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Options in Eco Friendly Green Flooring Materials

May 21, 2008
No flooring product has zero impact on our planet, but some materials are better than others. I've listed a few of the eco friendlier options you might use in your home with both the pros and the considerations that need to be pondered.

Bamboo is one eco friendly option. Bamboo is a fast growing grass that can be selectively harvested annually. It is extremely durable and harder than red oak and maple, has 50% less contraction and expansion than wood and is a renewable resource.

However, Asian sources require significant embodied energy for transport so that is something to consider. You should also take care to look for bamboo products that have no formaldehyde added. But bamboo is still a great choice over hardwood flooring and can be stained in darker colors than just the blonde color that comes to mind for more traditional looks.

Cork is another eco friendly renewable resource material made out of the bark of the cork oak tree. Only the bark is used so the tree does not have to be cut down. What's great about cork is that it often contains recycled content, is easy to clean if properly sealed and gives great foot support.

Just look for products that have no formaldehyde added and avoid cork-vinyl composites. Also consider its origin and remember that transportation requires embodied energy for transport so try to find products sourced as locally as possible.

Rubber is another new flooring material available these days. Virgin rubber is derived from rubber trees, a renewable resource; recycled rubber reduces the environmental burden of discarded tires.

The down side is that almost all rubber, except virgin rubber, has a significant odor from continual off-gassing and has indoor air quality impact so if you use the recycled rubber instead of the virgin rubber it needs to be used in well ventilated areas.

But its benefits are that it uses recycled material, helps reduce landfill, is easy to clean, offers good foot support, is very durable and can be installed without adhesives.

Linoleum uses the 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. The ingredients are renewable items and often are recycled content, which is good for the planet.

Linoleum is durable, easy to clean and offers good foot support, however, it is most often made in Europe, resulting in significant embodied energy for transport. Make sure to look for "natural linoleum." Vinyl flooring is sometimes generically called "linoleum" but is not the same thing.

Stone is another option to consider for your flooring. It is a natural resource and a very durable material. Stone, however, is a finite resource, can result in using significant embodied energy if the stone is mined or fabricated overseas and, if the stone requires sealing, the sealers can produce potentially harmful VOC emissions.

Look for locally mined and fabricated stone or even reclaimed stone and look for stone that does not have to be sealed. I've seen some really amazingly beautiful things done with reclaimed stone so don't be afraid to explore this option.

Tile is another eco friendly durable material if you use tiles that contain recycled content. Tiles are durable, easy to clean and can use recycled materials like broken window panes and recycled granite dust. They do use though a significant amount of energy to fire and transport so try to make sure to look for local sources and make sure they use recycled content.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of flooring options but definitively some of the most popular eco friendly options you can consider using in your home.
About the Author
Rebecca Noel is a real estate agent, investor and author of Remodeling Recon- The Ultimate Resource Tool for Home Remodeling. Remodeling houses and home improvement diy are her area of interest. Get insider information that will save you $1000's on materials and help you get your remodeling projects done weeks faster at Remodeling Recon.
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