Eco-Friendly Home Flooring Options

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More and more homeowners and buyers are looking for homes that have eco-friendly features. Flooring for your home now comes in many options that are both beautiful and environmentally responsible.

When looking at “green” or eco-friendly home flooring options, there are several things to consider. The impact the material has on the environment through its procurement or creation, its transportation to reach you, its installation methods, its sustainability in the environment and what products are needed to maintain the final product. Here are some eco-friendly flooring options that will help make your home more green.

Wood flooring

Yes, trees are being cut down to make your hardwood floor. But when harvested through specially-managed forests, wood makes for a great eco-friendly flooring product because it is natural, renewable and recyclable. When shopping for hardwood floors, be sure that it is certified as environmentally friendly. While only around 10 percent of the typical retailer’s stock is likely to be green, you can still find a variety of options for your specific look. Visit The Forest Stewardship Council for a list of retailers in your area with certified sustainable wood flooring options.

You can also often find reclaimed wood from demolitions or salvaged wood from land clearings and forest fires that can make for beautiful wood floors.

Bamboo flooring

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Bamboo flooring was at the forefront of the green home flooring movement, and for good reason. Bamboo grows very quickly—the plant reaches maturity in three years. And while it is a plant, bamboo is strong, hard and extremely durable. In addition, bamboo regenerates without the need for replanting and requires minimal fertilization or pesticides. And, because it is so dense it doesn’t need refinishing as often as hardwood. However, most bamboo is grown in Asia and needs to be transported to the U.S., resulting in increased use of energy and natural resources.

Carpet flooring

You may be surprised to see carpet on this list, but these days more carpets emit low volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And carpeting is often made from recycled products, such as recycled nylon or old car tires, and is itself recyclable. It’s estimated that 5 billion pounds of old carpeting is kept out of landfills each year through recycling efforts. Visit Green Label Plus for a list of carpets, adhesives and cushion products that are certified as low-emitting.

Linoleum flooring

Linoleum is one of the most environmentally responsible home flooring materials available. Made of organic materials—tree sap, wood flour, cork flour and linseed oil—linoleum is biodegradable without off-gassing. Linoleum’s ingredients require little energy to harvest and the finished product does not require chemicals to maintain. The adhesives used to secure linoleum to your floor are available as 100 percent solvent free and meet all low VOC requirements. And when you’re ready for something new, your old linoleum floor can be recycled.

Cork flooring

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Cork floors are made from waste cork used to make wine stoppers. It’s made from bark harvested from the cork oak tree, which makes it a renewable product. And it can only be harvested every nine years, which means it is never harvested before the tree has matured so the tree is not damaged or destroyed. Cork home flooring can be easily maintained and cleaned if properly sealed. Most cork is harvested in Europe, so energy consumption associated with transportation will need to be taken into consideration.

Source: HGTVPro.com, ThisOldHouse.com, World Floor Covering Association, U.S. Green Building Council
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