As we all become more environmentally-conscious, we have started choosing more eco-friendly and sustainable options in many aspects of our lives, from our food to our energy sources, our cleaning products to our stationery equipment – and of course, in the building and decoration of our homes.
Therefore, many people nowadays not only want a flooring type that is aesthetically-pleasing and easy to maintain but also sustainable and eco-friendly too.
Eco-friendly flooring is made from Sustainable Materials, sourced with minimal damage to the environment and ideally biodegradable so that it does not contribute to the waste landfill problem when it is disposed of. In addition, eco-friendly flooring will have been produced with minimal chemical treatment and the minimum or no use of toxic products during finishing and installation.
However, just like other types of flooring, eco-friendly flooring will also have to match your personal lifestyle and budgets and you will have to consider similar questions before making your choice – questions such as:
- What kind of lifestyle do you have?
- How much traffic or wear and tear will the flooring have to cope with?
- What kind of climate do you live in?
- What type of rooms you want to install the flooring in? (e.g. high moisture, direct sunlight?)
- What goes with your décor scheme?
- What kind of textures and colours do you like?
- What can you afford?
- How often can you afford to repair or replace your flooring?
The Green Dilemma
Recycling or reusing old materials like timber or stone is very eco-friendly, but not if you have to go traipsing round many different places to find it, as the damage to the environment done by all the driving could offset all those intentions.
Or perhaps you might want to buy a product made from a renewable source such as bamboo, but then discover that traditional forests are being dug up to satisfy the increased demand for it.
And its important to consider the longevity of a product; is it better to use a product which is very natural but will need replacing in ten years time, or one that is slightly less eco-friendly but will last for thirty years, and therefore won’t do so much damage because there’ll be fewer manufacturing stages?
The key issues are the material that is being used, the damage that may be done during the manufacturing stage and the transportation issues.
However, as few people have a sheep farm and a bamboo forest in their back garden, not to mention the skills and tools required to turn them into usable floor coverings, the only thing to do is to research options carefully before you shop and look for certifications of sustainability where they exist, like the Forest Stewardship Council’s accreditation system.
Types of Eco-Friendly Flooring
There is now a variety of options for those interested in installing sustainable, eco-friendly flooring in their homes and workplaces. However, just like traditional flooring, the different types of eco-friendly flooring will each have their benefits and drawbacks.
Bamboo is derived from a fast-growing grass which has a short growing cycle, reaches maturity quickly and easily replenishes itself. It is therefore a truly sustainable material.
Bamboo is a fantastic replacement for timber flooring – It is very strong and durable, in fact, more so than many types of hardwood flooring, and it provides the same type of natural beauty and earthy tones as natural timber flooring.
Its big disadvantage is its vulnerability to excessive moisture, which can cause warping, so bamboo is not really advised for rooms like bathrooms and laundries.
Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and this bark can be stripped every 10 years without harm to the tree, therefore it is again a sustainable material.
As well as being eco-friendly, cork has many fantastic natural properties, such as natural water and stain resistance, its natural anti-microbial properties, its high insulating abilities, both to sound and heat/cold, and its extreme resilience and elasticity, making it ideal at coping with heavy traffic and wear & tear.
It also has a very soft, pliant texture, making it very comfortable to stand on and very safe for anything dropped!
Finally, it is available in easy self-install formats which do not require the use of toxic adhesives.
Natural Linoleum Flooring
This type flooring is often confused with synthetic vinyl as they can look similar but “true” natural linoleum is made from linseed oil and pine resin, which are sustainable resources, and it is therefore a great eco-friendly floor option.
Like vinyl, Linoleum copes very well with heavy wear, such as in homes with pets and children and it is also easy to clean and maintain, being stain- and water-resistant.
This makes it ideal for bathrooms and kitchens, especially as it is also naturally anti-bacterial. Its drawbacks are that it does give off a distinct linseed oil smell which some people may find irritating – and that is highly flammable.
Sustainable Hardwood Flooring
If your heart is set on Hardwood Flooring, you’ll be pleased to know that there are eco-friendly options. Look for hardwood flooring where the timber has been derived from forests with accredited sustainability certification schemes – ideally, the FSC logo (the Forest Stewardship Council).
This guarantees that the source forests are sustainable managed and harvested and also that environmentally-responsible practices have been used all along the chain of custody, during manufacture and distribution.
If you are looking for soft flooring, then you have several options. Proper pure wool carpets are actually a very Eco-friendly Option as wool is a sustainable, natural resource which not only has environmental benefits (it is 100% biodegradable) but also gives health benefits for you and your family.
Wool is naturally anti-static, stain-resistant and incredibly resilient, springing back from wear and tear and looking good for long periods of time.
Just make sure that it has a backing made of natural jute, with no toxic adhesives. For those that are more adventurous, you can opt for natural plant fibre flooring coverings, such as sisal carpets – however, these will not be as soft nor provide as much warmth as wool carpets.
Keep it Green and Healthy
And although this might all seem like a lot of effort there are growing concerns about the damage that is being done to our health by the toxins used in the various manufacturing processes that create our synthetic floorings.
So going green is likely to help your own health, and that of your family, as well as that of the planet.