Why and How to Select Eco-Friendly Flooring Options for Your Home

Aug 30 2013

eco friendly flooring with wet green leafFor an environmentally-conscious homeowner, home renovation is about more than aesthetics. It’s important to consider the impact of your remodeling on the health of your home’s inhabitants and the environment. Unfortunately, it can be tough to decipher what materials are truly eco-friendly, and simply being labeled “green” doesn’t give enough information. When it comes to flooring, there are many environmental hazards that you can unknowingly bring into your home by selecting the wrong materials.

Environmental Hazards Posed by Flooring Materials

  • Indoor Air Quality
    Some flooring products contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which, when released into the air, can aggravate and even cause respiratory afflictions such as asthma. Even when consumers choose flooring products which they believe to be sustainable, they may be unknowingly allowing these toxins into the home. When determining if a flooring product is safe for your indoor air quality, one must consider not only the material itself, but also the adhesives used to install it and the cleaning products used to maintain it.
  • Waste of Resources
    Homeowners often forget to consider the environment when they get caught up in the aesthetics of creating a beautiful space to live in. Some flooring products are renewable resources with limited environmental impact, while the production of others causes environmental devastation. Beyond the material itself, the transportation of the product can also create a negative impact on the environment. Consider the source of the material, what environmental standards it adhered to in its country of origin, and what impact the transportation of the material had.
  • Improper Disposal
    When installing new flooring, homeowners must somehow dispose of the old materials. Some materials can be installed directly over previously installed flooring, preventing unnecessary additions to landfills. Other flooring products can be recycled to make new flooring materials or other products. During the renovation process, think not only of what to do with your old flooring, but also of how your new flooring material can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way during your next home renovation.

How to Choose Green Flooring

Choosing green flooring can seem like a daunting task with all of the options out there, but there are a few steps you can follow to determine the environmental impact of your chosen flooring material.

1. Do your research on potential flooring materials and determine which are sustainably harvested and which are renewable resources. Narrow it down to one or two flooring ideas that are environmentally-friendly and work with the décor you desire.

2. Check out different options at your flooring retailer and select a few that are aesthetically pleasing to you. Investigate the source of each, and try to select local options if possible.

3. Talk to a representative at the flooring retailer about the VOC content of each of your choices, and determine if it is safe for your home. Ask about certification from reputable agencies like Indoor Advantage or NRDC Green Seal to ensure that the material has low VOC emissions.

4. Discuss installation options and disposal for your old flooring. Can you install the new material directly over your previously installed flooring? Does the retailer offer recycling programs for your old floor?

5. Ask about floor maintenance and recommended cleaning materials. Make sure you can use cleaning products that are free of harmful chemicals.

6. Carefully weigh the environmental pros and cons of each of your choices to select the flooring material that is right for you and the environment.

Green Materials

Most flooring material families have some options that are environmentally friendly, but here are a few materials that offer many green choices and are popular among homeowners.

Bamboo: Bamboo is a renewable resource, and is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. More durable than most hardwoods, bamboo is a tough choice for homeowners worried about scratching from pets or damage from children.

Certified Hardwood: If hardwood floors appeal to you, make sure to choose an option certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). These specially-approved forests harvest wood in a sustainable way, without the devastating effects of deforestation.

Organic Carpeting: To avoid the chemicals in synthetic carpets, opt for a greener variety made from plant fibers. The rugged texture and earthy tones look great in rooms that incorporate natural décor. Make sure to choose a carpet material that can be recycled when you decide to dispose of it.

Cork: Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, and the tree is able to regenerate the bark with no harm to itself. Cork is a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms because it is stain-resistant and water resistant. Besides the practical aspects, cork’s springy texture and natural look adds a comfortable, relaxing element to your room.

About the Author: Samantha Hudson is a home improvement enthusiast and a contributing blogger for Carolina Flooring Services, a leading retailer of flooring products including bamboo, cork, hardwood, tile, and vinyl, and carpet in Charleston SC.

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