Homeowners have always cherished hardwood floors. However, some wood products, although natural, are not sustainably sourced. Each year, America permanently loses 31,000 square miles of forest to deforestation. Wood products contribute to 10 percent of that total.
To offset these troubling statistics, many of us are turning to other flooring options. The most common of these include materials like bamboo, renewable fibers, and linoleum, and others may be sustainably sourced, recyclable, or renewable. Here are some of the trends making waves in the green flooring industry.
Sustainably Harvested Hardwood
Hardwood is a classic choice for homeowners. It’s a natural flooring option with proven durability. But you probably want to make sure the product you choose has a clean manufacturing process and a positive impact on the local economy and environment.
The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for worker rights, ecological protections, and other crucial forest management processes. They then certify products sourced from responsibly managed forests. Their website offers resources to help you find FSC certified products so you can verify that your hardwood is ethically and sustainably sourced.
Bamboo flooring is perfect for hardwood floor lovers. It resembles traditional plank wood flooring and expands and contracts less than hardwood. It’s also harder than oak and maple and extremely durable. The most robust flooring comes from mature plants that are six to seven years old.
Bamboo comes in a variety of colors, ranging from natural light tones to darker carbonized browns. And you can opt to have it stained in practically every hue. Keep in mind that carbonized bamboo is not as durable as stained bamboo, as carbonizing causes the fibers to soften. You should also consider the quality of the finish and the formaldehyde content of the resin when purchasing bamboo flooring.
This flooring comes from the bark of the Mediterranean’s cork oak evergreen trees. The bark regenerates itself in eight to 12 years, making cork a sustainable option. Some manufacturers have even begun to add recycled industrial materials, like scraps from wine stoppers, making cork flooring even more environmentally friendly.
Cork flooring may come in tiles or planks and is available in a variety of natural and stained shades. It’s also very soft, provides cushioning and insulation, and reduces noise. Cork floors are very durable if cared for properly, with some lasting more than a century. Most experts recommend applying varnish to extend the life of this material.
Advances in flooring technology have made it possible to create a cleaner, allergy-free atmosphere in your home. Carpets and other non-antimicrobial floors can hold allergens like pet dander, pollen, dust, and mildew. These can trigger symptoms in those with allergies and are difficult to remove even with frequent vacuuming.
Do you have household members with allergies? It’s increasingly possible to find flooring that resists allergen buildup. Antimicrobial properties can be found naturally in materials like linoleum and bamboo. You can also look for carpets made with antimicrobial treatments or hard flooring with additives like zinc or silver.
Natural linoleum is a biodegradable material made from limestone, linseed oil, cork dust, and other wood fillers and resins. Unfortunately, many flooring manufacturers have replaced linoleum products with PVC-based products. These vinyl tiles are often referred to as “linoleum,” which creates confusion for consumers.
Fortunately, you can still find manufacturers who sell natural linoleum on sources like Green Building Supply. Natural linoleum is very durable, colorfast, and comes in a variety of patterns and colors. It even has some antimicrobial properties, making it another smart choice for people with allergies or asthma.
Carpet’s noise-reduction qualities and softness have made it a popular choice for many years. The material, however, is often nylon fibers with plastic backing. You might not see the appeal in artificial carpet that may very well end up in a landfill within a decade.
Now, there are more sustainable materials to choose from. Look for carpets made of recycled materials and natural fibers like wool or seagrass instead of synthetic materials like nylon. Some companies are even creating carpet from discarded fishing nets or post-consumer plastic bottles. And when you’re purchasing new carpet, find out if the company takes back the old carpeting at the end of life for recycling.
More Sustainable Trends in Flooring
When it comes to building green, not all materials are equal. Thanks to a growing demand for sustainable products, homeowners are seeing a greater diversity of more sustainable flooring options. We hope these options continue to grow, so that everyone can verify that the materials they choose are sustainable, natural, and contribute to a healthy home environment.
About the Author
Holly Welles is a home improvement writer and the editor of The Estate Update. Her work on environmental design has been published on Today’s Homeowner, Build Magazine, and other industry publications.