When considering how to make your home more sustainable generally each and every element has a green counterpart. Of course, not all “green” features are created equal. Flooring is a fantastic place to consider eco-friendly choices. Alternatives to carpet are especially important because traditional carpeting has one of the highest levels of VOC off-gasing among household materials.Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids which include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Luckily for us there are many amazing sustainable choices which actually look cool and are not necessarily more expensive than traditional choices.
Linoleum/Marmoleum- Upside: Inherently microbial, biodegradable and made from natural materials this flooring is a great choice for allergy sufferers. Downside: Poor linoleum often has a bad rap because of its ubiquitous presence in our schools. Check out Marmoleum to see how far this material has come!
Reclaimed Wood- Upside: Typically sourced from deconstructed houses or mills this is a wonderful choice for adding authenticity to your home. Downside: More readily available in certain areas such as New England, harder to find and use in humid climates due to moisture corroding the wood.
Bamboo/Palmwood- Upside: Technically grasses as opposed to wood this flooring is a rapidly renewing resource which means that its replenishes itself with 10 years of being chopped down, much faster than hard wood trees. Downside: Consumers must beware of the sometimes added glues and sealers that accompany this choice lessening its “eoc-friendly-ness. (pretty sure I just made that word up but you get it!)
Stone Tile – Upside: Locally sourced stone is a great option for people who want a traditional look without sacrificing the environment. Look for stones sourced within 500 miles (LEED Standards) when you do this you are not only supporting local business but saving on the fuel and emissions in transport. Downside: Not all areas have a variety locally quarried stones available.
Rubber- Upside: Recycled rubber flooring consumes a small amount of energy in production and makes use of material that otherwise creates environmental challenges (tires). It come is a variety of awesome colors and looks modern. Downside: Synthetic rubber is made from petroleum (yikes!) and this type of resilient flooring is not the best surface material for just any room, it can be harmed by oils and grease.
Carpeting- Upside: There are now choices for low-emitting carpeting. When searching for a environmentally friendly carpet the “Green Label Plus” seal is essential to ensure you will not be exposed to a high level of toxic materials. You can’t go wrong with “Flor” tiles, a truly “green” company. Downside: This type of carpeting is more expensive and due diligence is needed for everything from the carpet pad to the glue to ensure your getting a green material.
If you had a chance to start fresh with your flooring would you consider any of these options? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!