Keep It Green with Environmentally Friendly Flooring Options
Published: May 10, 2023
With awareness of environmental impact and responsibility at the forefront, smart consumers look at all their choices from a greener perspective, and that includes flooring. When you’re looking for environmentally friendly options, you’ll need to consider more than just the materials in your floor.
Make it (re)new
Hardwoods are aspirational materials for many flooring consumers, but the trees that wind up under your feet need anywhere from a quarter of a century to 125 years to regrow back to full maturity. One unique option comes from reclaimed or salvaged wood. If you have your heart set on the gleam of new hardwoods, this look may not be for you, but it definitely appeals to some tastes.
Cork ranks near the top the list of renewable flooring materials. Yes, cork comes from a tree, but it’s the bark, not the trunk, and it regrows in three to 12 years. Not only that, but a single tree can yield harvestable bark for two-and-a-half centuries, and each time its bark regrows, it captures more CO2. Some cork flooring even uses the byproducts of wine-industry production. Unlike hardwoods, cork cushions your feet – and it’s a fire-retardant natural insulator that’s an insect repellent as well as a hypoallergenic material. A properly maintained cork floor can last for three decades.
Bamboo isn’t even a tree. It’s a grass – and it grows like a weed. From planting to harvest, bamboo matures in three to five years, and while it grows, it can help protect rivers and streams from clogging with sediment. Refinish bamboo to prolong its life, and look for a variety of stains and finishes to suit virtually any décor. Its hardness ranks right up there with oak.
Not all carpets are created equally green, but several types stand out from an environmental perspective. Wool carpet comes from a renewable resource and is one of the most-durable types of fabric floor coverings, with more stain resistance than many synthetic fibers. PET Berber carpet is made from recycled plastic bottles and offers natural stain resistance. You’ll also find options fabricated from cotton, corn, jute and sisal.
New forms of linoleum come from biodegradable materials, starting with oxidized linseed oil – derived from flax – combined with tree resin, cork dust and other materials. These options are moisture resistant, flame retardant and can be composted after their lifespan ends.
Laminate flooring can be made from renewable and recyclable resources, although the finished product itself isn’t entirely biodegradable. It offers better scratch and moisture resistance than hardwoods and can look just like them.
Tile‘s recyclability gives it some green advantages, especially glass tile, which can be produced entirely from recycled materials. The trade-off here – and, for that matter, with laminates as well – is the amount of energy required to produce the flooring itself.
The rest of the story
Along with the raw materials in your flooring and the manufacturing processes required to produce it, the full picture of its environmental consequences considers several other factors.
How far did that flooring travel to reach you? If the raw materials or the finished product come from the other side of the world, the shipping process adds to the impact of the material.
What’s required to install it? If you use glues that produce an abundance of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to fasten an otherwise green flooring product, you’ve offset some of the environmental friendliness along the way. The same issues can arise in conjunction with padding and other materials that form part of the installation process.
How do you take care of it – and how long can it last? Of course, it’s essential to balance flooring performance against lifestyle considerations. Some materials may not fare as well in high-traffic areas, for example.
Maintain the bottom line
When you’re searching for environmentally friendly options, you’re asking the same sorts of questions you ask about any product with ingredients. What’s in it? Where does it come from? How does it perform? For the best insights into your choices, talk with a professional flooring consultant who can offer you a wide range of possibilities and skilled advice for implementing them effectively. The pros at Kermans will help you find the right flooring for your lifestyle and your environmental expectations.