to reuse or invest greener?

In my shop (if you want to call it that — it still needs lot of improvement) I have a true bevy of stock paint from productions before my time with the company. While it’s a no-brainer what to do when I need lumber or hardware (I simply cannibalize old scenery, creating as much resusable stock in the process as I can), the use of toxins like paint is a trickier subject.

And so I pose the question: is it better to use the old (but still usable) paint, or ditch it and invest in less toxic paints? Keep in mind, I work for a children’s theater, and so much of the scenery and many of the props will be used and handled by kids. Some of them will even help work on the props as they are created, so exposure to toxins is not out of the question.

I’m still thinking about the pros and cons on this one, so if you have thoughts, post them.


6 Responses to “to reuse or invest greener?”

  1. 1 ian
    June 26, 2008 at 10:51 am

    could you use the paint to cover the backs of flats and things when(if) you need to do this for fire proofing reasons? It seems a waste to not use it, maybe you can find ways to use it out of the reach of the kids and then be able to buy better stuff in the future. maybe give your shop a fresh coat or two?

  2. June 26, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Ian — Yes, all that you suggest is feasible, and probably along the lines of what I will do. However, it leads to more questions: aren’t I really concerned with not just the health and well-being of the kids (and other performers in the company), but also my own, and that of any staff or employees that may be using the paint and/or scenery and props? It gets down to the idea that being green is about more than just big picture stuff like climate change and pollution — it’s also about keeping people healthy.

  3. 3 ian
    June 27, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Absolutely, and while I agree there are much less toxic paint options now, that old paint has been around and in use for a long time and even though its not as good for you it seems its waste is even less desirable and perhaps disposal even worse for the environment… I think its my “waste not want not” upbringing coming out but I’d hate to see anything useful thrown out just to buy and use more of a similar product. I think making the choice for healthier paint from here on out is brilliant but not using what you got seems wasteful- what do you think?

  4. June 27, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Am I right in thinking that most of the VOCs that offgas from painted surfaces do so only in the first week or so? If that is correct, and if your schedule allows, then perhaps you could paint outdoors or in a well-ventilated space, and allow the painted objects to remain there for a week or so before bringing them into the theater.

    Alternately, if you have robots, you could have them paint the scenery. And then have them build robotic children to be your audience members.

  5. June 27, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Of course I agree with you Ian. My first mantra is always REDUCE, which leads me to avoid bringing new things in whenever possible. It just struck me as an interesting dilemma, and I was curious what ecoTheater readers thought.

    As for your point, Gideon, you’re right too — but that doesn’t get past the notion that I’m poisoning myself in my shop. And, as I noted in the original post, the potential for kids to be painting props (and even scenery) is very real.

    As it is, I’m planning on using paint that I have first, and only buying low or non-toxic paint when I don’t have what I need in stock, or my stock paint goes rotten.

  6. 6 Juli Ann
    July 6, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I deal with this dillema all the time. Working with middle schoolers and no budget has left me with nearly thirty years worth of old paint. I made the decision to recycle the old paint and go with the non toxic version. This could be because our light have asbestos wiring and I wanted to limit my students exposure to toxins, but I have read to many articles linking toxins in our environment to a growing epidemic of learning disabilities. I know budgets are tight, but if you can limit their exposure it would make a big difference in their mental and hormonal development.

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