If you are thinking about making changes in your life as far as your carbon footprint and are also thinking about doing some remodeling, there is good news. You can incorporate both of these lifestyle elements into your home with eco-friendly flooring. Eco-friendly remodeling is popular – not only because it is trendy but also because it really does help to save the environment. Plus, it looks so gorgeous while doing so to boot! There are many options for eco-friendly flooring that are not just limited to wood flooring. Many individuals prefer carpeting and there are options that exist there as well. So, what is the most environmentally friendly flooring? Let’s find out!
Many homeowners prefer carpets to wood flooring, but because of health issues such as allergies, carpets were not always a good option for those individuals. Now, however, eco-friendly carpeting is something that may be a viable option for all.
Eco-friendly green carpeting offers variety and benefits all rolled into one.
- All-natural fiber materials such as wool or cotton and seagrass
- Low toxic backing and covering
- No topical chemical treatments
- Carpeting dyed with vegetable dye
When thinking of flooring for an eco-friendly home, investigate the many carpeting options available. There are also many carpet treatments that, when topically applied, prevent the escape of outgassing for a certain period of time.
What is the Most Environmentally Friendly Flooring?
With eco-friendly flooring, how can you go wrong with what’s already internationally well known: wood! It’s earth-friendly and renewable.
It’s no secret that wood is one of the most popular and convenient go-to choices for setting down floors or remodeling a specific room or home. However, not all wood is made equal. You’re probably thinking “What do you mean not all wood is made equal? What are you talking about?” Sustainable wood has to be legally sourced. It has largely to do with proper and responsible forest management. Here’s how to know if you’re looking at sustainable wood: the wood has to have the U.S. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC for short) seal plus the chain of custody number for tracking purposes.
The U.S. Forest Stewardship Council ensures that forests are regrown, there’s a preservation of biodiversity, and protection of water and air quality. That very stamp of approval is proof that forest operations have met 57 criteria of protecting local wildlife, minimizing toxic chemical usage, and that loggers can unionize anytime they choose. That’s why it’s especially important to do research on companies that enforce sustainable practices related to proper forestation, uses renewable resources, and is FSC certified (or have any other certification from environmental groups.)
Another well-known environmental group is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI.) Like FSC, SFI also requires a labeled stamp of approval and promotes wildlife protection and reforestation. The only difference is that the chain of custody number isn’t required. Sustainability is an incredibly significant part of choosing lumber to install if you’re going on the eco-friendly route.
Let’s define sustainable flooring. This flooring type requires less energy, yet more natural resources. It also means a reduced carbon footprint, higher quality, regulated deforestation, and a forestry system that is built to last. Oh, and don’t forget about durability and versatility. Sustainable wood comes from trees that were grown in plantations intended for later use. All of this was done with little to no damage to the environment. Oakwood is the most sustainable because it has smaller carbon footprints and releases the least amount of toxic emissions.
Here are some other types of sustainable wood choices: reclaimed wood, salvaged wood, wood from tree plantations (or FSC-certified), and palm wood…just to name some. If you’re inspired to do further research and happen to find more sustainable choices, you get bonus points! Palmwood is harvested from fallen coconut palm trees (hence, coco palm is another choice to use) and is used to make hardwood floors.
Salvaged wood is used from abandoned buildings and counts as being sustainable. Examples of FSC certified hardwoods are long-leaf pine, country oak, American cherry, Central American teak, Brazilian cumaru, hybrid eucalyptus, cork, reclaimed chestnut, and bamboo.
When it comes to sustainable and eco-friendly wood flooring, though, bamboo really does top the list.
Since bamboo is made from a natural plant, bamboo is one of the most effective eco-friendly flooring design options available.
Bamboo offers the benefit of being a bit more water-resistant than typical flooring. While water is still something to watch out for, it is not as much of a worry as for other types of wood flooring. Bamboo is also more stain-resistant than some types of traditional wood floorings that are not eco-friendly. Bamboo has humble beginnings, being a type of grass. What’s special about this sustainable material is that it’s the fastest-growing plant. Within 5 to 7 years, bamboo reaches over 50 feet tall in maturity. This would make a great eco-friendly choice for those especially concerned about deforestation.
Believe it or not, bamboo is also quite durable. Then again, bamboo has a Janka hardness that ranges between 1762 and 4600 (depending on which type of bamboo flooring you choose.) Depending on how it is grown and delivered, bamboo flooring is equally as durable as other types of traditional flooring. Bamboo flooring is also excellent in its maintenance levels. You can easily maintain scratches and scuffs on these types of floors by sanding and staining. Bamboo has similar benefits and disadvantages to hardwood flooring: natural material, renewable, adds value to a home, prone to scratches, and prone to cracking in humid areas.
