A few weeks ago, houseblogs.net approached us to see if we would be interested in evaluating a product from an environmental perspective. There are so many companies out there "greenwashing" their products and services (such as GE's Ecoimagination) that it is sometimes hard to cut through some of the fluff to find a quality product.
While we at Humphrey House aren't professional experts by any means, we are probably a bit more knowledgeable of some green building practices than the typical DIY homeowner. Jay's involvement with the USGBC helps out a bit in that regard. So even though we aren't yet ready to paint our kitchen, we offered to give our two cents on the "green" concepts for this product.
The product is the "EZ Clean Paint Brush", which essentially is a quality polyester bristle paintbrush. But this is not just any paintbrush, mind you. The brush's body has been ingeniously designed to allow water to flow through the handle, and out where the bristles are attached. The other end of the brush is threaded to attach to a utility sink or garden hose. The net result is that cleanup should only take "less than a minute" after a paint job.
Upon first seeing the name "EZ Clean", my initial impression was "great, here's another product hopping on the green bandwagon". But after reading the overview fact sheet claiming a clean brush in less than a minute (possibly 30 seconds!) I like the product in theory.
Depending on the size of the brush (and how much paint as loaded up on it) I've found it usually takes me 5-10 minutes to clean out a standard brush after using it. The EZ Clean Paintbrush's claim to green-ness is based on its water conservation features.
So let's try some guess-timations to quantify this. Typically, an older utility sink faucet or hose bibb will deliver 2 to 4 gallons per minute (gpm) of water – new faucets are around 2 gpm or less. So if we find a happy medium and state that a typical utility sink has an average rate of 2.2 gpm, here are our calculations for total water used in cleanup:
EZ Clean Paint Brush: 2.2 gpm X 1 minute = 2.2 total gallons of water
Standard brush: 2.2 gpm x 7 minutes = 15.4 total gallons of water
Based on the many assumptions above, the EZ Clean uses 14.3% of the water during a typical paintbrush cleanup. So from a water conservation perspective, the EZ Clean wins all sustainability arguments.
Manufacturing and Waste
In a thorough sustainability mindset such as cradle-to-cradle, there are other "green" aspects to consider besides the obvious water conservation features. The manufacturer has designed this product to last a long time, and in doing so has chosen many synthetic materials. The energy used in the production of oil-based plastics and synthetic polymers is far greater than a traditional wood handled paint brush.
The manufacturing process for plastics and synthetic polymers is generally fraught with wasteful business practices, and the EZ Clean Paint Brush gives me no reason to think otherwise. While the "Made in China" label does not necessarily guarantee non-sustainable manufacturing practices (reference), it is not outside the realm of possibility.
The manufacturer does say the plastic body for the brush is recyclable. However, the user must clip off the bristles before recycling it with other plastics. On the other hand, since there are likely to be far more uses out of this paint brush than the standard paint brush, there is less waste generated over the lifetime of the building (or brush's owner).
Ultimately, I look forward to actually trying out the EZ Clean Paint Brush at Humphrey House. Water conservation is a growing concern (just ask anyone in Atlanta or California right now), and the potential reduction of water waste from this product is another drop in the bucket (sorry, couldnt' resist the pun). In spite of some of the manufacturing processes that were likely chosen to keep the final cost of this product low and affordable, I do look forward to spending less time at my sink massaging the bristles of the paint brush to get it as clean as possible. All in all this gives us yet another reason to getting our kitchen on track and ready for painting!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007