Eco-Wallpaper

Sustainable wallpapers may contain no PVCs and low or no VOCs, can use water-based inks, are printed on recycled paper or natural materials, or are printed on FSC-certified paper.

Free LEED Green Associate ExamPVC and Toxin-Free Wallpaper

Traditional wallpapers often contain PVC, which leaks volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. In fact, HealthyStuff tested over 2300 types of wallpaper from 11 different brands and manufacturers, and found that 96% of them had PVC coatings.

PVC has been found to have a myriad of negative health effects, including respiratory problems, asthma, dizziness, drowsiness, and eye and lung irritation. Chronic exposure can lead to liver cancer, negative effects on the central and peripheral nervous systems, and in rare cases, “vinyl chloride disease”. This disease includes joint and uscle pain, changes in bones in the fingers, and skin changes.

Additionally, the VOCs leaked from these PVC-based wallpapers are essentially off-gassed from the material and can become airborne, infecting your lungs, eyes, nose, and ears.
Plus, HealthyStuff’s study found that about one-half of the PVC wallpapers contained one or more hazardous chemicals of concern, and almost one-fifth contained Cadium. Fifteen percent of all of the wallpapers tested contained Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR).

To avoid this indoor air quality problem, purchase eco-friendly wallpapers that do not contain PVC and do not offgas VOCs. Wallpapers that carry the GREENGUARD certification meet the organization’s strict chemical emission limits and have been tested by an unbiased, third party. Therefore, finding wallpapers with the GREENGUARD label will ensure that the wallpaper contains low or no VOCs.

It is also important to remove old wallpaper remnants, which will limit the number of toxins left on your walls. 1-800-Recycling recommends using 1/3 cup of white vinegar to one quart of warm water to remove old wall coverings. Just apply it with a sponge, cloth, or spray bottle, wait about 10 minutes, and use a scraper to remove the remains.

Water Based Inks

Another feature to look for in eco-friendly wallpaper is water based ink. This contains fewer chemicals and toxins than other types of ink, which again can promote better indoor air quality.

Responsibly Sourced Paper

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) looks to prevent the environmental impacts of logging by rewarding forest managers who follow their environmentally conscious guidelines for timber harvesting. FSC certifies forest management practices, and products made using materials from those forests can become chain of custody certified. Wallpaper that has FSC chain of custody certification, therefore, will be made from sustainably harvested trees.

Similarly, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification International (PEFC) is a nonprofit NGO that promotes sustainable forest management through third-party certification of forests. Like FSC, products can earn chain of custody certification if they are manufactured using materials from PEFC-certified forests. This program is more popular in Europe, while FSC is more popular in the United States.

Alternatively, look for wallpaper made from recycled paper or other natural materials. Some wallpapers are even made with recycled newspaper, burlap, cork, igusa straw, or stone. Some are made with rapidly renewable materials, such as bamboo and grasscloth, which take 10 years or less to harvest, which means that they have a smaller impact on the environment and use fewer resources.

Examples of Sustainable Wallpaper

Mod Green Pod offers PVC-free, organic cotton wallpaper with water-based ink printing.

Angela Adams’ Wallcoverings is another brand of wallpaper with no PVC. The wallpaper also uses water-based inks and is printed on post-consumer recycled material.

Makelike‘s wallpaper is made by hand with natural dyes in or around Portland, Oregon. The paper is made from responsibly sourced fiber.

Farrow and Ball wallpapers are made using low or no VOC, water-based paints.

Miss Print’s wallpapers, which are made in the UK, are PEFC certified and made with organic, non-toxic inks that are classified as non-carcinogenic.

Eco-Friendly Wallpaper Paste

It is also important that your wallpaper paste does not emit VOCs or toxins. You can also make your own natural wallpaper paste (see this recipe), which is free of VOCs and pesticides.

How to Install

While wallpaper can be a do-it-yourself project, you can also hire a professional painter or handyman to do the job for you.

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