You know how some things like disco dancing and avocado green were better in the 70’s? Add wood paneling to this list. Nothing says secret fraternity like a basement covered in dark depressing walls.

pain bucketI should know. Up until a few weeks ago, aside from protruding animal heads, our basement could have been the centerfold for a fraternal orders room catalogue. Fortunately, after living with the den-like atmosphere for 16 years, we went on a tearing spree and the paneling went bye-bye. However, our initial elation was immediately followed by “Gee whiz. What should we do now?”

Perhaps paint?

“But if you paint,” my eco-friendly angel said, “You must do it environmentally correctly.” How can I say no to an angel? Hence I researched.

You probably know there are different kinds of paint but some are definite no-nos (if you want to stay green), like those with high amounts of the dreaded VOC (volatile organic compounds). VOC’s wreak havoc on the ozone, the environment and probably cause respiratory and memory problems as well. If you’re not sure about VOC content you should first talk with your local paint expert and check the paint cans before you buy. You can also check into for a plethora of information on paint choices Mother Earth would approve of.

Old paints you have setting around can also be taboo. Any made before 1978 might contain lead, and those made before 1991 might contain mercury. So keep your eco-angel happy and avoid the urge to save a buck or two by using outdated paints.

Also, think about donating leftover paints, ones that can be easily be stirred to a smooth consistency and are uncontaminated. Look into organizations like PaintCare in Oregon or organizations like Habitat for Humanity. Want to recycle but not sure where to go? Try Earth911 where you can type in your location and they will direct you to the nearest drop off station. If disposal is your only option, check your local municipality for polices first.

Just as important as slathering the walls: preparation. You’ve got to cover up great-aunt Gertrude’s roll top desk, or perhaps a picture of the old gal herself. So drop cloths are in order. Don’t fall for the “you’ve-got-to-use plastic” routine. Pull out those old sheets, like the Rainbow Bright ones your daughter earned when she stopped wetting the bed. For paint trays, stick to the metal ones for less eco-guilt, but if you must use disposable tray liners, look for ones that are made from recycled materials.

painbrushWhen it comes to brushes, check out Envirobrush from Kwick Clean and Green Ltd, located in Surrey, BC, Canada. The Envirobrush® has a replaceable bristle refill (bristle pack®) and run from $4.99 – $8.99 depending upon size, and this includes a refill. The Green Toad also offers a greener brush and roller options as well.

According to their website: “All plastics including the bristles have been treated with our patented Earthgreen™ polymer which renders all plastic parts biodegradable and compostable.”

And what about recycling paint stirrers. Think garden. They are great for marking seed rows so you know what the plants are when then come up, or for tying seedlings to help them grow straight and tall.

So, overall, after doing my research, I learned a lot about painting. And with my basement make-over, my family can actually use the downstairs for something besides hide and seek. And of course, I kind of miss the Shriners and Odd Fellows showing up for meetings. But, then again, I never had enough ice.