When you choose eco–friendly, or "green" flooring, you're not just doing the earth a favor, you're actually creating
a healthy home environment too. At this very moment, harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs)* could be literally right
under your nose. Despite the fact that studies have shown that exposure to them over time can aggravate allergies and even
increase the risk of cancer, VOCs and formaldehyde are commonly used in the production of various types of flooring, flooring
adhesives and glue.
Whether you're a person who is ill, has a disability, or is just getting older; if you plan to live in your home for many
years to come, a green, disability–friendly floor makes sense.
You can reduce the risk of illness and allergic reaction by installing an environmentally–friendly floor that
accommodates your special needs.
*VOCs are toxic, carbon–based chemical compounds that can cause sneezing, headaches, nausea and
even more serious illnesses.
Green Flooring Standards
The standards used in the United States to determine whether or not a floor type is "green" were created by the National
Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a non–profit organization committed to providing public safety.
Eco–friendly flooring characteristics
Keep in mind that some "green" floors boast all of the following characteristics, while others only meet a few.
- Sustainable (production is not a drain on the environment)
- Can be recycled
- Emits little to no VOCs
- Created using products that are easy to replenish or refill (e.g cork flooring is made using the bark of trees)
- Made with natural, recycled and/or non–toxic materials and finishes
The Cost of Green Flooring
Contrary to what many people think, going green doesn't require spending large amounts of that other kind of "green." In
fact, there are many cost–effective, eco–friendly alternatives out there for homeowners who have disabilities.
Fair–priced green flooring includes linoleum and some laminate types.
The production process for laminate floors requires less wood materials than other wood flooring types. In fact, the top
surface of wood laminate is not real wood at all – it's actually a high resolution photograph of wood topped with a
clear plastic overlay (melamine resin is commonly used). The photograph can in fact be of any floor type, such as cork, stone
and bamboo. Most laminate installations click together and do not require adhesive (glue). Any adhesives and coatings used
with laminate are typically water–based and emit VOCs at a rate acceptable by green standards. The more durable types
of laminate flooring can withstand high levels of wheelchair traffic, making it a popular choice
in homes where wheelchair use is necessary. In addition, laminate is easy to maintain and cheaper than other floor options.
Linoleum is a naturally hypoallergenic product created from linseed oil, wood flour, cork dust, and burlap (or canvas).
All of these products are sustainable and generally gathered using little to no energy. They are also VOC–free, which
generally means better indoor air quality. Linoleum flooring that needs to be replaced can be recycled back into the
production process and used to create new floors, making it one of the greener floor options. Plus, its hard surface suits
most wheelchair and walker travel.
Green Flooring Provides Comfort
If you have joint problems and want a floor surface that's comfortable to walk on, look no further than carpet, cork and
When it comes to eco–friendly floors, carpet has sometimes gotten a bad rap. While it is true that many carpets emit
VOCs which make them an unfavorable choice for environmental advocates, numerous manufacturers are now producing carpet that
meets green standards.
Green carpet standards were created by the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Carpets that meet these standards are relatively VOC–free, and do not contain harmful pesticides (typically used to
discourage dust mites). These eco–friendly carpets are marked with a seal of approval and can be found in most
Cork is one of the most comfortable green floor options out there, and if feet could talk, cork would get high praise.
Cork is made using the bark of cork oak trees and is removed without damaging the tree or its environment. While aching
joints are singing the praises of cork flooring, the flexible surface is not recommended for wheelchair and walker users.
Individuals who use wheelchairs and walkers will find it takes more energy to travel across cork floors than across hard
surfaces like stone or concrete. Also, wheels and walker prongs may make indentations in cork's surface over time.
Many manufacturers are now producing rubber flooring (and green–friendly adhesives) from
recycled materials. Rubber floors are popular with people with disabilities because their durable and slip–resistant
surface accommodates wheelchairs as well as aching joints. Rubber floors are hypoallergenic, easy to clean, and will not warp
under standing liquid or extreme climates. Recycled rubber floors can be smooth or textured and are available in various
colors and designs. Rubber floors can also be color–customized to designate certain areas of the house – which
can assist those who are vision and/or memory–impaired.