Safe Paint

The Bad News

The level of air pollution inside your home is greater than the air pollution outside, even in urban settings. What’s up with that? Beyond the fumes from your gas range and cooking aromas, and beyond the air “fresheners” to cover up those and other smells, your interior surfaces and furnishings are polluting your home. Your walls, floors, rugs, furniture, accessories, and bedding all likely contain or are treated with chemicals that can be absorbed through your skin and off-gas into the air you’re breathing inside your own home. 

Start with Paint

Your interior walls compose the largest surface area in your home. The paint you select to finish that surface provides color, and possibly texture, to your space, setting the mood and affecting how you feel. It can also affect your physical health via the air you breathe, even long after any fresh-paint smell may have faded away. Choosing a paint that looks great and won’t harm you, your family, or your pets, is the first step toward a healthy home and probably gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

What’s It Made Of?

Basically, paint consists of solvents, resins for binding and adhesion, and pigments. Within these components there may be volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”), which are chemicals commonly used in commercial paints as stabilizers, driers, thickeners, and preservatives. These toxic vapors are extremely hazardous to your health — we’re talking about asthma, organ damage, certain cancers, and reproductive harm.

The Remedies

Look for Certifications

Some paints that are labeled “non-toxic” aren’t necessarily so, and you can’t count on product labels and online ingredient lists to be comprehensive. It’s best to check for independent testing certifications; in the U.S., these include GREENGUARD and Green Seal, which guarantee certain standards set by the EPA.

Avoid VOCs

Look for paints that are 100% free of VOCs. There are low-VOC paints, but even paints labeled zero-VOC are allowed to contain small amounts of VOCs. The impact can be significant, as just one gallon of paint used can release up to 5 pounds of VOCs into the air.

Vegan Paint

It’s true – most wall paints are not vegan! Dairy cows, robbed of their babies and hooked up to machines, are forced to produce milk for human consumption and paint! So, don’t forget to also screen paints for casein, as well as ox gall, also from cows, and shellac, which comes from the female lac beetle.

The Good News

Choosing the right paint for your home’s interior involves more than just picking a color that you like (although this part is also very important). By doing research to find paints that are free of toxins, you are not only protecting your health and your loved ones, you are making choices that are also safer for the environment. So many wins!

What Is Vegan Interior Design?

More Than A Diet

The principal is simple: animals are sentient beings and not ours to exploit and abuse. We can eat perfectly well (and be healthier) without animal products in our diet. We can use products that don’t involve the repetitive torture of animals to prove their safety (try natural vs chemical). We can clothe ourselves, thankfully, with an ever-evolving array of materials. And the same goes for “clothing” our homes, offices, and cars.

Don’t Kill

Avoid decorating your home with dead animals, like skins and furs – just say “no” to the leather couch, the shearling rug, or the rabbit throw. Contrary to popular belief, leather is not a by-product of the meat industry, as it is a much more profitable industry than the meat industry. And FYI: leather comes from more than just cows…

While it may be hard to relate to the suffering of the silk worm, the numbers are astounding – about 3,000 deaths per yard of silk fabric. Choose other natural materials instead.

Don’t Abuse

Down and feathers are mostly live-plucked, not scooped up from fluffy enclosures of shedding fowl. There are alternatives! Angora is similarly ripped out of rabbits by hand. These practices are extraordinarily cruel; you can imagine how upset and injured your cat would be if you did that to her.

What about shearing? Sadly, really any profit-driven industry involving animals is bound to be cruel (e.g. puppy mills). In the interest of efficiency, the wellbeing of sheep, alpaca, and goats is not a priority in the production of wool, alpaca, and cashmere. Manhandled and mutilated in the attempt to subdue them, these terrified animals often wind up badly injured with broken legs and cuts during shearing.


Sometimes animal products are hiding in unexpected places – in the glues used to produce some plywood and furnishings; in detergents, dyes, and softening agents used to process certain fabrics; in most paints (!) and other finishes.

The Good News

There are cruelty-free alternatives for all of these products, and we will get into those more specifically in future blog entries.

The good news is that by demanding these alternatives, we can promote the development and use of animal-free products for the benefit of animals, humans, and the environment.

There is a lot of fascinating innovation happening right now, and interest in vegan interior design is growing!

Your Sustainable Home

The Bad News

The home furnishings industry has a surprisingly big impact on the environment. Deforestation, manufacturing, and shipping all contribute to global warming. You may not know, however, that the toxic pollutants that affect the greater environment also affect the indoor air quality of your home and the health and wellness of your family. There are loads of toxins in your home; they are in the finishes on your walls and floors, in the adhesives in your cabinets and furniture, in your rugs, in your fabrics, in your cushions, pillows and mattresses. Yikes! What to do?

Ask These 4 Questions

Where did it come from?

Was it sustainably and ethically sourced? Manufactured in a facility that is energy-efficient and recycles waste and water? Shipped locally or shipped across the world?

What is it made of?

Is the material natural or recycled? Does it contain plastics, glues, pesticides, herbicides, fire-retardants, anti-microbials, or stain-resistant chemicals that will off-gas harmful fumes? Is it cruelty-free?

How long will it last?

Sustainable design requires that products be long-lasting, ideally inheritable. So, what is the quality of the materials, construction, and finish?

Where will it end up?

Once the product has reached the end of its useful life, will it degrade naturally or can it be recycled? Or will it end up as landfill?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

We all know our “3 Rs”, right? There are lots of ways to incorporate these practices. Antique and vintage furnishings are the ultimate in sustainability. New furnishings made with reclaimed materials are all the richer for the stories embedded in those materials. Recycled and reclaimed materials of all kinds can be used in a variety of ways, in furniture, kitchen counters, carpets, textiles, and cushion fill. And of course, when we’re done with our things, we can donate them for reuse or carefully recycle them to the extent possible.

The Good News

Everything we do, regardless of how small, matters!

Now is actually a very exciting time, as people in all kinds of industries have rallied to drive innovation to combat climate change. Manufacturers and designers in the furnishings business are working together to drive innovation toward more eco-friendly practices and materials. By making informed choices, you can have a fully sustainable and truly gorgeous home!