by Eileen Weber
That’s where The Center for Green Building comes in. Located on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport, the storefront sells everything from cotton insulation to no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint to all natural, toxin-free floor varnishes and cleaning supplies.
Run by Erin Buckley and Jonathan Tuminski, the couple started the organization out of their carpentry business. After they had their son, Buckley said, “I started doing research on all the toxins in the materials my husband was using.” The ingredients were pretty scary. That was the catalyst for promoting all natural, organic products.
But it wasn’t that easy to start off. “There wasn’t anything in Connecticut,” said Buckley. “Most of the stuff available was out West.” She also said, now that the store has been established, they have a number of contractors who come from New York, the Hartford area and Rhode Island. “We’re one of the only places in the area. There’s nothing out there.”
Buckley also said she believes it sets those contractors apart from others in the industry who may not be as willing to go green. But for some, it’s not about willingness. It’s a matter of how well the product holds up.
Dermot Flynn, CEO, Founder, and self-appointed “el Presidente” of Flynn’s Hardwood Floors in Darien, says the environmentally-friendly, water-based varnishes don’t last as long as the oil based. “Unfortunately, the water-based products have about a third less wear and tear resistance than the oil-based products. But, of course, that also depends on the amount of traffic the area gets.”
Flynn used the example of a kitchen floor, typically a high-traffic area in most homes. He said he would return to a home much sooner to redo a floor with water-based polyurethane. “I’ve been using oil-based for 20 years, but there’s no poly out there that is immune to wear and tear.”
Flynn noted the difference between the polyurethanes is more than just foot traffic. “The oil-based products bring out the warm color tones of the wood. The water-based gives it a slightly grayish, milky tone. The color just isn’t the same.”
There is another drawback to water-based polyurethanes. “The downside is,” said Flynn, “they can also be more expensive.”
In tough economic times, that’s not necessarily good news. Adding to that, the EPA has banned oil-based polyurethane in other states and Connecticut will soon follow by the end of this year. Flynn said a lot of floor contractors in the neighboring areas are coming to Connecticut to buy the oil-based products before they’re gone.
But many homeowners are willing to pay the extra price to use natural products. At Local Color, a paint store in Fairfield, the new line of low-VOC Benjamin Moore paints are flying off the shelves. “More homeowners than contractors come in looking for low-VOC paints,” said Ponch Rodrigues who works at the store.
Rodgrigues also said that while the products are a little more expensive, running at approximately $10 per gallon, the low-VOC paints have a harder finish that the other Benjamin Moore products.
Sherwin-Williams has their own line of no-VOC paints. According to one customer representative, they have both homeowners and contractors purchasing the paints for the zero-odor factor. Moms concerned about their families and contractors working in hospitals or with the elderly are particularly interested in buying these paints. “While you do lose some character in comparison to other paints, it’s still an above average paint.”
One thing is very clear: the customer base for all natural products is growing. Consumers are looking for an alternative for their homes and their families. Whether it’s because of allergies or because they simply want to be more eco-friendly, the demand for toxin-free products is on the rise. The homeowners are calling for it and small business owners are listening.