If you’re remodeling and considering replacing your floor, or are tired of your carpet and want a new one, there are many environmentally friendly alternatives to choose from. Here are a few to consider:
- Bamboo: I’m sure you’ve heard of this one already. It’s a grass that requires minimal fertilization and pesticides, grows to floor quality in 5-7 years, with the next batch of bamboo growing from the same roots.
- Cork: Same material as wine corks only for your floor! Cork is taken from the bark of the cork oak tree, can be harvested, or peeled away after the tree is 25 years old and then every 9-12 years, without killing the tree.
- Linoleum: No, not the vinyl flooring that many mistakenly call linoleum. The real thing, also known as marmoleum, is made by compressing linseed oil with pine resin, sawdust, dust and often other recycled materials.
- Sustainable Wood: Wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been grown sustainably. This category also includes wood that is salvaged and reused, since reuse of materials is also a sustainable approach to flooring (decrease the harvesting of non-renewable resources).
- Low VOC & sustainable carpet: Some carpet companies recycle their carpeting or manufacture their carpeting from recycled materials. In addition, they limit amount of chemicals involved in the process, for example by using natural dyes, natural adhesives, no flame-retardant surface coating and jute or hemp backing (rather than synthetic fibres).
And…a quick summary of pros, cons and resources (with my two cents added in, of course!):
||— Grows quickly
— Lower cost ($3-$6/sq ft)
|— Imported from Asia (CO2 emissions)
— Poor quality bamboo is flooding the market (softer bamboo is often cheaper; more prone to scratching and warping)
|— Look for bamboo with no toxic adhesives (urea formaldehyde)
||— Bamboo Info
— More Info
||— Holds heat
— Dampens sound
— Fire retardant
— Comparable in price to mid or high-end hardwood flooring ($3 – $7/sq ft uninstalled)
|— Cork floor with the standard polyurethane coat is said to stand up to “normal wear and tear” for only 5 -10 years, after which it will need a new coat
— Imported from Europe
|— Choose finishes made of of low-VOC polyurethane or beeswax base
— 2 types: floating click flooring (comes with acrylic finish & doesn’t respond as well to wet situations) and the stick down type (should have 4 coats of polyurethane applied to it, either insitu or bought with it already applied)
|— Sustainable Flooring— Floor Facts|
— Lower-cost (about $4/sq ft)
|— Linseed oil outgases some VOCs
— Needs a backing substance, which is often synthetic
— Porous & may need to be waxed or polished
|— Choose adhesive that is water-based, formaldehyde free, and has low VOC content
— Prices generally range from $5-$8 per sq ft
|— Build It Green
||— Salvaged wood can be locally bought
— Good forestry practices
|— Salvaged wood can be irregularly sized
— May need more work
— May be shipped from long distances (FSC cert.)
— More expensive, depending on the source (about $6/sq ft for FSC certified, & $5-$13/sq ft for reclaimed timber)
|— Look for sealers with low-VOC emissions
||— Habitat for Humanity
— Forest Stewardship Council
— Aged Woods
||— No off-gassing from VOCs
||— Between $5-$10/sq ft for 100% wool, non-dyed and non-chemically sprayed carpeting
—Synthetic carpets are made from petroleum
|— Look for CRI (The Carpet and Rug Institute) certification
— Area rugs and carpet tiles are preferable wall-to-wall) carpet.
|— Green Floors
— Flor Carpeting
— Green California
Aside from the options and resources above, there are others, such as recycled glass tiles and rubber, as well as stone, made from nonrenewable resources but that is relatively long-lasting. You will need to weigh the pros and cons (did you think this was going to be easy??) and decide the best choice for your needs. Happy flooring!