Some Eco–Friendly Flooring Suggestions for Your Kids
Now you can install flooring in your home that is kid–, health– and environmentally–friendly! Help
preserve the forests, water, soil, air and your child's well–being with a green flooring
choice. Green floor standards take into account not only the materials used in production, but also the floor's effect on
things such as the quality of indoor air during and after installation.
Every year, more consumers want materials in their homes that are better for the environment. The growing desire for an
eco–friendly home has sparked the development of green flooring options that meet the needs of a variety of people.
More flooring manufacturers and floor retailers are beginning to see the short– and long–term benefits of "going
Using biodegradable materials or making recyclable flooring is beneficial to the environment and can also help
manufacturers save money. Recycling old flooring to create new flooring potentially means less time and money spent on
getting new materials; not to mention savings on the cost of floor disposal.
The process of creating flooring that meets green standards often results in a floor that is hypoallergenic (i.e. less
chance of causing an allergic reaction). This means less risk of an allergy or asthma attack. Green varieties of many
flooring types are available, including cork, bamboo and even carpet.
In this section are tips on things that can contribute to a floor's eco–friendliness as well as some popular
eco–friendly floors both you and your children may enjoy. Below are some of the green benefits of carpet, cork,
linoleum and bamboo. However, other flooring types such as laminate, tile, some hardwood, stone and concrete can also be made
using eco–friendly materials and processes.
Indoor and Outdoor Pollution
Eco–friendliness is not solely based on the resources used in production. The amount of chemicals and volatile organic compounds
(VOCs)* outgassed by the end–product is also considered. Some floors produce more pollution than other types. For
example, vinyl and some carpet, hardwood, bamboo and laminate flooring is made with materials and/or adhesives which contain
high levels of VOCs such as formaldehyde. Carbon–based chemical compounds such as formaldehyde are believed to be the
source of breathing difficulties, headaches and even increases in the risk of cancer.
Vinyl flooring is made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) a material that can be very difficult to dispose of and recycle. In
fact, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Greenpeace studies indicate the incineration of PVC has led to a dramatic
increase in dioxin** emissions. Processes are currently underway to dispose of vinyl in a more effective manner so as to
reduce the emission level.
* VOCs are carbon–based chemical compounds that are commonly associated with allergy–like
symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and headaches. Exposure to VOCs may also increase cancer risk.
** Dioxin is an organic compound. Some forms of dioxin are carcinogenic.
The Carbon Footprint
The "carbon footprint" refers to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the air as a result of a particular
process or activity. This is significant as CO2 is believed to be the main source of global warming. In terms of flooring,
the carbon footprint measures the amount of CO2 released into the air as a result of the harvesting or production process
(manufacturing in factories), as well as any ground, air and sea transportation used.
The amount of distance traveled to get the product to its destination can play a primary role in determining a product's
eco–friendliness. Ships, airplanes and cars contribute to global warming by emitting tons of CO2 into the air.
Generally, the further the flooring has to travel in order to get to your home, the more CO2 is released into the atmosphere.
So, for example, while the production of domestic* hardwood depends upon deforestation, the overall process may have a
smaller carbon footprint than cork flooring that's made and shipped from Portugal.
*Domestic hardwood flooring in this instance refers to that made from woods grown in North
Thanks to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Air Quality Sciences, and the
American Society for Testing and Materials, there is now a scientific method for determining the chemical levels of indoor
products. Their findings over the years have led to the production of carpet that contains significantly fewer volatile
organic compounds (VOCs) than other carpet types. VOCs can be harmful and may aggravate existing allergy and asthma symptoms.
Green carpets with low VOC levels are marked
with CRI's green seal of approval. (Note: Keep in mind that low levels of VOCs cannot prevent other household allergens such
as dust and mites from collecting in your carpet.)
With the cost of landfill fees on the rise, there are many financial benefits attached to making recyclable carpet. In
fact, many manufacturers now produce carpet using recyclable materials and reclaimed* carpet backing. If you're looking for a
more eco–friendly floor, avoid nylon, plastic and polyester carpet as these types are made from petroleum (a
Make your home more eco–friendly by choosing reclaimed carpet tiles (opposed to carpet rolls). Carpet tiles can be
replaced individually in the event of damage, saving you money as well as minimizing carpet waste. When disposing of old
carpet, make sure you take it to a company that can recycle it into new products.
*Reclaimed refers to materials that have been restored or returned to their initial condition so they
can be reused to make new products.
Is Bamboo for You?
Most environmental advocates favor bamboo
flooring not only for its beauty and durability, but also because it's made from a renewable resource. Bamboo's root
system stays in the ground and can be harvested every 5–7 years. In comparison, the trees used to make most hardwood
floors can take 60 years or more to fully mature.
The more durable forms of bamboo can withstand high levels of wear and tear. One such type, strand woven bamboo flooring,
is stronger than some of the toughest hardwood floors. Bamboo floors remain stable in most climates and will not dent easily,
making them a perfect surface for thrown toys, spills and high foot traffic.
Some bamboo floors are made with adhesives containing formaldehyde. Exposure to high
levels of formaldehyde can trigger allergy symptoms and even cause illness. When purchasing flooring (bamboo or other types),
make sure the adhesives used meet E1 standards (the European regulation for formaldehyde content and VOCs). If a product is
marked E1, it meets or exceeds the acceptable standard for these emissions. If it is not marked E1, check with the vendor or
Cork flooring is another eco–friendly floor offering an ideal surface for children. Cork flooring is manufactured
using the bark of cork oak trees, which can be harvested without damaging the trees or the environment. The average cork oak
tree lives to be 200 years old and the bark can be harvested up to 20 times during its lifetime. In addition to being kind to
its source, most cork flooring is made without harmful VOCs, helping to maintain better indoor air quality.
Cork's durable and elastic surface "gives" on impact and can cushion falls better than several other types of flooring.
Like carpet, cork is considered non slip flooring and is comfortable
to sit, play and lie on. Cork is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, resisting allergens as well as the growth of fungi, mold,
and bacteria. In addition, cork contains suberin, a natural insect repellent. With cork, you won't have to worry about mites,
termites or other unwanted critters making themselves at home.
Another feature of cork many parents love is its noise insulation properties. The natural density of cork helps reduce the
effects of indoor noise and creates an overall quieter atmosphere.
Linoleum is highly promoted in the green flooring industry because it's made from sustainable* materials including pine
resin, cork dust, limestone, jute, sawdust and linseed oil. If you're looking for an affordable floor that's kind to the
environment, eco–friendly linoleum
is your solution.
Linoleum is also resilient and hypoallergenic, making it an ideal choice for homes with children. Linoleum's surface is
firm, yet has the ability to "bounce back" on impact. This forgiving surface is well–suited to the tumbling and rough
play of kids of all ages.
*Sustainable products are generally made from renewable and nearly inexhaustible resources. Typically
the product is designed in such a way as to last for a long time (or for as long as the materials permit).