This rustic floral on teal wallpaper is printed on FSC certified paper with water based inks.
The most important thing to consider when choosing which material your wallpaper will be, is sustainability. Your wallpaper shouldn’t be a product of the clear cutting of rainforests or depleting the world’s petroleum resources. Of course, different materials have different concerns - here’s what you should be considering for each:
Paper wallpaper is one of the most popular types of wallpaper out there but where is the paper it’s made of coming from? Of course, trees are a renewable resource but, irresponsible clear cutting can destroy ecosystems for generations. Simply look for the FSC certified mark; this means that the Forest Stewardship Council has certified that the paper is coming from a responsibly managed forest.
What is non-woven wallpaper made of anyways? Non-woven material is basically some sort of fibers that have been felted or pressed together to form a sort of fabric. Due to the strong yet flexible nature of this material, it is widely used across many industries including the medical industry, fashion and as of recently, wallpaper! It is more a process than a specific material, meaning that the term ‘non-woven’ is not quite enough to decide whether it is actually a sustainable material or not. Recent innovations have allowed the leaves of pineapples to be stainability used as non-woven material, but more often than not, non-wovens generally refer to a pressed product made from a mix of cellulose fibers with polyester or vinyl fibers, i.e. plastic.
The concerns relating to vinyl wallpaper mostly have to do with the fact that petroleum (i.e. valuable fossil fuel) is required to make it and then, that VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) will be emitted throughout it’s lifetime.
While, technically, vinyl is a less green option for wallpaper, it is important to note that it has made huge amounts of progress in the last decade or so. Vinyl is the most widely used plastic on the planet but also, it uses less petroleum than any other plastic, and while over the years there has been an increase in it’s production, there has also been a decrease in the amount of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) it emits. For those who aren’t familiar with what VOC’s are: VOC’s are actually found in just about everything from paint to deodorant to freshly baked bread, and basically, when they mix with the air, they produce ozone. Ozone is a good thing when it’s up at the ozone layer blocked harmful sunrays from the Earth, but down at ground level, ozone just contributes to smog and hurts farming crops. The worst offenders of VOC emissions are the automotive industry and manufacturing, however, among all consumer goods, architectural coatings (including the more offensive product - paint) contribute to a whopping 9% of VOC’s emitted.
Lastly, in vinyl’s defence, it is an incredibly durable material with a longer life cycle than any other material and it requires half the amount of energy than what is needed to produce a paper product. Furthermore, there is very little waste associated with the production of vinyl as it is completely standard in the industry to reuse almost all pre-consumer waste in the making of more vinyl
So while there are more environmentally conscious materials than vinyl around, vinyl is not nearly as bad as it once was, nor is it fully deserving of its negative reputation any longer.
For more information on vinyl wallpaper, read our article “What is Vinyl Wallpaper?”
Go eco-chic with this Earthfriendly wallpaper mural showing sunrays shining through the trees
Traditionally, inks have contained solvents which easily release toxic chemicals into the air possibly negatively affecting your health. But with consumers demanding greener products, the latest development in wallpaper inks has been solvent-free water based inks. While these inks are totally non-toxic, it might actually still be a bit of a stretch to call them environmentally friendly. The problem is that these water based inks use up much more energy to produce and depending on the location it’s being made, this could be coal energy or it could be wind energy. Furthermore, water based inks use a lot more water to produce than inks made with solvents – just another thing to consider.
Wallpaper adhesives again face the problem of containing solvents. However, it is possible in this case to find actual eco-friendly products. If your really serious about saving the planet and willing to take a risk (we haven’t tried this ourselves), try homemade wallpaper paste!
Waste not! Wallpapering furniture with leftovers is an ingenious way to carry design themes between rooms
The last thing to think about with regards to wallpaper and the environment, is the waste. When you hang a wallpaper where a pattern needs to be matched up or aligned, you will need to shift the paper and discard large chunks in between. The higher the ‘pattern repeat’ the more waste you will have. It does feel like an awful shame to just throw all that extra wallpaper in the garbage – so don’t! There are so many creative ways to use this extra wallpaper. Super trendy right now is wallpapering furniture; you could stick it to the back wall of some shelves, inside your cupboards for a nice surprise or maybe even the drawers of a storage unit. This can be a great way to unify design themes across your home.
If you have kids, really, the opportunities to not waste any wallpaper are real. Use leftover wallpaper as crafting paper, use it in scrapbooks or even make invitation cards!
- The more demand there is for environmentally responsible products, the more economic they will become.
- Make sure paper material wallpapers are FSC certified.
- Non-woven is a method, not a material; in the case of wallpaper, it usually does include some sort of plastics which require petroleum to produce (a non-renewable resource).
- Vinyl wallpaper requires petroleum to make and emits small amounts of VOC’s throughout its lifetime
- Water based inks are solvent-free but also use much more energy and water to produce
- Try using a homemade wallpaper adhesive!
- Find creative ways to use your leftover wallpaper – waste not!