Pollution Solution: Paint It Blue

A fresh coat of paint is the perfect way to liven up your home. But here’s one not-so-pretty part of adding new color to your living space: each year, about 10 percent of all paint purchased in the U.S. goes unused, and some of that leftover paint winds up in our waterways. Without careful handling and disposal, paint can pour into storm drains and—when washed into the ocean or local rivers and creeks—contaminate our waterways with heavy metals and toxic chemicals. For an ocean-friendly paint job, follow these tips to stay eco-savvy every step of the way.

Before you buy: To cut back on toxic chemicals, opt for water-based paint over the oil-based variety. And to lessen your leftovers, keep in mind that you’ll only need about one gallon for every 350 square feet you’re painting.

On the job: If you’re painting in stages, save H20 by holding off on cleanup until the whole job is complete. You can keep your brushes in good shape by sealing them in a plastic bag, then storing the bag in a cool place.

At cleanup: Rinsing used brushes under an outdoor faucet sends that paint-tainted water into storm drains, so bring your cleanup inside and wash brushes in the sink. Soapy water should take care of brushes used to apply water-based paint, but you’ll need paint-thinner to tackle brushes coated in oil-based color.

During disposal: As with all hazardous waste, it’s against the law to toss leftover paint into the trash. Since dumping paint down storm drains is also out of the question, simply ditch your leftovers by dropping them off at your nearest S.A.F.E. Center. A free program through the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation, S.A.F.E. Centers also take spent electronics, used motor oil, and a host of other hazardous materials. Another great resource for properly disposing of leftover paint for free is PaintCare’s drop-off locator, so check it out for a location near you.

Slider photo courtesy of United Soybean Board via flickr.com.

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