Starting from the ground up is always a good place to begin. Laying flooring gives you an opportunity to lay the ground work for the rest of your home, as it lets you carve out the look and feel and can even make a sustainable statement.
Flooring can be recycled, sustainable or simple enough to reuse or recycle and composed of non-toxic materials. Pricing can be pretty competitive with traditional flooring, but you will have to compare for yourself.
There are lots of sustainable materials, styles and colors to choose from whether it be for carpeting, hardwood floors, bamboo, cork, recycled tile or glass, stone tile, reclaimed wood from aging structures, FSC(Forest Stewardship Council)—certified wood and well, you get the point, there are a lot of options!
Carpet — When looking at carpet, be on the lookout for carpets made from natural fibers with little or no chemical treatment. Also, purchase carpets with natural-fiber backing attached with less-toxic adhesives. Installation of new carpet and flooring can fill the air with hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including known and suspected carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene. Look out for eco-friendly padding and insulation to finish the job. If you can recycle your old carpet, even better.
Bamboo — Bamboo is found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions and it’s one of the fastest growing plants on earth. It has a wide variety of uses, as you can cook and eat it, making fabric out of it and of course, walk on it. It’s easy to grow, durable, lasts a long time and requires very small amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. It replenishes in nature much quicker than hardwood, which take 50-150 years.
Wood — Ecotimber Flooring states that “there are no good or bad species — there is only good and bad forestry.” Understand the difference. You can purchase reclaimed wood from older structures, such as old barns or covered bridges, as a way to recycle or FSC certified wood to make sure responsible steps have been taken to preserve the world’s forests. Plus, it offers a unique touch to the home. EcoTimber.com is an excellent, educational source to learn more.
Cork — Cork is one of my favorites because it is renewable, sustainable, resilient and very soft. Trees don’t have to be cut down because it is harvested from the tree trunk. Portugal produces approximately 50% of the cork harvested annually worldwide. Varnished cork tiles can be used as an alternate flooring option. Additionally, cork provides thermal and acoustic insulation and doesn’t conjure up dust—so it’s a great way to cut down on those unsightly dust balls!
Marmoleum – Many of you may not be familiar with marmoleum but it is like linoleum but created from natural elements. It’s often made from solidified linseed oil (linoxyn), pine rosin, ground cork dust, wood flour and mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate, most commonly used on burlap or canvas backing. Marmoleum is hypo-allergenic and biodegradable—and the word is kind of fun to say!
For those who can’t put in a new floor, or even a install a used floor right now, but want to tickle your toes, try a recycled area rug from a friend or FLOR’s Anji Mountain Coffee Bean Shag Area Rug which is made from bamboo. Also, an eco-friendly doormat is always welcome.
Finally, in case of good weather you can go outside, take your shoes off and walk on a grass carpet for the ultimate in green carpeting!