Building or Remodeling?
If you have been in the market for new flooring for your home think twice before choosing some of the usual options available today. Our flooring and installation choices can have a very negative impact on the environment and on the quality of the air you and your family breathe in your home.
Eco friendly flooring is created from sustainable or reclaimed materials, can often be recycled or is biodegradeable. Flooring made from natural sources is beautiful, durable and long lasting which is just what you want in flooring. It is also a better choice for the environment but not all green flooring is healthy. When nasty chemcals are used in manufacturing or installation it can make your new eco flooring a not so healthy choice.
Hundreds of different chemicals some of them very toxic like benzene and formaldehyde that are used in flooring offgas or continue to release fumes from glues, adhesives, sealants, etc. They could be polluting the air within your home. For sensitive individuals this can cause headaches, congestion and other health problems. Even if you didn't experience any ill affects why would you want to expose yourself and your family to toxic chemicals if you have other choices.
Today we have many options and yes, you might have to do a little more looking but you may find more eco flooring available locally than you may have realized and certainly there are plenty of online resources.
Let's look at your eco friendly flooring choices:
Sustainable, Reclaimed and Forest Service Certified Wood
Wood flooring continues to be a popular, healthy choice and when chosen with care can be very eco friendly. A big portion of the wood used in flooring today comes from unmanaged forests and is sometimes illegally logged. The Forest Stewardship Council provides us with a way to be sure the wood flooring we buy is a real eco friendly product and not a phony.
What Is The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?
An independant third party international organization that has developed standards for managing forests. They have two standards. One that defines well managed forests and another that establishes a chain of custody so you know if the wood you are buying does indeed come from a certified forest.
They take many factors into consideration among those is concern for the environment, indigenous people, wildlife and worker's rights.
When you look for the FSC seal you can be sure the wood has been obtained responsibly protecting valuable forests and indigenous people.
Eco Timber carries a large variety of wood and also bamboo flooring. They have dealers throughout the US that carry their flooring. Check them out before you purchase wood flooring for your home.
Pioneer Millworks Love this site. These guys carry beautiful flooring that has been salvaged from places like old barns and warehouses. These old woods often come from old growth forests here in the US. This type of wood used to be plentiful but today there are few old growth forests remaining. Old growth wood is extremely durable and beautiful and the only responsible way to enjoy it today is by choosing reclaimed or recycled wood. To learn more and see other options for use check out reclaimed wood.
Stabull Flooring uses what some flooring companies consider waste materials. Pieces that are considered too narrow by other flooring manufacturers are glued together with non toxic glues to form planks. The wood has been found to stay true and straight and creates a beautiful floor from a variety of discarded woods.
Bamboo is becoming quite popular as an eco friendly flooring choice but it may not be as good an environmental choice as you might think. Yes, it is very sustainable. It grows easily and quickly and can be harvested in a few years. Plus it looks and feels similar to wood. Here's the problems:
There are, however, some bright spots. The FSC who only certifies wood is now certifying bamboo. Smith and Fong is the first manufacturer to obtain this certification. Look for companies like those below that are low emitting and formaldeyde free, have strict environmental standards, receives LEED credits and have a social responsibility policy.
Companies that offer bamboo eco friendly flooring:
What Is LEED Certification?
LEED or Leadership in Energy or Environmental Design is an organization that offers certification to builders, architects and remodelers for sustainable green building practices. These practices include following set building standards, the use of reycled material, minimizing waste and the choice of buiding material.
This helps us ordinary shoppers looking for eco friendly flooring. LEED offers credits to the buiding profession when they use qualifying materials. If you choose flooring that receives LEED credits you know that it meets certain environmental standards.
This is another eco friendly flooring option that is becoming popular. Cork flooring has it's uses in select areas of your home. It is softer natural flooring that provides good insulation, sound proofing, fire resistance and is comfortable under foot.
As a green flooring it has a lot to offer:
There are only a few places in the world, centering in the Mediterranean, where these trees grows. Since the first time the bark is stripped can't be until a tree is at least 20 years old and the quality of the first harvesting is not as good as the subsequent times these trees are treasured and forests are managed with care.
As with bamboo, choosing cork flooring that was made with safer and low emitting binders, adhesives, sealants and finishes will make this a healthy option too. Look for flooring that receives LEED credits.
Here are a few suggestions for eco friendly flooring from cork:
Even though glass is being recycled it is estimated that over 50% is still discarded in the trash. Part of the problem is not enough demand for recycled glass. A great idea is to use tiles made from recycled glass for an eco friendly flooring.
Some tiles are created when waste glass is heated, melted and formed into tiles. Another company crush glass into small pieces and then binds the pieces in resin creating unique colorful tiles. As long as floor installation does not involve using any adhesives or sealants that emit VOC's recycled glass flooring is a healthy, green choice.
This type of eco friendly flooring works well in kitchens and bathrooms. It provides a strong, hard, durable and easy to maintain surface. Glass can be reycled over and over so it is possible that this flooring could be recycled again keeping more materials out of landfills.
A couple of companies to consider:
Linoleum is making a comeback as an excellent alternative to petroleum based VOC emitting vinyl. This eco friendly flooring is made from natural materials by combining wood and cork flour, limestone dust, pine resin, and natural pigments with linseed oil which comes from flax seeds.
It is available in sheets or tiles that are warm, durable, long lasting and easy to maintain and because of it's natural ingredients it is biodegradeable and potentially recyclable. When applied with non toxic adhesives this flooring is certainly a healthier alternative.
There are a few considerations:
Here are a couple of companies that sell eco friendly flooring made from linoleum:
There are times when carpeting under foot is the most comforting, quiet, insulating and luxurious choice. Unfortunately, there are some very real concerns about this flooring. Most carpeting is a poor environmental and health choice.
You do have some solutions if carpeting is something you just don't want to give up. Healthy, eco friendly flooring options do exist.
See for yourself if eco friendly flooring is the best choice for you and your family.
Copyright© 2006-2012 Natural Living For Women