Planet-Friendly Painting

Deciding to paint your beige house a daring fiesta chili can sometimes feel easier than ensuring that the project is planet-friendly. With a little planning and use of local resources you can easily reduce waste and toxics the next time you paint.

From the start!


Buy only what you need:

  • Measure the square footage of the surfaces you plan to paint and read the label on the paint can to determine the amount.
  • When choosing a color, find out if some color switches will require more layers of paint than others.

Reduce toxics:

Close the loop:

Take care of your brush!

  •  Storing while pausing: to keep the brush moist during a quick break, find a way to leave the brush bristles semi-submerged in the paint so that about a 1/3 of the bristles are in the paint.
  • Storing for longer interruptions: either wrap the paint brush bristles in plastic wrap or put it in a small glass jar full of solvent (paint thinner for oil-based paint or water for latex paint). Tape the brush to the side of the jar so it won’t fall in and the weight of the brush doesn’t fall on the bristles.
  • Storing after you are done:
  1. Scrap access paint on the inside of the paint can.
  2. Remove additional paint by painting sheets of newspaper.
  3. Remove remaining paint from the brush using paint thinner for oil-based paint or water for latex paint.
  4. Wash the brush with soap and water.
  5. Slap the brush against your hand to reshape
  6. Store in a newspaper.

Cleanup time!

Empty paint cans:

  • Place empty paint cans in your mixed recycling cart.
  • Rinse paint before the paint dries.
  • Metal lids can go inside the can. Plastic lids must be thrown in the garbage.

Left over paint:

  • To properly recycle or dispose of paint, use the Metro Find-a-Recycler tool online or call 503-234-3000 to find the location that nearest you.
  • To save the paint, completely seal the container and store it in a place that won’t freeze.
  • Consider offering extra paint to friends or neighbors or donate to a local organization like the Habitat for Humanity.

Paint thinner

Contaminated water:  

  • Allow paint solids to settle to the bottom of the jar.
  • Pour the clear water into a drain that flows to the public sewer system.
  • Do not pour the water into storm drains, ditches, gutters, catch basins, dry wells, creeks or on the ground.

Thanks to Mara Farrier (Class 67)! Mara researched and prepared a document for the City Repair intersection painting project so that community groups could reduce waste and toxics. It is such useful information, so she let me borrow from the document for this article.