When it comes to your new floor, you’ve got a lot going for you! 

If your redecorating plans include new flooring, chances are you’ve given some thought to choosing a new floor that’s environmentally responsible. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that there is a lot to choose from. The flooring industry has led the home products industry in cutting waste, improving efficiencies, using less energy, recycling more and finding alternative sources.

The bad news is that with so much to see at your dealer’s showroom or online and with so many confusing claims and terms, it’s easy to get “green overload.”

To help sort things out just a little bit, first, let’s take a look at particular types of flooring and what each has to offer regarding the environment. Then a few specifies about what to look for as you shop, and some websites to pursue along the way.

Carpet

Carpet still covers more floors in homes than any other surface, though it’s gotten an unjustifiably poor reputation over the years regarding its impact on the environment, both inside and out. 

It’s justifiable because the carpet industry has made the greatest strides in responsible manufacturing among all its flooring cousins.

Did you know that about 25 percent of all plastic water and soda bottles diverted from landfills goes into making carpet fiber? Or that the carpet industry has recycled billions pounds of carpet since 2002? And that doesn’t even count enormous gains in savings of water, energy and emissions.

Carpet is also kind to your indoor environment by acting as your home’s giant air filter, trapping particulate out of the air until you’re ready to remove it by proper vacuuming and periodic cleaning.

Don’t count carpet out. You’ll get superior insulation value as well as cozy comfort and quiet.

Hardwood

It’s made from the ultimate renewable resource: trees. You may be surprised to learn that there are actually more hardwood trees in North America today than 50 years ago! And hardwood floors can be refinished numerous times and often outlast the home in which they’re installed. Recent advancements in locking systems (the sides of the planks that are grooved to fit together) are reducing the need for adhesives and fasteners. Most hardwood floors have factory-applied finishes, so they are cured in the factory before installation, allowing any off-gassing to happen there instead of in your home.

Resilient

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One of the most practical and beautiful flooring solutions these days is resilient. This includes LVT (luxury vinyl tile), sheet vinyl, linoleum and rubber flooring. Like other flooring types, some resilient categories are using more and more recycled content from a variety of sources: used drywall, old flooring or used plastic.

LVT offers the aesthetics of a natural wood or natural stone product without removing it from nature. Also, as with other flooring types, many manufacturers are using locking systems for floor installation instead of adhesives. Most resilient flooring emits little to no VOCs.


Laminate

Often mistaken for hardwood, laminate is even referred to as “wood flooring,” although it isn’t in the sense of solid hardwood. Laminate is the ultimate user of recycled materials because a large portion is made of wood scraps from other manufacturing processes that are ground up to make its fiberboard core. It’s also the ultimate imitator, so that even the beauty of rare and exotic wood species can be enjoyed without ever harvesting a single tree. Carefree maintenance without the need for polish or refinishing is an environmental plus.

Ceramic, Porcelain and Stone

Tile manufacturing is a centuries old art that produces a durable product which enhances its sustainability. Tile manufacturers commonly use waste – even the dust from their own manufacturing processes – to put back into their tile rather than in landfills. And water is often returned to its source cleaner than when it was taken.

Tile makers, particularly with domestic manufacturing, have a strong track record of environmental stewardship.

Lots to think about with going green on your floors!