Since the subjects of scratches and maintenance have been brought up, it’s only fair that we mention how to care for bamboo flooring. As it’s already been mentioned, bamboo is a little more water and stain-resistant compared to other flooring types. That doesn’t mean, though, that one should be lax on cleanup. Oh no! It’s definitely best to treat it with utmost care just like you would with other flooring material. So, as soon as the spills happen, be quick like a bunny and clean it up!
That also goes for the specs and piles of dirt, dust, shed hairs, heavy grime, whatever! For unfortunate spills, you can use the Champion Super Yellow Mop, along with the Champion Ultra Concentrated Degreaser. You don’t have to use much water at all, and no residue will be left behind.
Jute, Sisal, and Wool Throw Rugs
If you already have wood flooring in place and you are looking to throw a good rug on top for decorative purposes, jute, sisal, and wool are excellent choices. Jute comes from the plant family and is similar in kind to a hemp-style rug; however, jute is softer. It’s one of the least expensive types of rugs and carpeting because of its abundance and speedy growth.
Colors range from beige, to tan, to a golden brown. A simple run of the vacuum will do since it’s a low-maintenance rug. Avoid water contact with jute rugs and carpeting at all costs. That means absolutely no wet shampooing or steam cleaning. Otherwise, it will stain. No exceptions!
Sisal is also derived from a plant and the fibers are used to create threads of yarn to make all-natural rugs. It’s woven into a natural-looking fabric that is mildly neutral. It’s suitable for heavy foot traffic, sustainable, renewable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and one of the most durable. Another plus is that sisal won’t give off volatile organic compounds. From there, sisal contributes to the air quality of a home.
Regular vacuuming is the only maintenance and care needed. This rug type comes in distinctive tan, beige, and white colors that are from natural, strong plant fibers. The downsides are that it’s absorbent (therefore, prone to staining) and pretty rough to the touch. Just like with jute, absolutely no shampooing or steam cleaning is required at all! If roughness isn’t your thing, just go for the jute.
Wool, of course, provides extra softness and comfort. A wool rug is great for cold and hard bathroom tiles. Did you know that this rug type also has insulating properties and has the natural ability to regulate humidity in a home? It’s true! Wool rug and carpeting absorb moisture from the damp atmosphere and release the moisture into a dry atmosphere. It’s also a natural water-repellent, which gives another good point for placing in the bathroom.
Although it’s has a hydrophobic water-repellent exterior, it also has a hydrophobic water-loving interior (also absorbent.) Wool is good for high-traffic foot areas like living rooms, hallways, entries, kitchens, and bedrooms.
Cork is another alternative for your eco-friendly flooring. Cork is resilient, durable, and easy to maintain. Cork is an excellent choice in that the bark of the cork oak replenishes quickly. It’s one of the best eco-friendly choices for flooring because it’s renewable, easily replenishable, recyclable, and biodegradable. Another reason this is one of the best choices is its…(drumroll)…sustainability! Let’s get into the facts, shall we?
The cork wood is harvested from cork oak trees in plantations. Remember what we mentioned about what makes wood sustainable? Cork is no different. These types of trees help regulate the water cycle. Other sustainable points are that cork has natural thermal insulating properties, serves as a great barrier for noise, and is a barrier to adhesives and moisture. Sounds like a great non-toxic choice, doesn’t it? While cork flooring has good points as far as sustainability, there are other good points (and bad ones, as well) in other areas. Let’s break down the pros and cons.
First, let’s discuss the pros of cork flooring. Aside from it being non-toxic and eco-friendly, it’s also antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, softer, more cushioned (more details on that later,) and can be refinished. As for the cons, cork flooring is easily damaged by pets, requires a serious amount of water sealing (or sealant,) and fades/discolor in the sunlight. It’s also susceptible to several forms of damage being that it’s not as durable as hardwoods, bamboo, or ceramic. The Janka hardness of cork is approximately 200.
As far as maintenance and care, regular sweeping and vacuuming are the only requirements as far as gathering up dirt, dust, shed hairs, and other particles. The Champion Old Fashioned Dust Mop is the perfect tool for dry mopping. As with hardwoods and bamboo, it’s definitely a smart idea to clean up liquid spills as soon as they happen. There’s just no getting around it if you want your floors to stay up to par.
