Wear It Then Walk on It: the Many Options for Recycled Flooring

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Home improvement and building projects can be a big drain on the environment and your wallet, especially when using virgin materials and products with high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If you are in the market for new flooring, such environmental pitfalls can easily be avoided.

Thanks to green design innovators, it is possible to install a new floor made from resources that would otherwise be discarded, such as old leather belts or flooring remnants. Plastic, glass, metal, and stone can also all be recycled into new tiles, so no matter which material you choose, you have many options for a floor that treads lightly on the planet.

Feels Like Flooring…

…looks like leather. British company Ting London turns used leather belts of similar styles into a mosaic of leather flooring using a water-based glue and an eye for patterns. GreenFloors, based in Virginia, also has a line of 100 percent recycled leather tiles as well as bamboo flooring and natural fiber carpets.

Tile Always in Style

These recycled brass tiles from Eco-Friendly Flooring add a fun twist to a traditional material. Photo: ecofriendlyflooring.com

As with other recycled products, the percentage of recycled content in flooring matters, so if you decide to go the recycled route, pay attention to how much post-consumer content was used to make your new floor. Glass can be recycled into colorful tile, and companies offer extensive lines of tiles made from recycled metal and glass, as well as flooring made from bamboo, cork, and reclaimed wood. Eco-Friendly Flooring has a wide selection.

Self-Installation of What Remains

For the eco-minded remodeler or DIY-er without ready access to recycled products, tiles can be purchased online and then installed based on tips from the manufacturer.

You can also easily find help online for floor installation tips that pertain to the specific materials being used. For the truly adventurous, try heading over to your local flooring store and picking up remnants of your desired material and then creating a unique, repurposed pattern.

Stick to Green Adhesives

Indoor air pollution is a common problem in home improvement projects because of the emission of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from chemicals commonly found in paints, finishes and glues.

When buying flooring and adhesives, look for products that carry the Green Label Plus seal from the Carpet and Rug Institute.

 

Tread Lightly

Just like the color of paint, the type of flooring you choose is important when deciding on the overall aesthetic of a room. When you have decided on a material and look that is right for you, try to find an eco-version that fits this mold. Too often, people start with a goal of eco-friendly and get stuck with something that don’t quite love. If you start with what you want, then work backwards to find the planet-friendly options similar to the choices, you’ll end up satisfied on every level.

In the case of floors, look for tiles that have been made with recycled materials or wood that has been harvested from sustainable or reclaimed sources. That way, regardless of the material or style you choose, the overall tint of your new floor will be green.

Editor’s note: Originally published on March 9, 2009, this article was updated in October 2018.

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