Sustainability. The buzz word is only getting buzzier, and as we celebrate the Earth this month—Wednesday, April 22 is Earth Day—we expect to be hearing this word a lot more. So why sustainable? Well, we already know that embracing sustainable materials and practices in our daily lives can greatly reduce our carbon footprint, which is better for the environment overall. But aside from ditching plastic bottles and outfitting our roofs with solar panels, what can the average household do? One trick to hacking sustainability is working with eco-friendly materials when you update your home. Floors in particular are known for being harsh on the environment. Certain woods contribute poorly to emissions with how they are sourced while engineered floors may use materials that are hard to break down and are not good for the environment. Luckily sustainable flooring is trending, and we’ve got the deets on the best ways to work this earth-friendly trend into your home.
Cork is one of the most popular eco-friendly flooring materials on the market right now. It may not sound like a solid choice, but it’s surprisingly durable and versatile. Families that choose cork can use the flooring in any home space, including wet areas, plus it can be installed in a variety of paints and stains. The key here is to ensure that any added finish is also eco-friendly and free of harmful chemicals or extensive manufacturing process. Cork is sustainable because it’s sourced from cork trees and it can be harvested without cutting them down. Instead, the used cork grows back in approximately three years.
Bamboo isn’t quite as new on the market as cork, but it’s still a newer product for floors. Contrary to popular belief, bamboo is a type of grass, however, it acts more like a wood. Durable and heavy, because it is a natural substance, the product is eco-friendly. But why bamboo over wood? Well, most trees that supply hardwood used for floors can take 20 years or more to reach maturity, while bamboo takes only three to five years, making it more easily renewable.
This material is both recyclable and made from recyclables. Glass tiles come from recycled glass products that people throw out every day, so it’s easy to see how this pretty material could reduce the size of your carbon footprint. More often used as backsplash or design elements in tile showers and countertops, using glass tiles for flooring is a cool way to bring interest to a space, and have a design element in your home that your friends don’t. Use this material to maximize light or take advantage of some interesting colors and textures in the home.
You have to have the right type of home aesthetic to pull this one off, but there’s a reason concrete is so often used in large industrial spaces and commercial building. The material is already installed as subflooring in most homes, so by embracing the look of concrete, you’re eliminating an extra flooring material all together. Instead of plopping something over it, have the concrete polished and tinted to match your décor.
Carpet in general is not considered a great sustainable flooring option. In fact, most carpets are made using V.O.C.s (volatile organic compounds), which are not good for the environment. But if you want a soft, cozy place to walk and live with your family, embrace carpets made of wool or P.E.T. Berber (made of recycled plastic bottles). Both options are better for the environment and eliminate a lot of the harmful chemicals found in traditional carpet. Plus, these carpets will last longer, especially wool.
Harwood (reclaimed or FSC)
Hardwood floors are often bucked by sustainable flooring experts because of their negative impact on the environment. Not only are companies cutting down mature trees—that take a long time to grow—in order to source the material, but there are a lot of negative environmental impacts of deforestation. The idea behind embracing reclaimed hardwood is that the damage has already been done and there is no new negative impact when choosing this wood (as long as you’re being smart about any finish you put on it). Or, you can choose wood marked FSC, a stamp of approval given by the Forest Stewardship Council that indicates the wood was collected in conjunction with high social and environmental standards.
Last but not least, natural stone. Natural stone, such as limestone, quartzite, and travertine, can give consumers durable stone without a lot of negative environmental impact. That’s because with these natural stones, manufacturing demands are low, only needed to cut stone down into useable slabs. Other types of tile are more likely to use chemicals, stains, glazes, and solvents that are harmful for the environment while natural stones do not.
Call the Experts:
Pinnell’s Flooring America
430 E Kettleman Ln, Lodi
Better Flooring Outlet
3713 E. Hammer Ln., Stockton
Shelton Lee Flooring Inc.
5170 Pentecost Dr., Modesto