A Green Painting Business (an interview)

Is a Green Painting Business viable? We think that it is. The following ecxerpts are from an interview conducted by Rob Blackstien for The Professional Painter magazine, Summer 2008 issue. Rob is a freelance writer in Toronto. Visit Rob’s website to find out about services offered.

Walking into someone’s house smoking; getting behind the wheel intoxicated; using oil-based or certain latex paints in a place where people have to live or work – these are three very dangerous and socially unacceptable things to do, yet only the first two carry major social stigmas. The third – using oil and latex products – is adjust as potentially harmful from a health perspective, not to mention how incredibly environmentally unfriendly a practice it actually is. However, on the list of things society deems a social faux pas, it’s nowhere near the top of the heap. Yet.
Helped along by government regulations, a proliferation of new, durable high quality yet environmentally friendly products and general consumer awareness, the use of eco-friendly paint products is a dynamic that is rapidly changing the industry. The astute painting contractor needs to rethink his or her business model very soon, or risk being left behind with the rest of the dinosaurs. Just ask George Zarogiannis, president of Toronto based contractor Ecopainting Inc. About six years ago, Zarogiannis decided he had done one job too many using oil based paint in enclosed space, which is a situation that painters know is horribly uncomfortable at best and potentially deadly at worst. As a result, he started seeking alternative products and practices, and from that, Ecopainting was born. Yeah, big deal, you are thinking. He is probably some tree hugger playing in a very specialized market. Wrong! “it’s not niche anymore,” he says. “It’s an option that all good painting contractors should be offering.” Ecopainting Inc. is a contractor who is ahead of the curve, but like-minded businesses are springing up all over the place. “It used to be oil or latex; now it’s turning out to be oil, latex or eco,” he says.

Does green sell and does it matter?

But does it sell? There are plenty who believe this is not yet a viable market, but the proof is in the bottom line. In a relatively flat market, Ecopainting’s projected sales will more than double this year compared to 2007. And given that 80% of the projects Ecopainting is involved in consist of using low – or zero – VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint, as compared to less than five years ago…

A true Green Painting Business

As Zarogiannis says, the ultimate eco-friendly painting solution is no painting at all, which makes for a bad business model to say the least. Fortunately, it’s also not very realistic. Painting will always be required, the trick is to maximize results while minimizing environmental impact. Be your own watchdog. Ecopainting assigns one employee each month to act as an environmental watch-dog for the company. That individual, who receives a couple more dollars per hour to perform the task, will ensure the company is following green procedures and assess new means for more environmentally– friendly practices. “It’s not just about the paint,” Zarogiannis says. Ecopainting has made efforts to reduce paper in it’s operations with computer faxing, not printing proposals until they need them and not creating junk mail (the company stopped producing flyers and door hangers and now does most of it’s marketing through networking and the internet.

Walking green
Going green doesn’t just mean hanging up a shingle that says “I am a green painting contractor” You have to talk the talk and walk the walk. Ecopainting recently finished a big downtown office project for an insurance company’s entire building and Zarogiannis says he is sure they were awarded the job because of it’s environmentally friendly painting approach. Ecopainting is also doing work for Lululemon, another company that’s coming across as very environmentally friendly. Conversely, Ecopainting has actually turned down projects they deem environmentally unsound. A couple of years ago Ecopainting was asked to bid on a $150,000 project for a large public institution in the GTA that needed staining done on its outdoor wood. The institution insisted not only that an oil based product to be used, but it needed to be sprayed. Ethics aside, Zarogiannis believes doing that project, would have hurt his company. All it would take, he says, is an article in Now Magazine about them polluting near a protected greenland area, to lose years of hard work and branding.

Ecopainting is a viable Toronto business that follows environmental painting principles. Call 416 733-7767 for more information, or contact us online

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