Best eco-friendly and low VOC paint, from Little Greene to Lick

·8-min read
Paints that are low VOC could also boost the value of your home. (Getty Images)
Paints that are low VOC could also boost the value of your home. (Getty Images)

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Whatever colour paint you choose, it can pay to 'think green' when decorating – because as well as being better for the environment, choosing paints that are low VOC could also boost the value of your home.

VOCs (or volatile organic compounds) are substances which contribute to atmospheric pollution when they evaporate. Having walls decorated with low VOC paint is one of the top five eco-improvements most valued by potential homebuyers and could increase your home's value by £2,540, according to money.co.uk's new Eco-Home Report.

Most paint brands have taken steps to reduce the amount of VOCs in their products, but watch out for 'green washing', where companies overstate their eco-credentials, as the British Coatings Federation (BCF) explain: "No decorative coating is entirely environmentally friendly and some high gloss paints, aerosols and some other specialist paints in particular need higher VOC levels for performance and, at present, there is no low VOC substitute for these."

Other factors to take into account when trying to choose eco-friendly paints include considering: natural and organic formulas; whether the paint is free from petrochemicals, solvents and plastics; whether the components are responsibly sourced; whether the company uses recycled packaging; the company's carbon offsetting commitments; and how it limits the amount of waste produced.

Scroll down to find out more about the sustainable credentials of 9 eco-friendly paint brands and some of their popular shades.

Best eco-friendly paints UK

1. Little Greene

Our top pick: Absolute Matt Emulsion in Slacked Lime, 2.5L | £48.50 at Little Greene

The VOC content of all Little Greene's water-based paints is "virtually zero", while its oil-based paints have been reformulated using sustainable vegetable oils. The brand's Absolute Matt Emulsion, Intelligent Matt Emulsion and Intelligent Eggshell paints have also met the European safety standard for 'toy paint' meaning they have been proven to be safe from toxic metals. 

The brand, which manufactures all its paint in the UK, states it "has not, and never will commission or support animal testing" and all its paint is free from any animal derived products. 

Little Greene earns extra eco points as its paint tins are made using over 50% recycled steel and can be recycled again. Even its paperwork is printed on recycled or sustainably sourced paper. 

2. Edward Bulmer

Our top pick: Natural Paint Emulsion in Eau De Nile 2.5L | £51 from Edward Bulmer Natural Paints

Natural Paint Emulsion in Eau De Nile. (Edward Bulmer)
Natural Paint Emulsion in Eau De Nile. (Edward Bulmer)

Many paints use plastic as a binder, but not Edward Bulmer paints, which contain plant based binders, along with natural earth and mineral pigments rather than chemical dyes. In fact, this brand earns extra eco points for transparency, as it happily lists all the responsibly sourced ingredients you'll find in its paints on its website and tins. The vegan organic paints are free from petrochemicals and have a VOC rating just 0.2%. They are also considered to be child and pet safe.

The company says it does not produce any waste which cannot be recycled or composted and its production process "is carbon neutral on every step of the way", as the paint and pigments are manufactured in Germany and it offsets the carbon produced by shipping the products from Germany. 

3. Lick

Our top pick: Matt Paint in Pink 02, 2.5L | £38 at Lick

Pink 02 Matt Paint. (Lick)
Pink 02 Matt Paint. (Lick)

As well as being low VOC, Lick water-based paints are vegan friendly, not tested on animals and only produced in small, made to order batches, which avoids wastage. 

The company also promises that for every 2.5 litre tin of paint sold, it will help remove 18g of plastic from the world’s oceans. To date, Lick says it has removed the equivalent of nearly 51,000 plastic bottles. 

4. Earthborn Paints

Our top pick: Daisychain Claypaint, 2.5L | £47 at Earthborn paints

Daisychain Claypaint. Earthborn paints)
Daisychain Claypaint. Earthborn paints)

Acrylic-free and "virtually VOC-free", many of Earthborn's paint types, including its Claypaint, are certified as being safe to use on children’s furniture and toys. None of the products are tested on animals and all Earthborn paint finishes are vegan friendly. Plus, the tins are made from 70% recycled steel and are fully recyclable. 

