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Sustainable Wallpaper: Where Healthy & Beautiful Wallcoverings Meet

By Laura Bourland Rise Writer
Nov 30, 2017

You search high and low for the perfect décor items to bring personality and warmth into your home. From the unique reclaimed barn door sliders to the intricate, handwoven rugs you shipped home from your vacation in Turkey, your home speaks volumes of your taste. But what about your walls?!

Vintage Wallpaper

Toxic Chemicals Lead to the Downfall of Wallpaper

Remember wallpaper? In simpler times, wallpaper was just about the quickest way to add color, pattern, and interest to a room. Printed in just about every color and pattern imaginable, wallpaper can be used for an accent wall, a border or, a full room.  

Unfortunately, after the invention of vinyl wallpaper in the late 1960s, most homeowners moved wallpaper down to the vilest wall covering option that ever came into existence. Why? While wallpaper does pose its challenges in removal, the leading cause of the downfall of the great and mighty wallpaper was chemical toxins.

The 1960's introduction of vinyl wallpaper lowered the cost because it was cheaper to make, but that came with the addition of dozens of chemical additions. The Ecology Center did a study of the 11 leading wallpaper brands. They found that just about every single one incorporated chlorine-based coatings. And, at least half contained other hazardous compounds like bromine, arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium or phthalates. Yikes!

Aimee Wilder Wallpaper
Photo Credit: Aimee Wilder Wallpaper

Non-Toxic, Environmentally Conscious Wallpaper

As manufacturers began to realize the damage done by inhaling toxins released from cheap wallpapers, they’ve wizened up and are actively releasing new, eco-friendly options.

Things to Look for When Choosing Wallpaper

Water-Based Ink Wallpaper

The primary reason for choosing to install wallpaper is generally to add a unique pattern or color to a wall. That being said, ink usually covers a good portion of the wallpaper. Look for wallpaper printed with water-based ink to avoid chemical counterfeits. 

Recycled Paper or FSC Paper Wallpaper

Wallpaper is printed on a variety of materials, and it’s up to you to choose one that’s right for your climate and your family. Steer clear of cheap, toxic vinyl options and instead look for wallpapers printed on recycled paper or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper. These options are produced sustainably and contain fewer chemical components or even none at all! 

You might even be lucky enough to find vintage wallpaper produced before the onset of vinyl. Look for vintage papers printed prior to 1960, and be sure to check the chemical components for toxic additives.

Graham & Brown Wallpaper
Grace Cloud Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Graham & Brown Wallpaper

Low to No VOCs Wallpaper

The majority of mass-produced wallpapers are made with PVC, which tends to leak volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The effects of inhaling VOCs include respiratory problems, asthma, eye irritation, and even liver disease. To avoid poor air quality in your home, look for wallpapers that don’t contain PVC. Wallpapers labeled with the Greenguard certification are guaranteed to contain low levels to no VOCs.

Renewable Wall Coverings

Of course, wallpaper isn’t your only option for unique and stylish wall coverings. Renewable materials like bamboo, stone, burlap, linen, and cork can add an earthy flair to a dull room.

Removable Wallpaper

Maybe you don't want to commit to a lifetime of wallpaper in your home (or temporary apartment) just yet. Great news - there are now more and more peel and stick completely removable options!

Woodchip & Magnolia Wallpaper
Crane Bird in Japanese Blue Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Woodchip & Magnolia

Environmentally Friendly Wallpaper Options

Thankfully, many responsible manufacturers offer VOC-free wallpapers. These are made from renewable and recycled materials and water-based inks to make it possible to decorate with style AND protect your family from harmful toxins.

Versa Second Look Wallpaper
Second Look Recycled Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Versa Designed Surfaces

Versa Designed Surfaces

Versa Designed Surfaces is a leader in sustainable wall coverings. Their wall coverings meet the highest sustainability standards, including NSP/ANSI 342 and the CE Mark, which are low VOC and use water-based inks. Look for options made with their Second Look technology and up to 20% recycled content. Start browsing >>

Wolf Gordon Wallpaper
Cork Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Wolf Gordon Wallpaper


These guys carry a wide variety of wall covering options, including sustainable wallpapers made from recycled materials and water-based inks in addition to more creative and natural solutions like paperweave, linen, mica, and cork. From stripes and solid to abstracts and textures, Wolf-Gordon's got oodles of options to choose from to fit your unique decorative style. Go see >>

Farrow and Ball Wallpaper
Lotus Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Farrow and Ball

Farrow and Ball

Get inspired by Farrow and Ball's beautiful handcrafted wallpapers that are both low-VOC and made with water-based inks. Browse metallic prints, light textures, and nature-inspired floral patterns. Go shopping >>

Phillip Jeffies Wallpaper
Glazier Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Phillip Jeffries


This family-owned wallpaper producer not only offers stunning and sustainable wall coverings but also actively gives back to nature, from which it takes its inspiration. For every order placed, Phillip-Jeffries plants a tree in collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation resulted in over 50,000 trees planted to date. Support this mission-driven organization and explore their options in environmentally friendly wall coverings. Explore now >>

Ava Marika Electric Woodchip and Magnolia Wallpaper
Ava Marika Electric Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Woodchip and Magnolia Wallpaper

Woodchip & Magnolia

Woodchip & Magnolia is a UK based wallpaper company that has its own 'Eco Manifesto'. They produce their papers in small batches, in the UK, use FSC Certified paper products and water-based inks. In addition, their packaging is 100% recyclable, and they purchase all their power from a renewable energy supplier. Check them out >>

Butterfly Wallpaper. Photo Credit: Wallternatives

Wallternatives Removable Wallpaper

A great example in the world of removable wallpaper is Wallternatives. Not only are their patterns wide-ranging and beautiful, but they also do not contain phthalates, PVC, formaldehyde, or glycol-ether. And, you can reuse it if you move or want to change up your home's decor. Collections This Way >>

Environmentally Friendly From Wall to Wall

Living a sustainable life means thinking about nature and our impact in everything we do. As you decorate your home, consider the options in sustainable wall coverings that are both good for the environment, and are a beautiful addition to your plain walls. 

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-06-24T18:42:43+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.