My aura is…

by Heather Rae

One of three dealers of Benjamin Moore paint in my travel distance (which is getting shorter and shorter with the increase in gas prices) carries the new Aura line, as well as the EcoSpec low-voc line of paints.
Farther north, along Route 1, another dealer is weighing the costs of the investment in the new machines needed to carry the Aura line against the sales potential; this dealer carries the EcoSpec line and, as evidenced by the dust on the paint can, it’s not a fast moving product. (And the sales guy told me so.)
Inland a bit and north, the third does not carry Aura or the EcoSpec line. For those unfamiliar with Maine, the progression up the coast and inland is an economic transition as much as geographic one. It’s also a transition from areas where “green” products are known, respected and carried…to one where they are not, or not so much.
What’s got my goat in making the decision to try the new Aura line is the marketing. I sat in my car outside the paint store down south and stared at the promotional poster for some time. The marketing is clearly aimed at women …“What Color is Your Aura.”
It took some sleuthing on the part of the paint dealer to tell me the VOC content of the paint (pre-colorant). To my surprise, the Aura paint line is backed by GreenGuard and qualifies for LEED credit. The dealer printed out the product information buried somewhere on their website where I couldn’t find it.
Aura, which uses only waterborne colorants for tinting, comes in at 47 Grams/Liter of VOCs.
By comparison, the Regal line (the standard line I’ve been using) comes in at nearly three times that amount of VOCs. (“Unthinned, this product is formulated not to exceed 150 Grams/Liter.”)
I can’t bash Benjamin Moore for putting the eco-benefits of this paint low on the list — number seven out of eight in the list of attributes of Aura paint with ColorLockTM.
In marketing home performance, our limited market research indicates that homeowners follow-through with making significant energy-saving improvements to their homes not because it’s “green” or “the right thing to do,” but because the improvements make the home more comfortable, healthier, safer and/or increase the value of the home. The checks get written to tighten up the house to get the bats and the squirrels out of the attic, not necessarily because they reduce carbon footprints.
Here in Maine we market home performance as an investment-grade evaluation. The energy and money savings, the innoculation against rising fuel costs…while these are the measurable goals we seek to obtain, these have not been the messages used to sell home performance services. I’ve been monitoring comments submitted by homeowners seeking these home performance evaluations. It’s a mixed bag of desires.

So, if Benjamin Moore wants to appeal to my feminine aura with the simplicity, freedom, versatality, harmony and great design ideas found in this paint, have at it. I just wish somewhere on that promotion was a mention of GreenGuard or LEED compliance.

Heather Rae, a contributor to, is a consultant in sustainability. She currently manages a home performance program in Maine and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built out a biobus using green building materials and wrote on cleantechblog of her drive from Colorado to Maine and her quest for biofuels. In 2007, she began renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

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