This brand earns extra eco points as the foam chips that the paints are packaged in are eco friendly, fully biodegradable and safely dissolve in water, while all the printed materials use vegetable based inks and paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

5. Farrow & Ball

Our top pick: Estate Emulsion in Hague Blue, 2.5L | £49.50 at Farrow & Ball

Hague Blue in Estate Emulsion, 2.5L. (Farrow & Ball)
Hague Blue in Estate Emulsion, 2.5L. (Farrow & Ball)

Farrow & Ball's water-based paints are all classed as either Minimal or Low VOC. The pigments are responsibly sourced and the tins are recyclable. They are not tested on animals and most paint finishes are vegan-friendly, containing no animal-derived ingredients. The brand's Modern and Estate paint ranges are also certified child and baby safe in accordance with Toy Safety Standards. 

On top of this, Farrow & Ball is committed to recycling 100% of the dry waste from its Dorset factory, recycling 97% of its liquid waste and creating its cardboard packaging with 75% recycled material. Extra eco points earned as all colour cards, brochures and letters are printed on FSC certified paper and the company states it complies with the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) across all its UK sites.

6. Coat

Our top pick: Flat Matt in Felt Cute, 2.5L | £42 at Coat

Felt Cute Flat Matt. (Coat)
Felt Cute Flat Matt. (Coat)

Newcomer Coat launched in 2020 with an impressive string of green credentials. Made in the UK, its paints are water-based, low VOC, animal cruelty free and vegan. Its supplies are B-Corp certified too, so contain no plastics. 

Coat only produces paint to order, packages it in recycled and recyclable materials and sends it straight to customers' doors via carbon neutral delivery partners. In fact, Coat brands itself as "the first Carbon Positive Paint Company in the world", by which it means the business has taken responsibility for all its carbon emissions and offsets unavoidable emissions by contributing double to UN Gold Standard environmental offsetting projects. The brand has also partnered with Carbon Jacked, an independent provider of carbon footprint assessments and formal verification of carbon neutrality, to review, measure, and offset its emissions "in a rigorous, tangible way that we can stand by". 

Coat earns extra eco points for its recycling scheme – customers can send back their empty tins or unused paint, and the company will process them for recycling. 

7. Graphenstone

Our top pick: Ecosphere Colour in Argento, 1L | £22.14 at Graphenstone

Ecosphere Colour in Argento. (Graphenstone)
Ecosphere Colour in Argento. (Graphenstone)

Graphenstone's paints are used in the Historic Royal Palaces and have been awarded Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Gold & Silver certifications. An international certification that confirms the impact of its products on people and planet is a positive one. 

All Graphenstone paints are chemical preservative-free, microplastic-free, made from natural sustainable ingredients and have naturally occurring VOC levels of less than 0.1%/L or less than 1g/L in their natural mineral bases.

The manufacturing process is powered by renewable energy – biomass (partly powered by olive stones) and wind – and the factory reuses the wastewater from production. The paint pots are made from recycled plastic, which is also recyclable. 

Graphenstone earns extra eco points as its BioSphere, Ecosphere and Ambient Pro + paints contain lime, which actually absorbs CO2 from the air as it cures, with a carbon footprint certified at just 0.5kg per litre. 

8. Auro

Our top pick: Premium Wipeable Emulsion in Apple Green 0.5, 2.5L | £44 at Auro

Premium Wipeable Emulsion. (Auro)
Premium Wipeable Emulsion. (Auro)

Auro has been rated as a 'best buy' environmentally friendly paint by Ethical Consumer magazine. The plant-based natural emulsion is chemical-free, petrochemical-free, plastic-free and "effectively VOC free". The brand states its "whole business, including factories, is carbon-neutral certified". 

Auro also publishes full ingredients lists for its products and the company earns extra eco points as any leftover dried paint can be composted or disposed of with the household waste.

9. Victory Colours

Our top pick: Matt Emulsion in Terrapotta No. 67, 2.5L | £41.95 at Victory Colours

Matt Emulsion in Terrapotta (Victory Colours)
Matt Emulsion in Terrapotta (Victory Colours)

Victory Colours' paints have an "ultra low" VOC content and are free of a whole range of toxins including - solvents, phthalates, formaldehyde, heavy metals and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates. They are also animal and cruelty-free and meet European Safety Standards meaning they are safe for use when decorating children’s rooms and furniture. 

The paint is made in the UK which keeps the company's carbon footprint small. Plus, the steel tins are part-recycled and can be recycled at the end of their use.

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