In order to avoid any damage done in the first place, a sealant must be applied. The sealant for the cork flooring creates a barrier over the surface and protection against water stains (or any stains, for that matter) and damage. In fact, sealing must be renewed periodically.
If you choose to install this flooring type yourself, here’s some good news: it’s an easy DIY project. Plus, it’s a convenient way for homeowners who wish to save money on hiring professional installation.
Important things to know about installation: 1.) cork flooring has to be properly installed with multiple layers of a quality sealer applied to its surface, 2.) It’s probably NOT a good idea to install cork into any room where you know the heavy furniture will be. Therefore, why bother? 3.) If you have pets, you may as well avoid applying this flooring material altogether. As we previously mentioned, pets can easily damage cork without meaning to, and 4.) don’t install where there’s a sunny window. Remember what we said about direct sunlight?
You’re probably thinking, “Then where is the ideal room or place for cork flooring?” Well, closets seem to be a reasonable installation location choice, specifically bedroom closets. Think about it. All you’re doing is placing your belongings there, which requires less foot traffic. We do suggest not putting heavy objects or shoes on cork flooring that will cause obvious dents. Problem solved! For public places and spaces, it’s a great choice for play areas and children’s rooms because of its soft cushion.
Here’s another great choice for eco-friendly flooring…and it’s the perfect choice for bathrooms. What makes ceramic tile flooring eco-friendly is that many tiles already have recycled content, it’s easy to mine and manufacture (reduces fuel consumption,) it’s sustainably sourced being made from a water and clay mixture and has a long lifespan of 50+ years. Two more things: not only is there no need for new resource usage, but materials are also kept from the landfills. Here’s a bonus: you won’t have to apply any toxic chemical cleaners or damage your health in the process. That’s something, isn’t it?
Want to hear some great things about this flooring material? Here they are. Aside from being well known for its durability, it’s also known for its versatility. It can be installed for flooring, the walls, and even in the showers. It’s especially perfect for the bathrooms because of its resistance to water damage. Unlike its cement counterpart, it is glazed and then thrown into the firing kiln. Unglazed ceramic tiles are also available for use.
You’ll just have to ensure that a sealant is applied for protection against stains and liquids. Ceramic tiles can also be installed in high-traffic areas such as kitchens and mudrooms. Within warmer climates, ceramic is also used for living rooms and bedrooms.
Ceramic is also easy to clean. Dirt particles, amongst other things, are extremely hard to miss on this flooring material. You can use both a dust mop and wet mop (not at the same time, though) if certain situations call for either.
Ceramic tiles can go with any aesthetic and décor. Rugs and ceramic tiles definitely go hand in hand whether in style or as an advantage. By advantage, they act as a barrier between the bare feet and the cold tiles. They can get pretty cold, especially during the Fall and Winter months. Rugs (mainly, the soft and plushy types) also soak up excess water from those wet feet after stepping out of the shower.
Who likes feeling the shock of a cold floor after a warm and soothing shower or bath? Better yet, who wants to risk slipping and falling on the hard tiles after a shower or bath? We don’t know about the rest of you, but we wouldn’t want either. That brings us to some unfortunates about ceramic tile flooring.
As we’ve already mentioned, ceramic tiles are durable and hard. They don’t do well with retaining heat. The grout in between the tiles is susceptible to moisture and stains. As far as installation goes, it’s a challenging DIY project. It’s not as DIY-friendly as, say, vinyl or laminate flooring. However, if you have the financial means to hire a professional, then go for it!
It is important to use eco-friendly floor cleaning products to keep your eco-friendly floors in good shape. Many brand-name cleaning products are made with toxic chemicals that are toxic for your floors. Avoid these and focus instead on high-quality, high-performance floor cleaning products that are made with plant-based, eco-friendly ingredients. For instance, the Champion Ultra Concentrated Degreaser is perfect for any room in the house and for public places.
No need for much water to clean when you use this all-purpose cleaner. Plus, it’s perfect to clean on many types of flooring whether it’s laminate, vinyl, bamboo, oak wood, cherry wood, tiles (ceramic, cement, etc.) engineered hardwood, or even cork. The Champion Ultra Concentrated Degreaser is an all-purpose toxic-free cleaner that works well on a variety of floors and other surfaces throughout the home. Need proof? Click here for more information on this amazing all-purpose cleaner!
These are just some options for eco-friendly flooring that would all make wise choices for your new remodeling project. There are many more options and varieties out there! Remember, weigh out all options, pros, and cons. Don’t forget, and we cannot stress this enough, when wondering what is the most environmentally friendly flooring for your home, research, research, research! You owe it to yourself, your sanity, and your budget!