Flooring products are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from eco-friendly materials such as sustainably harvested wood, bamboo and stone, to less friendly products such as laminates and linoleum.
The following in an excerpt from the book “The Ultimate Guide to Greening your Home”.
✔ Choose an environmentally friendly type of flooring – There are many different flooring options available in the market. Below is a description of some of the most common.
- Green Carpeting – There are green carpeting options available in the market. Look for carpets made from natural fibers, such as wool or jute or with a high content of recycled synthetic fibers.
- Bamboo Flooring – Bamboo is considered a renewable resource and makes an excellent green choice. It is a fast-growing grass that can be selectively harvested annually.
- Rubber Flooring - Natural virgin rubber is derived from rubber trees, a renewable resource. Using recycled rubber made from tires reduces the environmental burden of discarded tires.
- Stone Flooring – Stone flooring is a natural product and extremely durable. Try to choose stone flooring that was created locally and that does not use high VOC sealants.
- Tile Flooring – Tile flooring is very durable (ceramic or glass). Look for tiles that are made locally and have high recycled content.
- Cork Flooring – Cork is a renewable resource made from the bark of the cork oak.
- Linoleum Flooring – Linoleum is made from linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, tree resins, ground limestone and pigments, all pressed onto a jute backing. If you are considering linoleum be sure to ask for ‘natural’ linoleum.
- Wood Flooring – Wood flooring is a natural, durable material and can be from a renewable resource (if harvested correctly). There are several different categories of wood floors. Cork and Bamboo can be used as the raw materials in engineered and laminate wood.
- Solid wood – Solid wood floors are cut as a solid length of wood. This process can result in a high level of waste if discarded wood is not used for another purpose.
- Engineered wood (composite wood) – Engineered wood uses a thin top veneer cut from a tree. This is attached with wood strands and particles bound together with adhesives. It is not necessarily a green option because most are not FDC-certified.
- Laminate wood flooring are not made of any solid wood. The core is compressed or bonded fiberboard topped with a layer of plastic material made from melamine and formaldehyde. This is also not considered a green option.
✔ Consider recycled wood for flooring - Recycled wood floors are made from salvaged wood and trees that would otherwise go to the landfill. The wood is milled into a new floor without affecting the world’s forests.
✔ Use FSC-certified wood - Buying wood floors made of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood guarantees the lumber is taken from forests that are properly managed.
✔ Use caution when refinishing floors – When refinishing your wood floors, be sure to take the following safety precautions: use a high-quality dust mask and a respirator; protect your heating and air conditioning system from sanding dust; use natural oil-based stains for the best results; provide plenty of fresh air during floor refinishing; and dispose of unused products and applicators properly.
✔ Choose your finish wisely – Many different finishes are available for protecting your wood flooring. These include lacquer, natural oils, shellac, varnish, acrylic / urethane, and water based sealers. For an excellent comparison chart, check out this site: http://greenhomeguide.com/know-how/article/buyers-guide-to-clear-finishes.
✔ Avoid vinyl flooring – Vinyl is made from petroleum products, it emits VOCs, and ends up in landfills at end-of-life.
✔ Avoid the use of high-VOC adhesives during installation – High-VOC adhesives contribute to indoor air pollution and can result in health problems.