As the debate about global warming and environmentally damaging practices continues in mainstream media, contractors and home improvement DIYers are paying more attention to the choices they’re making when it comes to home improvements and remodels, such as installing new flooring. Some flooring options contribute to manufacturing/harvesting practices that damage the environment, such as destruction of rainforests. Other options are manufactured in such a way that they are responsible for releasing toxic chemicals into your homes, which can make you and your family sick. But if you’re looking to update your flooring, you’re not stuck with only those harmful option: there are ‘eco-friendly’ options out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s important to work with a company or a flooring professional you trust who can help you make the right decision for your space.
What is ‘Eco-Friendly’?
Unfortunately, there is no one standard for what makes something eco-friendly, which leads to different people with different definitions or understandings. To make things more complex, many companies boast that they are environmentally-friendly, but even the Federal Trade Commission warns that most of those claims are ambiguous at best. Basically, “eco-friendly,” “environmentally friendly,” and “green” all mean that the product is and was produced with limited to no harmful consequences for the environment and for the people using the product (in this case, your family). There are a lot of different factors to think about, including if the product is made of natural materials and/or recycled materials, if it’s durable, sustainable, and biodegradable, if it releases any Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and if so, how many, and how much energy it takes to transport the product and how far, to name a few factors. No flooring option is perfect but some are much better than others.
Why Choose Eco-Friendly Flooring?
Many homeowners are deterred from eco-friendly floors due to their initial investment of time and money, but there are actually lots of reasons to make the switch. Some of these reasons include:
- They’re good for the environment
- They won’t make you or your family sick, while other flooring options can
- They’re usually more durable than non-green options
- They’re often easier to maintain than non-green options
- Due to increased durability and low maintenance, they’re less expensive in the long run
- Eco-friendly floors come in both sheets and tiles, so you can choose an option based on your own interior design and style needs.
- Many green flooring options have additional benefits, like being resistant to mold and mildew
Eco-Friendly Highlight: Cork Flooring
If you’re trying to choose an eco-friendly flooring option and you don’t know where to start, consider installing cork floors. Cork is made from the resin of cork trees, which can be harvested without destroying or damaging the tree (reducing the clearing of forests). Often the cork used to make cork flooring is salvaged from factories producing cork stoppers (recycled?-check!; reduced waste?-check!). It’s non-toxic, easy to maintain, and comparable in price to other similar flooring options. In addition, cork flooring is inherently anti-microbial and is naturally resistant to mold and mildew. Its elasticity ensures that it’s easy to stand on for long periods of time and that it’s not likely to be damaged if you accidentally drop an object (and the object is less likely to be damaged too). There are tons of colors and patterns to choose from so you won’t have to sacrifice style, either. With these kinds of benefits, cork flooring is bound to be a good choice for your flooring needs, and you’ll be able to enjoy it without feeling nervous or guilty about putting either your family or the environment in harm’s way!