Deciding to get new floors shouldn’t compromise your values. Many years ago, the flooring industry was a major polluter. Today, many sustainable, environmentally friendly choices exist, from cork to carpeting. Let’s explore some popular options and their pros and cons.
Cork is the big buzz-word in sustainable flooring. Cork floors are soft, warm and forgiving on the feet. Cork is bark extracted from living cork oak trees, primarily found in Spain and Portugal. Cork extraction does not harm the tree and can be done about every decade. This makes cork one of the most sustainable flooring materials available. However, it is a higher-end product due to comparatively limited global production. While cork floors can be more expensive than some materials, it is anti-microbial and durable when properly maintained. Much like hardwood, cork can last decades even in high traffic areas. It has a distinct look and comes in many colours and styles.
Bamboo flooring is a relative newcomer to the flooring world. It’s made from treated bamboo wood. The bamboo plant takes as little as three years to reach maturity, making it even more renewable than cork. Bamboo floors are also quite durable and affordable compared to cork. However, the flooring planks are laminated with resins and finishes that may vent VOCs (volatile organic compounds) after installation, which can pose health problems for some people with chemical sensitivities. The risk of VOCs is short-lived — after a week or two, any off-gassing that occurred will be done. Bamboo flooring comes in a variety of colours and styles, and is a good alternative to hardwood flooring.
Recycled and Natural Fibre Flooring
Many common flooring types, from carpet to hardwood, come in recycled varieties that diminish their environmental impact. Recycled flooring is just as high quality, durable, and varied as ordinary flooring, but produces less waste than manufacturing brand new flooring. Some carpet styles can be made using natural fibres, reducing the amount of synthetic/plastic materials used in their production.