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#C2GoTips: Which floor is greenest?

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We hear lots of talk about environmental sustainability and we want to do our part, but let’s face it, one or two floors aren’t going to make a big difference. Or will they?
Sandy from My Beautiful Floors ranks the greenest floors from most to least green.
Greenest – Solid Hardwood 
Not surprisingly, solid hardwood is the greenest flooring choice. Solid hardwood flooring has little else done to it besides milling and the application of stains and a wear layer. Much of the hardwood flooring we buy are North American species harvested from sustainably managed forests where a new tree is planted for each one that is cut down.

Trees also sequester carbon, which means they capture carbon from the air and store it until the wood either decays naturally or is burned as fuel, so it keeps it out of the atmosphere. Trees also produce lots of oxygen, so breathe easy.

Engineered Hardwood
Engineered wood does use glue in its construction but is a strong environmental contender because of higher yields per tree and the fact that most of the hardwood we buy comes from sustainably managed forests. Many engineered hardwood floors carry some environmental certification that assures their safety.

Bamboo
Everyone thinks bamboo is the best choice for environmentally friendly floors – and it is a good one because of how renewable it is. However, it does have some challenges. For one, especially in strand formats, a lot of binding agents are used – those binders can contain formaldehyde, so be careful. Most of the larger manufacturers employ sustainable harvesting practices, but not all do.

Ceramic Tile 
Ceramic and porcelain tile is also an all-natural, environmentally friendly product. Suitable for use in any room in a home, ceramic tile is VOC free because all organic compounds are literally baked out during the intense firing process. The only two environmental drawbacks to ceramic tile – if there are any – are its heavy weight, which makes it expensive to ship and the high energy utilization that the firing process demands. Otherwise, it is a perfect green floor.

Wool Carpet 
Carpets made of 100% wool would have to be next on our list since most are also made with all-natural products, including many which use natural dyes. Wool is not only easy to clean, like all carpet, it traps indoor pollutants and allergens in the fiber, removing them from the “breathing zone.”

Triexta is a synthetic bio-based fiber, which means that up to 60% of it is actually corn, soy or other plant-based material. It is recyclable, although no recycling programs for triexta currently exist. It is a high-performing carpet against stains, wear and fading. Carpets made of triexta are manufactured by Mohawk, the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, and are marketed under the SmartStrand brand.

There are also several carpet mills that recycle PET (polyester) from plastic bottles. PET has taken the lead as the most common fiber system used for carpet. Taking thousands of bottles out of landfills ain’t a bad thing either.

Laminate 
Laminate flooring also has a great environmental story with most of its component parts being wood-based products – high-density fiberboard, paper – plus a melamine or aluminum oxide wear layer. The striking visuals that often mimic hardwood and natural stone, are accomplished through high-definition photography. Laminate often contains formaldehyde, but again, this is often captured in the core and does not off the gas or affect indoor air quality. The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) has strict construction standards and provides environmental safety standards so look for its seal to make sure your laminate floor is safe.

Cork Flooring 
Cork is one of nature’s most remarkable sustainable resources but because of the nature of cork flooring construction, I’d have to consider it a laminate floor in that it is comprised of several layers bound and pressed and glued together. Those glues can be a source of formaldehyde, but not always. Again, look for environmental certifications.

Vinyl Floors
Vinyl flooring, LVT/P, WPC, and rigid core can get a bit more complicated. Made primarily of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), it is completely inert once it appears in flooring. While it can technically be recycled, there is little in the way of serious collection capabilities for floors used in residential settings. Vinyl manufacturers have moved away from the use of plasticizers such as phthalates which minimizes exposure to chemicals. These floors are easy to clean, hypo-allergenic and do not promote the growth of mold or bacteria. They are safe, especially those that carry the FloorScore seal.

For more flooring information, visit My Beautiful Floors.

Ready to choose the perfect green flooring option for your home? Visit any of our Flooring Centers!

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