Green Flooring

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Respect.
The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) teamed up with The Learning Channel’s Designing Spaces to produce a segment on green, environmentally friendly floors. It’s a great introduction to the concept of green flooring and to some of the choices available to eco-friendly homeowners. 

What Is “Green?”

For many of us, awareness of our individual impact on the life of our planet is just coming into focus. Recent initiatives by local utility companies, local builders and local and national governmental agencies have served to heighten awareness of every human being’s impact on the global environment. “Greening” our homes is a wonderful investment. The impact can be felt immediately within our own families and what’s good for us is good for our planet and future generations.

Going green, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, means looking at these factors when building or remodeling our homes:

  • Energy savings
  • Water efficiency
  • CO2 emissions reduction
  • Improved indoor environmental quality
  • Stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Saving energy may mean choosing a natural flooring that requires little energy to produce; buying locally so that transportation energy is minimal; choosing flooring with no or low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions because they can contribute to health problems; or choosing flooring that is made from renewable resources.

Every little step counts. And rest assured there are many flooring choices that will contribute to the notion of leaving our planet just as beautiful as it was when we arrived, so that our children and our children’s children can enjoy it as much as we did.

World Floor Covering Association and “Designing Spaces” Provide Tips on Creating Eco-Friendly Living Spaces

Ever wonder what makes a product “green”?

Get all of the answers you need and more by tuning into The Learning Channel’s Designing Spaces cable program which features the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) in a segment on green, environmentally friendly floors. You'll get an overview of every kind of eco-friendly flooring on the market from carpets made of corn sugar to bamboo area rugs. And, you can learn about what makes a product environmentally friendly as well as the carbon “footprint” a product leaves from the time and place it is sourced to final installation.

Green Flooring Tips

Clearly, going green goes beyond just choosing a green flooring type. Cleaning products, transportation and materials used for manufacturing and installation must be considered.

Green Tips for Adhesives:

  • Choose products with low to no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Avoid formaldehyde
  • Look for Carpet and Rug Institutes (CRI) Green Label® or Green Label Plus® certification

Green Tips for Cleaners:

  • Choose products with natural and biodegradable ingredients
  • Consider homemade cleaners using things from the pantry:  vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, ammonia, or olive oil

Green Tips for the Whole House:

  • Keep caulked areas caulked (caulking prevents the loss of heat or cold air)
  • If you are installing a new floor, make sure that space between the flooring and the door is just right (too much space means you’re heating or cooling the entire outdoors while too little space means you can’t close the door)
  • Consider that space heaters are energy hogs and can generate more than two pounds of greenhouse gas per hour (use them too much and they might make your hardwood floors contract)
  • Choose low or no VOC products whenever you can
  • Insulation is not just for the attic anymore, it can be added between floors for additional savings
  • Choose a retailer that shares your commitment to the environment and knows about all the latest advances in green products


Green Flooring Materials

Green flooring falls into at least one of these categories:

  • Sustainable (wood flooring)
  • Eco-friendly (bamboo area rugs)
  • Contains recycled content (rubber flooring)
  • Recyclable (vinyl flooring)
  • Leaves a small carbon footprint (wool carpeting)
  • Has low VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) (stone) It’s a matter of degree.


What’s It Made Of?

Natural Materials
Wool, wood, fast growing bamboo, eucalyptus and cork are considered renewable resources because they can be re-grown and sustainably harvested.

Recycled Materials
Recycled wood flooring is made from salvaged boards from old buildings slated for demolition or trees salvaged from lake bottoms that have been re-milled into a product suitable for your home.

Recycled plastics from water and soda bottles can be added to the five billion pounds of carpet that is replaced annually and made into new carpet with all the attributes of virgin carpet.

Salvaged or Reusable Materials
Old stone floors can be salvaged and reused in a new setting.

Other Green Factors

Save transportation energy costs and reduce CO2 emissions by choosing products made or grown within 500 miles.

VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, industrial solvents, paint thinners and adhesives, among many other things. VOCs are one of the building blocks of smog. They can be toxic to the nervous system and some are cancer causing.

It’s important to choose water-based adhesives and finishes over solvent-based ones. Here’s a guide to help you out.


Green Home Guide—Use & Maintenance

Choose durable floors that are low-maintenance. Extending the life of your floor means replacing it less often and as a result, creating less waste.

Choose floors that can be cleaned and maintained without the use of harsh chemicals.

Choose floors that don’t have to be refinished or resealed often.

End of Life
Choose floors that can be recycled, reused or will naturally decompose. (Generally speaking, synthetic flooring will not decompose, but can be recycled.)