, a low-odour product is used
– Calculated purchasing of required amount of paint, resulting in little extra paint
– Any extra paint is labelled for future-touch ups, use in future projects, or donated
– Use of low-impact cleaners
– Use of good quality paints, eliminating the need for multiple coats and for frequent re-painting.

Waste Management:

-Reuse of plastic and paper drop- sheets where at all possible
-Awareness of water usage when washing tools
-Awareness and restriction of personal garbage produced (water bottles, etc)
-Coordinated transportation of workers to areas, ie. Carpooling

Ongoing Growth:

Environmental Initiatives:

– Green Purchasing, and similar conscious effort to use and encourage the use of environmentally sound products, technology, services and systems, or minimize negative environmental impacts.
– Investigating green training and certifications to educate and influence painters.

Communication and Education:

-Frequent updates to our Facebook page, Twitter and our Blog to encourage dialogue and conversation on environmentally sensitive issues within our community
-Building discussion within the company to promote low-impact procedures

Future Intent:

– Implement ongoing environmental awareness training program for all staff (This will ensure that every staff member has been educated regarding their environmental impact within the company, and trained to minimize their impact)
– Frequent environmental audits
– Set targets to improve carbon footprint/ environmental impact
– Yearly campaign to raise awareness for local Green organizations
– Assessment of efficiency and it’s effect on waste production
– Re-evaluation of company vehicles and their environmental soundness

We hope that by implementing and upholding these procedures, we can reduce the environmental footprint left by Ecopainting, while creating standards that other companies will hope to emulate.

2 thoughts on “The Eco In Ecopainting”

  1. A few observations:

    1) Use high quality “cloth” roller sleeves such as the Purdy Colossus. I have been using the same Colossus “Pro Extra” sleeves for several years. When it’s time to clean them, I scrape the excess paint off with a five-in-one, then leave the sleeves to soak in a five gallon pail of water. After a few hours, all of the solids descend to the bottom of the bucket, which can be hosed out outdoors (zero voc paint residue into the ground is not ideal, but is nevertheless the best, most practical way to deal with it). The most water efficient way to finish cleaning roller sleeves is to use a quick cycle set to cold in a clothes washing machine; the sleeves come out as good as new. Neither the washer nor septic will be harmed, because at the point the sleeves go in, there’s only paint water on them.

    A painter can literally go several years reusing the same sleeves, over and over, using this method.

    2) Rather than paint roller trays, or roller screen/five gallon pail combos, just use the naked five gallon pail to roll out of. The buckets also can be reused for years. Hosed outside with a nozzle is the best cleaning method. To avoid buildup of paint on the sides of the pail in interior jobs, wipe regularly with a rag.

    3) Tape is useless and wasteful – both in time and material – in most settings. Exceptions are flashing on occasion (though wiping with a rag works the majority of the time). Vertical corners of different colored interior walls are another (it’s tough to beat the clean, straight look that tape provides in that setting). For other applications where tape might make the job go faster/easier, use an 18″ (or whatever size you prefer) mudding blade and a rag.

    4) Poly is also mostly wasteful and useless. Use butyl backed dropcloths. Chicago Canvas and Supply sells them at reasonable prices. Butyl backed is an infinitely better dropcloth than the canvas type that lets paint through.

    5) Sprayers are also mostly useless and not worth it. In most situations, they’re simply a way to get material onto surfaces that still need to be backbrushed/backrolled anyway. They’re also expensive, often break down, suffer tip clogs, waste paint and add unnecessary time to the job. Using a sprayer often requires extensive masking, which is a waste of tape, polyethylene, blades and time. Not to mention that somewhere along the line there is usually failure in the masking, which leads to more wasted time.

    Rather than spray, use a long nap roller (which when dry enough, can make even the smoothest interior walls look great) and roll out of a five gallon pail, with nothing between paint and roller. Use a large brush, like the 6″ Corona Pro-Stain-It (great for interior wall cuts). As such brushes have removable handles, replace the original handle with an 18″ (or thereabouts) aluminum tipped wooden pole. The extra reach the pole provides will cut down – no pun intended – on ladder sets.

    6) Use Floetrol, Zinsser Latex Extender or the like to extend paint. It’ll even work on waterborne oil stains (aka “hybrid” latex/oil paints).

    7) Use cheap hair conditioner on brush bristles before painting. It will make brush cleanup faster, with less water, and also help increase the lifespan of the brush.

    8) To clean brushes (water based paint) plunge the brush into a bucket of water. This method is MUCH faster than any other and will use much less water.

    9) Brush spinners are useless; just whack your brush on the toe of your shoe or boot to remove excess water after washing a brush. This technique works for roller sleeves as well (though if the 5 gallon pail/washing machine method described above for cleaning roller sleeves is followed, it’s rarely necessary).

    Less tools mean less impact on the environment. Lose paint roller trays, roller screens, brush spinners, tape/poly (mostly) and disposable brushes/roller sleeves (there’s rarely any need for them).

    At the end of my jobs, the only refuse tends to be a few plastic bags (reused ones; I never purchase new) for storing brushes and rollers during breaks. Eventually, rags also will also need to be tossed, but like the bags, they’re also repurposed and are never bought new (if you cannot source enough rags from around your house, a secondhand store is a good place to procure good ones for cheap, in the form of old clothing, t-shirts or whatever that you can cut up).

    A thought for the future:

    As delineated well in the 2004 book “Cradle to Cradle,” plastic, though (often justifiably) demonized, does have its place. On the face of it, one would think that metal paint cans are more ecological than plastic ones, however that is only the case if the cans are recycled. The VAST majority of plastic is not recycled and never will be. Metal is more likely to be, but at the expense and environmental impact of melting the cans down to make new ones.

    What if instead, plastic cans were taken back by paint manufacturers, cleaned out and reused? Such a practice, as far as I know would not make it past regulators for say, yogurt, but why not for paint? It’s not like someone is going to eat the paint, so the same sanitary requirements would presumably not need to apply.

    To my knowledge, this idea has not been implemented by any companies who sell their paint in plastic cans, however I think if any of them did, and created infrastructure for empty cans to be returned, they would become eco champions of their industry. Obviously, the paint from previous incarnations of the plastic cans would need to be completely removed, but with the right kind of plastic and cleaning setup at the factory, I think that could be easily achieved. It would ultimately save the company money, as well as the environment. This is only an off the top of my head idea; maybe there are obstacles to sufficiently cleaning the old cans that I’m unaware of. I hope not, as it would be an overall win. Plastic cans travel better than metal ones – less waste in dented/damaged cans – and if the plastic ones were reused, it would also end the recycling of metal ones. Another environmental win.

    • Hi Corbin, thank you for taking the time to contribute all these useful tips. One thing to keep in mind is paint water or any dry paint outdoors will find it’s way to the waterways. In some juristictions this is also illegal. By the way I love the idea of the roller sleeves in the washing machine. After the spin cycle I love how fluffy they become. They are almost as good as new (or better).


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