Today, in every facet of our lives, there’s a keen awareness to be less wasteful and more efficient, and the flooring industry is no exception. The common denominator among green products is each either helps divert volume from the landfill, conserves natural resources, extends the product life cycle or reduces the problems associated with off-gassing. The concept of the 3Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – has been broadened to include the concept of sustainability.
Even though the green movement is everywhere, it is still early in the game and everyday flooring companies are increasing the environmentally-friendly options available to you the consumer. As your eco-friendly flooring specialist, I am dedicated to ensuring the flooring you choose is not only good for the environment but the right solution for you and your family.
Almost every category of flooring manufactured today has qualities to consider when choosing to go green. Following are some considerations in each category:
Wood is one of the flooring options that does not usually end up in a landfill after its service life. Wood is recyclable – materials are salvaged from a variety of sources, including old barns, factories and riverbeds. Many leading health associations recommend the product as ideal for healthier living. There are no emissions of methane or nitrogen oxide and minimal emissions for carbon dioxide.
Cork flooring is environmentally sustainable, non-toxic and healthy – perhaps the most environmentally friendly of all flooring surfaces. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree every nine to ten years. The harvesting has little to no affect on the health of the tree. For people with allergies, cork flooring is an ideal surface. It is antimicrobial and less likely to be affected by mold and mildew. In addition to the health benefits, the insulating properties of cork flooring contribute to energy efficiency.
Environmentally, bamboo is a great flooring choice. Bamboo grows abundantly and replenishes quickly. It can be harvested in as little as three years, regenerates without re-planting, and requires minimal fertilization or pesticides. The most durable bamboo comes from plants that are harvested after six to eight years.
The sustainable, renewable and biodegradable benefits of wool start on the farm, where sheep graze on grass – a naturally regenerating plant. Fleeces are grown, shorn and naturally replenished every six to 12 months. Wool is naturally biodegradable and it is a naturally stain resistant fiber therefore does not require the additional application of anti-stain agents. Once wool flooring is installed it will improve your indoor environment in a number of natural ways:
- Like all carpet, it absorbs airborne contaminants and helps purify indoor air
- It is non-allergenic; wool does not promote growth of bacteria or dust mites
- It is capable of retaining and releasing moisture during periods of high or low humidity, creating comfortable indoor environments
- It is bulky and resilient with superior sound and insulation properties
- It is safe for use with fireplaces because it’s naturally fire retardant
- It is crush resistant with natural coils that spring-back from the pressure of heavy furniture and foot traffic
- It is exceptionally comfortable thanks to its toe-curling softness
Triexta is a revolutionary fiber that combines the environmental element as well as long term performance. Many consumers do not recognize its generic name Triexta but most have heard of Dupont Sorona. This fiber is constructed of 37% bio-based or renewable materials, like corn sugar, that make it environmentally attractive. Sorona also offers great performance with durability, color and design, and permanent natural stain and bleach resistance that will not wash or wear off over time.
Natural fibers like sisal, jute, hemp, seagrass and abaca are not only environmentally friendly but they also add a great design element to any floor. The natural coloring of these fibers give them longevity in design while their structure is strong and durable.
Type 6 Nylon
Type 6 nylon is used in both residential and commercial grade carpeting. Nylon 6 is the only carpet fiber capable of being recycled back into carpet fiber repeatedly. The end result of using Type 6 nylon is less waste dumped into landfills at the end of the lifecycle.
Polyester used today is called "PET Polyester" and is actually made from recycled plastic soda bottles which make it a very environmentally friendly product. In fact, one square yard of PET Polyester carpet keeps about 30 plastic soda bottles out of the landfill and because it's derived from "food grade" soda bottles, it's actually a higher quality polyester than generic polyester fiber! The carpet industry is the largest collector and recycler of plastic soda/water bottles in the U.S. Approximately one out of every three bottles discarded end up as new PET carpet.
Resilient floor coverings include vinyl, linoleum and rubber flooring. This category of flooring covering maintains a strong presence in the fight for environmental responsibility with benefits including being made with natural, renewable materials that contribute to health indoor air quality and extended life cycles that reduce waste production.
Many resilient flooring products are made of vinyl. The principal raw material for vinyl is derived from common salt, an abundant and inexpensive natural resource. Vinyl resin takes less energy to produce than most competing raw materials, resulting in a lower level of greenhouse emissions over its life. Vinyl is durable under heavy traffic and extreme use. Vinyl reduces noise and provides underfoot comfort. Because it is moisture and stain resistant, spills can be easily removed. When compared with alternative materials, vinyl offers and attractive installed cost and economical maintenance over the life of the floor.
Linoleum flooring is made of renewable resources like linseed oil, rosin, cork powder, wood floor, and pigments. It is totally recyclable, so forty years down the road when you might think about changing your floors, you can feel good knowing that your floor had a minimal impact on the environment. Linoleum is extremely durable and does not easily scratch or scuff, making it great for high traffic areas that see a lot of wear and tear. In fact, over time linoleum hardens which makes it even more durable to keep it looking beautiful no matter how much traffic it receives. It is widely used commercially because of the durability and ease of maintenance. Its natural bacterial resistant qualities make it great for use in rooms like the kitchen, bathroom, and the children’s rooms.
Floors made with natural rubber are made from the sap of the rubber tree. Rubber tiles are recyclable at the end of life and can be used for other rubber products. Many rubber flooring products are already made from reclaimed materials such as old tires.
Laminate flooring is made from wood chips and fibers of many types of trees. Everything but the bark and leaves is used so close to 90% of the tree is utilized, making for less waste. It requires minimal maintenance and most products used for cleaning are 100% biodegradable and VOC-free. Just about all laminate floors now utilize some type of mechanical locking system which eliminates the need for adhesives. This means there are fewer materials and resources needed to install it. Because of these locking systems, laminate can be easily repaired without lifting or replacing the whole floor. Laminate flooring is a very durable and long-lasting product.
Ceramic tile is an eco friendly flooring choice for many homeowners. Tile has a useable life of more than 40 years. Alternative flooring choices will be replaced four, six or eight times in that same time period. Since tile can last the life of a home, it greatly reduces the demand for virgin materials as well as the amount of waste we send to landfills. The raw materials used in the manufacturing of both ceramic and porcelain tile are available in abundant supply throughout North America. This reduces energy consumption related to both the manufacturing and transportation of tile. Both ceramic and porcelain tile are low maintenance, long lasting and do not off-gas.