Sustainable options abound for today’s homeowners.
If you’d like to make your home eco-conscious, you can start from the bottom up by choosing a green flooring material. From cork to linoleum, tile to wool carpeting to wood, today’s flooring choices include a range of sustainable options.
Pop the Cork
Cork harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak tree is a renewable resource. Harvesting the bark does not harm the trees, which can live for hundreds of years. Naturally hypoallergenic and fire-retardant, cork insulates, creating a flooring that feels warm to the touch and absorbs sound.
Available in planks and sheets topped with cork veneer or tiles of solid cork, cork flooring can be finished in a variety of colors to suit your home’s style perfectly. You’ll find cork floors that are dark and sleek, pebbly and organic or grained similar to wood. Cork used for flooring will be sealed to help it resist staining and scratching.
A durable flooring, cork requires the same basic maintenance as hardwood flooring. Weekly dusting or vacuuming will keep it free from debris that might scratch the floor’s sealed surface. Some cork sealants may need to be reapplied after several years. Cork flooring is in the same price range as ceramic tile and hardwood, but costs less than stone tile.
Trash to Tile
Using recycled materials to form new flooring boosts tiles’ position as an eco-friendly choice. Suppliers may use industrial byproducts, like granite dust, or may crush cast-off porcelain toilets and tubs to use as raw material for new tiles.
Tile is exceptionally long-lasting, because it’s sealed to resist moisture and staining. A durable product is always a greener choice, since it’s less likely to become damaged and require replacing. Hypoallergenic and easy-to-clean, single tiles can be replaced if damage does occur. Tile can also be used in areas of the home where contact with water is inevitable—such as the kitchen,
bathrooms, laundry and mudroom.
By choosing a classic tile style, you’ll create a floor that remains goodlooking for years to come. Still, some homeowners might be interested in today’s trends in tile. New tile styles mimic the look of wood and stone. A preference for larger tiles means fewer grout lines to clean. The available range of colors and patterns makes flooring options almost limitless.
Tile can be one of the most affordable green flooring options, especially considering its long lifespan.
The resurgence of linoleum makes good environmental sense. Manu- factured from rosin tapped from pine trees, wood flour, linseed oil from flax seeds, limestone and ecofriendly pigments, linoleum uses a mix of natural materials layered onto a jute backing to create a sustainable floor covering.
Unlike the vinyl flooring that replaced linoleum in popularity decades ago, linoleum is long-lasting; holding up to 20 to 40 years of use. Available in sheets or tiles, colored linoleum can be installed in classic checkerboard, geometric or curvilinear patterns.
Linoleum’s top layer protects the flooring from dirt, scuffs and scratches. Sweeping or damp-mop- ping with a mild detergent will keep the floor clean. Because the color in linoleum runs throughout the product, any scratches that might occur can be buffed out and the flooring then re-sealed.
The cost of linoleum is comparable to high-end vinyl flooring, but linoleum can offer a much longer lifespan when properly maintained.
Unlike conventional carpeting that uses man-made (often petroleumbased) materials, wool carpeting is naturally and rapidly renewable and biodegradable. A fiber used for centuries in the making of rugs, wool
can be used to create myriad styles, colors and patterns of carpeting.
Durable and static-resistant, wool carpeting adds to home safety, because its high moisture content makes it difficult to ignite. It’s non-allergenic, deters growth of bacteria, stain-resistant and emits no off-gassing. Because wool fibers are scaly, soil is held high in the carpet pile for easy removal when vacuuming. It’s important to vacuum wool carpet weekly and to promptly clean up any spills.
Wool carpeting is expensive compared to other flooring materials, but its lifespan is much longer than synthetic carpeting—a plus for both your wallet and the earth.
The Original Green Flooring
“Wood is renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and usually organically grown,” says David Waldman of Vermont Hardwoods. As wood is grown, the trees protect wildlife habitats, clean the air and provide opportunities for recreation and enjoyment.
Wood flooring is a classic and provides unique beauty. To make it even more environmentally friendly, choose to have the wood treated with a low-VOC, earth-safe finish. With proper maintenance, wood floors can last for decades, making them a sound choice for sustainability.
Regular sweeping, vacuuming or damp-mopping are recommended for keeping wood floors clean and free from grit that can scratch or wear away finishes. The National Wood Flooring Association cautions against using any type of cleaner designed for vinyl floors on wood flooring. You can avoid scratches on your wood floor by using throw rugs near doors or area rugs in living spaces. Placing felt pads under your furniture legs will help prevent scratches.
Cost for wood flooring will vary widely based on wood species and installation costs in your area.
OPPOSITE: Cork plank flooring creates a subtle organic pattern in this living room. resource. RIGHT: A field of hexagonal floor tiles is highlighted with a
dark border in this luxurious bath.
ABOVE: Durable and warm underfoot, wool carpeting is made from a readily renewable
OPPOSITE: An eco-friendly choice, yellow and white linoleum tiles set in a classic checkerboard pattern give this kitchen a cheerful disposition. LEFT: Hardwood flooring from sustainably harvested trees is a green option that also offers timeless beauty.