Ford Study Examines Impact of Water-Based Paints

Kermit had it right even before it was cool: It ain’t easy being green. Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine which options are the best for the environment, and why.

For example, you probably have some go-to, can’t-go-wrong green moves that you do every day, like setting the thermostat a little higher, biking when you can and taking your reusable mug to the coffee shop down the street. But sometimes your choices aren’t that simple, and even the best of us can get tricked while going green.

Photo: Flickr/Sunfrog1

Although latex paint is less harmful than oil-based paint to the environment and public health, all types of paint should be handled and disposed of properly. Photo: Flickr/Sunfrog1

With that being said, here’s another eco-riddle for the list: Ford Motor Company recently experimented with two different types of paints in some of its manufacturing plants to find out for itself which was the more eco-friendly option.

According to Green Tech Media, contrary to popular belief, Ford found that solvent-based paint (made with industrial chemicals) produced a smaller carbon footprint than water-based paints.

Why? It comes down to energy.

One reason for this result is that water-based paints need to have the water and primer sucked from the mixture before the next coat can be applied, which takes a great deal of energy.

Additionally, each layer needs to be “baked” to dry, which is another energy-intensive process. Lastly, water-based paints require large painting rooms with sufficient air conditioning to ensure proper application of the paint.

Ford asserts, however, that is not planning to switch back to solvent-based paints and will continue to use water-based. The company says the study simply highlights the benefits that a hybrid paint strategy can offer, both in terms of monetary savings and carbon emissions.

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  1. I never thought about the paint that the car companies use, when purchasing a car. We are in the market for a new car and I appreciate the insight. There is so much to look out for when you are trying to be “green”.

  2. You have to look at the whole picture. For example, styrofoam cups and plastic bags are better than paper for the same reason as stated above. Making styrofoam products takes WAY LESS ENERGY and resources than paper. Shipping paper products requires WAY MORE energy because they’re so much heavier. They both degrade SLOWLY in the landfill. But we’re greenwashed into thinking that styrofoam is bad, when it’s better than paper.

    In my town, Ford is not so green. Ford Motor Company is partnering with a known polluter – Pan Am Railways — to build a 25-acre parking lot over an aquifer that supplies 15,000 people with drinking water.

    Ford is at least considering the environment with the paints — but in my town, Ford Motor Company is failing the sustainability test.

  3. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Ford Study Examines Impact of Water-Based Paints - [] on

  4. There is never a better time to be living green. Not only does it save our earth, it also saves the money coming out of our pockets.

  5. Never would I have expected that one! I am currently doing different things to update my house and make it a bit greener, so this article helped a lot. Now I know what types of paint help. I have started with my “Going Green Project” and I replaced my AC unit with a
    Geothermal AC/Heating. What a difference!! My bill was cut in half. This going green thing is pretty exciting! :)

  6. That’s a let down. It really makes you wonder how many companies are doing this sort of stuff just to look good, not to save energy. I recommend always looking for the energy star rating.

  7. I work for a large regional paint company that manufactures coatings for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Our stance is to create a true sustainable product it is not the product that contains the least amount of voc’s but the one that last the longest. The misconception is that if you use “green” products that are supposed to be better for the environment you are doing a good thing. The truth is that many “green” products do not have the same performance as traditional ones. This means that you will have to repaint more often hence creating two or three times the waste in manufacturing, labor, emmisions from vehicles to drive to the paint store, etc. When choosing your paint you should always purchase the best quality 100% acrylic paints that way you will have to repaint less frequently and clean the surfaces easier and less frequently as well.

  8. Powder coatings, which are a VOC-free alternative to solvent-borne and waterborne coatings, have been used in industry for more than 25 years now. Many car manufacturers use this technology as primers and clearcoats, including GM, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and the Smart car. It takes less energy to apply and bake powder coatings when compared with solvent-borne and waterborne coatings. Powder coatings are well-known in industry as a green technology. The reason powder coatings aren’t used as the color coat on cars? There are problems with DOI (distinctness of image), in other words, that deep glossy sheen we’ve been so accustomed to on our cars. Powder coating chemists are working on it. In the meantime, Ford, who has never used much powder coating, knows consumers won’t buy the cars if that sheen we’re used to isn’t there. So, we are part of the problem. Some smart marketing could change our habits, however. Look at the beautiful detailed motorcycles done with powder coatings. For more information, go to and find articles in our Article Index.

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