If you’re thinking about redecorating a room with wallpaper, choosing the right kind is an important decision. It can have a huge impact on your environment, so it’s important to consider the paper, inks, paints, coatings and flame retardants used for its production as well as how it’s installed. You’ll also want to consider whether it’s washable and if you can easily recycle it.
Some eco-friendly wallpapers are made with cellulose, natural textile and plant fibres, recycled paper, or are vinyl (PVC) free. You’ll also find that some are water based and others use biodegradable glues. Look for papers that are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and that are labelled cadmium- and mercury-free. Look for companies that are transparent about the materials used and are accredited with environmentally sound certifications or seals of approval.
The best eco-friendly wallpapers are water based and can be sponged clean or washed. They are usually printed with vegetable dyes and have a very low VOC level or no VOCs. Some are cellulose-, wheat- or clay-based and contain no synthetic chemicals. They are also often more breathable than other types of wallcoverings. Many are printed with water-based inks but you’ll also see options with solvent-free latex inks that do not release harmful chemicals into the air.
Most eco-friendly wallpapers are woven with jute, hemp, and other plant fibres that are fast growing and don’t require extensive resources like pesticides or fertilizers to grow. They are often coloured with low-VOC dyes and they can be printed digitally, hand or machine. Grasscloth comes in a variety of weaves and finishes and adds texture, sophistication and warmth to a space. The natural, earthy fibres are often flame-retardant and can be applied with a simple methyl cellulose paste that is low odor.
While it’s difficult to find a completely green or sustainable wallpaper, companies are working hard to minimise their environmental impact in every area of their business. Heritage paint and wallpaper company Little Greene, for example, has been minimising its ecological footprint since it began operations in 1993. They recycle paint cans and paper products, use recycled inks, make low-VOC wallpapers, are based in the UK and work to minimise their energy use.
Another example of an eco-conscious company is Graham & Brown who use water-based inks on papers sourced from responsibly managed forests to produce VOC-free wallpapers. Their printing machinery runs on renewable wind and solar power and they donate to projects that support biodiversity and sustainability.
The company also offers a number of low-VOC pre-pasted designs that are wet removable and spongeable. They also have a wide range of prints with vintage styles including art nouveau, art deco, Bauhaus, Scandinavian, Oriental and maritime themes. The brand is also a member of the Carbon-Neutral Company and is working to be fully carbon zero by 2030. They get all their electricity from renewable sources and donate to projects supporting biodiversity and sustainable forestry. They even sell their wallpaper pastes in powder form so customers can mix only what they need which helps reduce waste and save money. papier peint ecologique