How "green" is your floor?
- How was the raw material produced?
- How far was it transported?
- How "dirty" is the manufacturing process?
- Were green materials used in installation?
- Is the flooring recyclable?
"Green" flooring and floor products can help improve your home's air quality and make a positive contribution to reducing
global warming. Whether you want to
go green or just desire a floor surface that's toxin–free, eco-flooring can help you accomplish that and more.
A common misconception is that an eco friendly floor is more expensive, and sometimes, less attractive. The truth is there
are many beautiful and fair–priced green floor options to choose from. In fact, you may be contemplating purchasing
green flooring and not even know it!
For many people, green is not just a preference, it's a way of life. By choosing to buy green flooring products and
materials, you can help improve the environment as well as your standard of home living.
Eco-Friendly Flooring Products
Sustainability is an important aspect to consider when looking for environmentally friendly flooring. Flooring that's
considered sustainable is generally made from natural resources that constantly replenish with little to no outside
assistance. Examples of materials that are considered sustainable include cork, bamboo and nearly all resources used to make
Resources Used to Make Flooring
The machinery and energy used to gather the raw materials is a huge part of the floor manufacturing process and should be
considered when determining a product's eco–friendliness. The gathering of some natural resources, such as stone and
materials used for concrete, require the use of machines that expend a massive amount of energy. Cork and latex, on the other
hand, are generally sourced without machines, resulting in materials that are more environmentally–friendly.
Recycled and Reclaimed Flooring
Nowadays, you can find a recycled variety of most floor types on the market. Eco flooring made from recycled materials can
be used to make new flooring products including recycled hardwood, laminate, carpet, and tile. These products may cost more
than other, because extra time and effort goes into
dismantling the used product, transporting it and processing it to make new flooring. There are other plus sides of using
recycled green flooring. For example, reclaimed
hardwood which has been exposed to changes in humidity a lot longer than freshly sawn hardwood pieces, are often more stable.
Other less common
forms of eco-friendly surfaces made from recycled products include flooring made from coconut shells, corn–based carpet
and peach pit flooring.
"Carbon footprint" is defined by
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as the "effect of human activities on the climate in terms of the total amount of
greenhouse gases produced . . . measured in units of carbon dioxide."
The following factors contribute to a floor's carbon footprint: harvesting/mining of the materials, the manufacturing
process, transportation of the finished product to its destination, and any off–gassing of the floor before, during and
after installation. In some cases, the disposal of the floor at the end of its life cycle should also be considered, as this
process could result in pollution and greenhouse gassing (as is the case of vinyl flooring).
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are chemical, carbon–based compounds that are commonly found in flooring and floor materials, as well as a
number of other household buildng products including paint, cleaning supplies, glues and adhesives, and furnishings. These
are emitted in gas form from certain solid and liquid materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises against
long-term exposure to some VOC pollutants, as they can have short– and
long–term health effects. Some symptoms that may occur as a result of VOC contact include headaches, nose and throat
irritation, and even possible liver and kidney damage.
While the presence or absence of VOCs is not solely associated with determining whether or not a flooring is
eco–friendly, it can play an important role. Floor types that emit an unsafe level of VOCs are not generally recognized
as green as they can pollute indoor and outdoor atmospheres.
Formaldehyde is considered one of the most harmful chemical compounds of the VOC family. According to the United States
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long–term exposure to formaldehyde may result in increased cancer
risk, while short–term contact symptoms include nosebleeds, headaches and breathing difficulty.
Formaldehyde can be found in resins, glues and permanent adhesives used to manufacture and install certain floor types. It
is also a key ingredient in melamine resin, a thermoplastic material used to top off laminate flooring.
Flooring and floor products that contain zero or harmless levels of formaldehyde meet E–1 Standards, a European
regulation for formaldehyde content. E–1 Standards are higher than U.S. standards and are therefore referred to more
often in the flooring industry.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)
In the United States, the eco–friendliness of a product is measured according to the NSF's evaluation. The NSF is a
non–profit organization that is committed to providing public safety. Thanks to their attempts in creating a nationally
recognized green certification program, there has been a substantial increase in sustainable floor production. The NSF
assesses flooring according to the following factors:
- Product design
- Long–term value
- Corporate governance
- Intelligent product manufacturing
Greenhouse gassing is a huge concern in today's green–minded society. The major contributors of greenhouse gassing
are plant fertilizers, the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. A study conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) shows that 3 percent, or 32 million acres, of the world's forests were depleted between 1990 and 2005.
This loss has led to a 30 percent annual increase in greenhouse gasses.
Does this mean we should stop cutting down trees and hardwood flooring is bad? Not necessarily; there are many ways that
hardwood flooring can be green. In this "Friendly Flooring" section you can learn how to have beautiful hardwood flooring without having to sacrifice
your eco–friendly lifestyle.
Green Flooring Information | Help
- Types – Learn what choices you have for
- Care – See what green processes and
products there are to maintain your floor.
– We can help answer questions you have about green flooring.
- Flooring Buying Guides – Use our buyers guides to help you
purchase your new floors.
- Flooring Installation Guides – Let us guide you through
installing your own flooring.
- Flooring Estimator Tool – Calculate how much flooring your