Here is a great post by Debbie Gartner, Floor Coverings International in Westchester/Western Fairfield.
More and more I am getting customers who want green flooring products. This really makes me happy. Sometimes it's easy to find a solution; other times it's challenging to find something that is green but doesn't cost too much green.
So what flooring products are green?
Well, if you're talking hard surfaces, many of the following can classify as green products:
For carpeting, it's often more challenging to find green options.
- Sisal (or jute or seagrass)
- Some nylons are greenish (can be recycled and/or use partially recycled materials)
Bamboo and cork are green because they grow rapidly and are easily replenished...in fact, within 5-7 yrs. These are true green products but still make sure it's a reputable manufacturer you are working with (e.g. Natural Cork/Bamboo or Teragren) to ensure that a) it's high quality and b) free of any sort of bacteria/disease c) well constructed and doesn't use formaldehyde during the process.
Cork is a great option for kitchens as it's soft on your feet. And, as it's starting to grow in popularity, there are now many pattern options to choose from. But, cork tends to be a bit on the expensive side - typically more expensive than your typical hardwood. (and, if you're finding one that costs a lot less, watch out!!). Cork can be installed as a floating floor so sometimes there is a bit of savings here from a labor perspective. But, if your floor is uneven, this may not be the best choice unless you're willing to pay for floor prep.
I love bamboo because it looks so cool - it's modern and zen-like and looks so much more interesting than the oak you see everywhere. And, best of all, it's usually less expensive than oak, so it's a nice win-win - you can go green and save money.
Laminate (fake wood) is a greenish product because it uses recycled wood. Rather than wasting the shavings from the hardwood, during the manufacturing process, this material is recycled to form a high density core board. Also, laminate lasts longer than carpet, so rather than replacing carpet 2-3 times, your laminate will last just as long, if not longer.
Some hardwoods are green. Sometimes this is because the wood is reclaimed and sometimes it's due to the manufacturing process (in some engineered hardwoods) that recycle the materials rather than letting them go to waste. But, like I mentioned above, hardwood will last a heck of lot longer than carpet, esp if it's solid and can be sanded and refinished many times - may easily last over 100 yrs.
Many customers get linoleum and vinyl mixed up due to laymen's term usage. Vinyl is the "cheap" stuff that is petroleum based (although it does come in a variety of forms including tile and plank) but the two most common forms are the sheet vinyl and Vinyl Composite tile (which you might see in schools or some supermarkets). But linoleum is a green product made from linseed oil. It usually comes in 6.5 ft rolls and tends to be thicker than vinyl. It's also expensive compared to vinyl. It's very retro in look and is starting to rebound due to it's green nature.
It's much trickier to go green with carpeting. Usually, when customers are using carpet, it's because they want to save money (vs. using a hardwood) although there are clearly other reasons for using carpet (e.g. softer/warmer on feet, sound muffler). Well when it comes to going green with carpet, the preferred choice is wool. Wool is a natural fiber and good wools will last a long time...and I mean a long time. They tend to hold up well and are naturally resistant to most stains. I know some people with wool carpets they've had for 20-30 yrs and they still look good! But, wool tends to be expensive. In fact some of the fancier wools are extremely expensive...they will cost you more than hardwood!
An alternative to wool is sisal if you want a natural fiber. It's generally more expensive than nylons and polyesters, but less than wool. However, sisal which is a type of grass, is not very soft on your feet - in fact, it's kind of rough. These types of carpets are highly durable and personally I think can work more in living areas where you would keep your shoes on (not the best option for a bedroom - at least in my opinion.)
If you're on a budget and want carpeting and want to be respectful of the environment, consider some of the softer nylons that can be recycled. Shaw has many products that fit this bill and they even have some that use recycled content for 25% of the fibers. Every bit helps.
So, if you want to go green, consider the above options, and be sure to consult an expert. Sometimes you may be making an unintentional trade-off in costs or quality, and it's best to explore before diving in head first.
Debbie Gartner, Floor Coverings International in Westchester/Western Fairfield
"We bring the store to your door."