Cover the Earth…well, maybe just our living room walls…

I have always promised myself that I would one day take the time to dig up some history behind Sherwin Williams’ ‘Cover the Earth’ logo, in an attempt to learn the other side of the story behind their alleged wish to cover the earth with paint.  What were they thinking?

Even IF you grant them some lenience for the fact that it was created so long ago (1866, to be sure, was it really any better back then?), can you justify the fact that they’re STILL using it?  (no, I’m not kidding, see for yourself)

Low VOC paint is the name of the ‘green’ game, right?  But, is it that simple?  If that is the case, someone needs to tell the people editing the ‘Volatile Organic Compounds‘ article on Wikipedia.   It isn’t exactly clear, but it does state that,

“One irritant, formaldehyde, present in hundreds of office components, including wood and laminated furniture, shelving, and wall covers. It also evaporates from paints, varnishes, and chemicals used for sealing and finishing walls.”

So, is formaldehyde really what we should be watching out for?  But wait, it is “used in particleboard, plywood, veneers, and other wood products, as well as spray-on insulating foams.”  (Uh oh… we’ve been specifying spray-on insulating foams as one component in a multi-faceted energy-efficient construction package….. note to self: look into that).

Even if it is more than just formaldehyde, Green Building Supply warns us:

“The elimination of VOC’s by paint manufactures does not address the issue of why contaminants not considered VOC’s still find their way into paint.  For example; some paints contain ammonia and acetone which are highly dangerous chemicals to human health yet they are not required by law to appear on the label.

Fungicides and Biocides are toxic chemicals that are used to prevent mildew growth and extend the shelf life of the product. They may be good for the paint, but they are bad for your health. These chemicals contaminate both indoor and outdoor air for five years or more after the product has been applied! Beware: even low- or no-VOC paints contain these toxins.”

So it seems, Low or no VOC is only one part of the story, but it is certainly a good place to start.  Where can you get it?

With me on the web, and Kandy on the phone, we tackled Madison retailers to get the scoop.

Home Depot: on the phone – about 30 seconds before their response: ‘What’s VOC?’… with further prying, “oh yeah, I think we carry that, but it is only available in limited colors – the FreshAire line.

Home Depot on the web – about 1 minute – but a far more impressive experience with tons of up-sell through their mighty impressive ‘Eco Options’ web app.  However, I only found it by searching low-VOC and home depot.  If you go to (as of 2008-07-16), you have to scroll way down to the last item in the ‘corporate info’ area in the fine print.  Interesting tactic…  it is there if you search for it, but if you aren’t looking for it, it isn’t there.  The reasons for this are pretty clear to me – if they designate some products as being ‘green’ then what does that make the rest of their offerings?… toxic?  Yup.   

I was super impressed with the ‘eco options virtual home‘ offering on that site, though I couldn’t find a vignette that featured paint as an option for quite a while.  When I finally found one, it offered up the FreshAire option Kandy had already found by then on her phone call.

Menards website just sucks.  No place to search for products – not much of anything.  I gave up, and said “lets not even go to Menards.”

Kandy, in the meantime, was on the phone right away with a rep who informed her that she can get any paint selection they carry in the store as a ‘Low VOC’ offering they reserved for Kids Rooms.

On our way to meet some family /friends for dinner, we stopped at Menards to take a closer look.  Sure enough, everyone working there new about the Low VOC option.  The only problem remaining is that we don’t know what color to pick!

I had spent several hours this morning cycling through dozens (hundreds?) of options over a photograph of our living room I brought into Photoshop.  We had narrowed it down to a color I liked, and a color Kandy liked.  I used this pretty cool ‘Easy RGB‘ tool to estimate the product numbers for Dutch Boy (one offering @ Menards).  The only problem was that the actual real-life color was COMPLETELY different than it looked on my monitor(s).  I have some serious color-correcting to do before we start using computers to aid in paint color selections!

I’m leaning toward a more golden hue (Applesauce Cake in DutchBoy’s pallete), and Kandy leans more toward a Clay color (a bit like Bamboo via DutchBoy).

Tomorrow will be a new day, and a new paint adventure.  In the end, we will probably opt toward old fashioned Milk Paint, but then we only get to choose from their “sixteen historical colors,” compared with thousands offered elsewhere.

That should make the choice a little easier…


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