FAQ – Decorating for the planet

Most of us want to pass on a healthy planet to the next generation. With climate change, rivers and seas too polluted to swim in, air pollution, species in decline… it can seem rather depressing.
But there’s a lot we can do to be more sustainable decorators, and it’s good for business too.

When it comes to being environmentally sustainable, the simple fact is that it comes down to ‘taking less and giving more’. So how do we do that? 

Energy use

Until we totally switch to carbon-free energy production, any energy we use is likely to contribute to climate change, as well as air pollution.

One of the biggest consumers of energy as decorators is how we transport ourselves and our tools – our vans. Whatever vehicle we currently have, the easiest thing we can do is seek out local jobs which means less travel time, lower emissions, and lower fuel costs.

There’s a move towards electric vehicles, which will cut down local air pollution and greenhouse gases, but their construction still uses a lot of energy and materials. Looking after whatever vehicle we have, so it has a long life and produces lower emissions, is certainly a sign of a quality-conscious, money-conscious and possibly eco-conscious decorator.

Many tools now use less energy than they used to for a given output as motors get more efficient, and most of us are switching from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LEDs, which use a lot less energy.


‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ is a phrase most of us will have heard. When you’re starting out as a decorator, kit such as top-quality sanders can be a big hit on your income, but buying the best tools means they’ll last longer, help you do the job quicker and you’ll be creating less waste.

Dust extraction is not only good for your health but also your customer’s health. There will come a time when tools come to the end of their life, but try to recycle them if you can, especially electrical tools, there are useful metals and components in them which can be stripped out and recycled, so always take them to the appropriate bin in your recycling centre.


We can get through a lot of paint, paper, paste and grit in a day – especially if we’re doing things like spraying. So, choosing what we apply is important.

We all know that most paints have moved towards being low VOC, water-based formulations, which is better for our health, and certainly for local air pollution.

Looking for brands which consider their environmental impact is something we can all do, and many customers will welcome that.

If you need to strip paint, opt for water-based, non-toxic strippers where possible ­– And shop local when you can!


We can’t not produce waste, but we should seek to reduce that waste. Only buy as much material as we need, and if we buy too much then, where possible, return excess unopened materials to the supplier.

It’s important to reduce the amount of water we use to clean our decorating tools, so scraping off as much residual paint or paste as we can makes cleaning quicker, as well as greener. 

Donating unused paint to community re-use schemes is a brilliant way to reduce waste, as well as give back to your local community. Recycle as much as possible… It can be difficult when there may be paint on things like plastic sheets or lining paper, so the tidier you are the more you can recycle.

A quality job

One of the biggest impacts we can have is by doing such a good job, that the property doesn’t need decorating for a longer period of time. Having to repaint every 10 years instead of every five means that the materials, energy and waste is effectively halved.

And that leads us to…

Educating customers

It’s a win-win for everyone to educate customers that a quality job, with high quality, environmentally conscious materials will save them money in the long run, as well as reducing their environmental impact.

As consumers become more aware and caring about the environment, it can be a great marketing opportunity for you if being a greener and higher quality decorator is something you focus on with your website, social media and when you quote for jobs. 

Give back

Giving away paint and your time to community schemes is a brilliant way to give back. You can also contribute to environmental schemes such as tree planting.

The best schemes are local, community led schemes where the trees are looked after. Be careful about big carbon offsetting schemes, they may not be as green as they look. I’ve not found one that I’ve felt I can completely trust, so I give to local environmental schemes and charities instead. 

When it comes to being a more future-focused, environmentally responsible decorator, it’s just a case of using common sense – using less, giving more and sharing the message – it’s good for business, good for the soul, good for your health, and good for the planet.