Choose green flooring wisely for the best value
More and more homeowners are becoming conscious of the environmental impacts of their lifestyle and green remodeling is booming because of this new awareness. Now that eco-friendly housing material is affordable and practical, homeowners want to know the environmental costs of the various green flooring options in order to make the best choice for their household and the planet.
First things first, however, is to understand that no new material is 100% green, eco-friendly or environmentally conscious. Any new material is going to take energy to harvest, manufacture, finish and transport, at the very least, and almost every floor will require some type of top preserving coat. This being said, there are certain materials that are greener than others (requiring less energy in some or all of those processes) and certain recycled materials that are the greenest because they do not require new materials to be harvested or manufactured.
Greenest Flooring Options
Recycled flooring: If possible, find recycled flooring materials for your home. Recycled flooring will most likely be reused hardwoods sourced from old barns or warehouses, but can also include recycled glass, recycled carpets and some recycled tile materials, like cement and metal. These materials can find a second life as your floor, saving it from the landfill and giving your home the added charm that recycled flooring provides. Although recycled flooring is the greenest flooring option, it will still require a certain amount of refinishing and preparation work to make it suitable for use in a residence and will usually still have transportation costs associated with it.
Greener Flooring Options
Bamboo: The latest in green flooring options, bamboo flooring is at least as hard as traditional hardwoods and often harder and more durable, making it an appealing option for busy kitchens, hallways and entryways. Plus, bamboo is naturally water and mildew resistant making it suitable even for bathrooms (bamboo is also used in bathroom cabinetry). Bamboo makes an ideal green floor because the plant reaches maturity at 4-5 years, compared to hardwoods that mature after several decades, and grows continuously for perpetual harvest. While these certainly are redeeming qualities for a green floor, bamboo still requires plenty of finishing to get it to mold into a proper flooring material, including pre-treatment, preservatives, finishing coatings and shipping.
Cork: Cork flooring is a highly appealing option for kitchens because it’s durable and incredibly comfortable. Just like the malleable corks in wine bottles, cork flooring is soft underfoot and makes a noticeable difference when you’re standing in the same place for an extended period of time, as you would when cooking or doing dishes. Cork is uniquely harvested because it strips away a portion of the bark, leaving the tree intact, and a cork tree can regenerate its bark within a few years for a highly sustainable flooring source. Cork flooring still requires a significant amount of treatment and shipment and could need to be completely replaced if there’s ever a major leak.
Green Flooring Options:
Green Linoleum: Green linoleum is not the same material that was popular in homes 40 years ago. This new material is far more elegant, but it’s also durable and biodegradable. Popular in medical and commercial settings for its hypoallergenic and antistatic qualities, green linoleum flooring is great for kitchens and bathrooms because it’s easy to clean and soft underfoot. No toxic chemicals are used, linoleum can be applied directly on top of your existing floor or concrete, and it’s easy to install.
Sustainable Hardwood: Hardwood is and will likely always be a popular flooring option because of how traditional it is and now that there are sustainably managed and harvested forests for hardwood flooring consumers can feel better about using it. Truly sustainable hardwood comes with an independent certification right on the box; don’t be fooled by “eco friendly” or “green wood” claims on a website without verifying where your specific wood comes from or you could be paying a premium for nothing. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is independent and not-for-profit, and any wood that is not certified by them is unlikely to be sustainably managed.
Wool Carpet: For a softer floor that meets your green flooring requirements, wool carpeting is a renewable, durable and non-toxic flooring material. For truly green wool carpeting, make sure it’s free of synthetic additives in the form of adhesives or chemical dyes and stain protection. Wool can truly be a sustainable green flooring material, and its immense durability ensures your carpeting will last for decades. Wool is also naturally stain and water resistant, though it’s still not a good idea to install carpeting in the kitchen or bathroom.