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Guide to Green Flooring Materials

 

 

 

This buyer's guide will make comparing green flooring materials easier and more reliable. Use it to find the best green flooring material for your specific situation.

MaterialSelection TipsProsConsCostRecommended Uses
Bamboo

Renewable resource. Fast-growing grass that can be selectively harvested annually.
Look for bamboo products that have no formaldehyde added.* Renewable resource

* Extremely durable

* Harder than red oak or maple
* Overuse of natural bamboo forests may be destroying them

* Asian sources require significant embodied energy for transport
$4 - $8 per square foot* Bedroom
* Living room
* Family room
* Dining room
* Kitchen
* Entry way
Carpet

Green carpets and area rugs are those made from natural fibers or with a high content of recycled synthetic fibers.
Look for The Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus certification. Area rugs and carpet tiles are preferable to broadloom (wall-to-wall) carpet.

* Carpet industry is actively addressing its environmental issues* Synthetic fibers are made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource

* Difficult to clean

* Can harbor dirt, dust and mold
$4 and up per square foot* Formal areas
* Bedroom
* Stairs
Cork

Cork is a renewable resource made from the bark of the cork oak.
Look for products that have no formaldehyde added. Avoid cork-vinyl composites.* Renewable resource

* Sometimes has recycled content

* Easy to clean if properly sealed

* Good foot support
* Indoor air quality impacts from sealers used to create a durable surface

* European sources result in higher embodied energy for transport

$3 - $6 per square foot* kitchen
* Family room
Linoleum

Same ingredients today as when it was invented in 1863 -- linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, tree resins, ground limestone and pigments, all pressed onto a jute backing.

Look for "natural linoleum." Vinyl flooring is sometimes generically called "linoleum."* Renewable ingredients

* Often has recycled content

* 30- to 40-year lifespan

* Easy to clean

* Good foot support
* Made in Europe, resulting in significant embodied energy for transport

* Odor from linseed oil may irritate some people

$4 per square foot* Kitchen
* Bathroom
* Family room
Rubber

Virgin rubber is derived from rubber trees, a renewable resource; recycled rubber reduces the environmental burden of discarded tires.
Almost all rubber, except virgin rubber, has a significant odor. Use indoors only in well-ventilated areas.* Often has recycled content

* Easy to clean

* Good foot support

* Can be installed without adhesives

* Durable (20-year lifespan)
* Continual off-gassing has indoor air quality impact$5 - $7 per square foot* Outdoors
* Well-ventilated indoor space
Stone

Natural resource; durable material.
Look for locally mined and fabricated stone. Look for stone that does not have to be sealed.* Easy to clean

* Durable
* Stone is a finite resource

* High embodied energy if stone is mined or fabricated overseas

* Sealers produce potentially harmful VOC emissions
$3 - $10 per square foot* Kitchen
* Bathroom
* Entryway
* Fireplace
Tile

Durable material, often with recycled content.
Look for locally manufactured tiles with high recycled content.* Easy to clean

* Durable

* Often has recycled content
* High embodied energy (to fire tiles and produce cementitious materials)

* Prioritize local sources because of heaviness
$1 - $6 per square foot* Kitchen
* Bathroom
* Entryway
* Fireplace
Wood

Natural material; durable.
Look for Forest Stewardship Council-certified, salvaged or reclaimed wood. Ask for a chain-of-custody certification. Avoid laminated products with added formaldehyde. Look for sealers and cleaners that are environmentally benign and low-VOC emitting.

* Renewable resource if from a sustainably managed forest

* Low embodied energy, particularly if harvested and produced locally
* Conventional forestry causes overharvesting and destruction of habitat

* Naturally occurring formaldehyde
$3 - $6 per square foot* Bedroom
* Living room
* Family room
* Dining room
* Stairs

 

 

 

Copyright 2012 Ronald Sauve All Rights Reserved

This page was last modified on April 06, 2012

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