Choosing a Sustainable Floor Covering

by Dennis Machicao

Building your own home can be quite an exciting venture that gives you the opportunity of installing amenities made from environmentally friendly materials. But if you are not that adventurous, redecorating your current place you live in can be the next best thing.

eWhen redecorating, more often than not, one considers new drapes, new light fixtures modernizing the existing furniture and maybe changing the floor covering. In choosing the type of floor covering that will best suit you lifestyle, one should consider coverings that are made of eco-friendly materials and there are a number of materials that one can choose from. Whether you are considering carpeting or hard floors, these floor coverings are now made of renewable, recycled and sustainable materials.

If you choose carpeting, look for materials like jut, wool, sea grass, hemp and bamboo. As an example, there is carpeting on the market from DuPont called SmartStrand that is made from a renewable sourced polymer that is constructed with corn sugar. Traditionally these polymers were made from a negative resource, petroleum that now can be replaced with corn sugar.

There is also carpeting made from a recycled source called EverStrand. The fibers are formed from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), and yes that is a petroleum-based material. However, these carpet fibers are made from recycled soda bottles that are made with PET. After these PET bottles are gathered, they are grounded, cleaned, melted and extruded into fibers that are spun to make carpet yarn and formed into a carpet made from this recycled material.

If you are considering hard wood flooring, make sure that the wood you use is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC will certify that the wood used comes from a sustainably managed forest where trees are regenerated, there is a conservation of biodiversity and the air and water qualities are preserved. Go to to seek out suppliers certified by the FSC.

Another material, although some might think would not make a good flooring source, is cork. Although cork is somewhat of a soft wood, it does provide thermal and acoustic insulation and the natural elasticity makes it a comfortable floor to be on. Cork floors are durable that usually last between 10 to 30 years and rebound well from marks left from furniture and ladies high heels. They are hypoallergenic, do not attract dust, are fire resistant and can act as a natural insect repellant. Cork is a sustainable material because it comes from the bark of a cork oak tree usually found in the forests of the Mediterranean which after harvesting will grow back in three years.

Bamboo, that surprisingly is harder than maple and northern red oak, is another sustainable flooring material that is easy to maintain, easy to install and can hold up to more abuse than traditional hardwood floors. Bamboo, resistant to water mildew and insects, is renewable since it grows back quickly in prolific amounts.

If you are looking to redo your bathroom floor, you can use floor tiles made of recycled beer and wine glass bottles that come in a multitude of colors. It is easy to maintain, is not subject to mildew or mold in damp environments, won’t stain, and will give a room a bright appearance since it will reflect light rather than absorb it like ceramic does.

Now, when you think of Linoleum most people think of vinyl flooring and their mother’s kitchen floor that was popular in earlier years. Vinyl is made from a petrochemical source that is not very healthy to be around. Linoleum, on the other hand, is a mixture of linseed oil, cork dust, tree resins, wood flour, pigments and ground limestone. It, like cork, is water resistant and fire retardant. It is available in a wide variety of colors and designs and can be made stain resistant by the addition of a sealer. It makes for a good floor where there is high traffic and holds up to a lot of wear and tear.

So whatever your preference of flooring materials you choose in redecorating or building a new home, you can be sure that each one of these materials comes in a wide variety of colors, designs and textures to choose from that will fit your lifestyle and at the same time knowing that you are using sustainable materials that are healthier to you, your loved ones and the Earth you live in.

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