Part of being an environmentally- conscious consumer is knowing where, and from whom, we source our products. This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Stasi, the sales manager of Ivy Coatings — one of Green Depot’s suppliers that produces low- and VOC-free paints. As we’ve written about before, “new paint smell” is actually the odor of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) offgassing into the air we breathe. VOCs can cause headaches and nausea, damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, and some are known to be carcinogenic. For these and other reasons, we are glad to carry Ivy Coatings’ products and to have had the opportunity to speak with Kevin, who has been with Ivy Coatings since its very beginning.
Green Depot: To get started, we were wondering if you could tell us a little about Ivy Coatings – how you got started, and your outlook on the environmentally-friendly paints you supply.
Kevin Stasi: Well, Ivy Coatings has actually been around for a while – probably five to six years. Three or four years ago we began targeting commercial and residential customers, rather than governmental and institutional customers, who were our initial focus. From the very beginning, we were reaching out and searching for quality vendors, and as we’ve pushed out towards the mainstream – commercial and residential customers – we’ve continued searching for good partners.
GD: Was your goal when you began to produce specifically environmentally-friendly paints?
KS: When we began, our goal was to develop a good-quality paint first; then we focused on the VOC-free aspect of our product. We thought this out from the beginning. We didn’t want to rush to market with an inferior product, and to do the same thing as the big guys like Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore – some of these companies have made improvements and produced elite VOC-free paints, but builders and designers complained that they were milky or chalky, and were using 30% more product to do the same job that standard paints would. So we started out with quality in mind.
Some of these elite environmental paints, as well, weren’t “true” VOC-free. They contained 30 to 60 grams of VOC per liter. This wasn’t what the consumer was really looking for.
GD: So you began with quality in mind; when did you begin to think more about the VOC content of your product?
KS: Our product has gone through some adjustment. When we were in a more institutional, rather than residential, phase, our product was good quality, so what we wanted to do was lower the VOC content and not lose any quality. The concept was to make the product appeal to architects, designers, and builders and be able to say it was good quality, as well as VOC-free.
But we not only wanted to say it was good quality, but that the price point was also good for homeowners. In the market, VOC-free paint can run up to forty, fifty, or sixty dollars per gallon. This was not good for institutional builders, who have to buy in huge amounts. For the customer, we wanted to be able to say that there would be no smell, and to wipe out the extra cost for VOC-free paint. We want to be distinct as a marketing decision, but also communicate our core reasons for the brand: quality that you can feel good about, with no offgassing.
GD: What do you consider to be some of the main benefits of choosing VOC-free paints over standard ones?
KS: Well, there is no smell when it’s applied. Of course, that’s very subjective and when you first open the can you might notice a slight odor. But when I take our product to trade shows and open a can at the booth, 99% of people can’t smell anything. When you apply the paint, though, there is no smell and you can’t even tell that the painters are painting. You know first thing when painters are using standard paints – but not with Ivy, even when it is wet, and even during application.
A huge benefit is that because there is no smell, there is a quick return to occupancy. A major drawback of standard paints, especially in commercial offices, is that people move out to avoid the fumes, and employees call out sick to avoid the odor. Some people are very sensitive to that smell. Ivy Coatings doesn’t have that.
GD: What do you consider the major environmental benefits of your paints?
KS: There’s a lot! From the immediate sensitivity to the health benefits alone. That’s for all VOC products. Anything that offgasses, including furniture and carpets, people are inhaling. This can lead to serious health conditions and even cancer.
Even if a paint stops smelling, they continue to offgas for years. So now, the office or even home, with a carpet, furniture, becomes a mixture or soup of offgassing. We always push to be as clean as possible. Knowing that the space you’re working in is healthy and is a properly-ventilated space can increase productivity, even in the home.
GD: You mentioned earlier that you want your product to be accessible to the mainstream. What’s your approach to that?
KS: Over the last five years, costs between standard and green products has begun to shrink. Ivy tries to make that gap as small as possible, but the gap has decreased across the board, especially for construction materials which are about the same now. Seven years ago, the emphasis for construction materials was on recycled materials, but then we realized being environmentally-conscious went beyond that to health – so new features, like daylighting and toxin-free products allow owners to lease at higher rates, to rent at higher rates, and to rent out fast. Customers see that by going green, their energy savings can be 20-30% less than standard. People are looking at their buildings, and seeing that financially, going green can help people save money, and that is what really is compelling.
GD: Thanks a lot for the opportunity to speak with you!