Green flooring options

Green flooring options

Going green can take some extra work on your part. Begin by finding a retailer who is knowledgeable about green flooring products. He or she can help identify products that are certified as environmentally friendly, assist in ensuring the installation meets healthy environmental standards and provide information about the various programs that promote the use of green products. Communities often have tax or other financial incentives to encourage green living.

Eco-Friendly Flooring


Cork isn’t just for wine bottles, anymore. It’s actually the bark of a tree known as Cork Oak. Once a Cork Oak tree reaches the age of about 25, its bark can be stripped without hurting the tree. It can then be split every nine to 12 years, making cork a renewable resource. Cork Oak is native to the Mediterranean region, where Portugal produces 50% of the world’s supply. And cork trees normally live 250 years or more. Did you know that some cork flooring is actually made from the pre-consumer waste generated in making wine corks?

Green Benefits of Cork:

  • Renewable resource
  • Recycled and recyclable product
  • Tree is not damaged when harvested
  • Can be finished using water-based products and installed with low-VOC adhesives


Bamboo is a rapidly renewing resource that matures in three years. Most bamboo flooring available in the North American market is made in China with bamboo harvested from natural and plantation groves. Bamboo certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) meets criteria for environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Several flooring products are available with this option. While transportation from China to the United States is a consideration, most tankers are fairly efficient.

Green Benefits of Bamboo:

  • One of the fastest growing plants on earth makes it rapidly renewable
  • The whole plant is not harvested, so there is no need to replant
  • Requires minimal fertilization or pesticides
  • Can be finished using water-based products and installed with low-VOC adhesives


According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), the carpet industry is working hard to minimize carpet’s impact on the environment. The Green Label and Green Label Plus programs from CRI were instituted to improve indoor air quality by lowering or eliminating VOCs. The Green Label ensures that customers are purchasing carpet, adhesive and cushion products with the lowest VOC emissions currently possible.

In addition, more and more of the five billion pounds of carpet that is replaced annually are being recycled to make new carpet or other products.

Green Benefits of Carpet:

  • Greener manufacturing processes and CRI certification
  • Can be made from recycled materials
  • Can be recycled at the end of its life
  • Can be made from natural materials that are renewable: wool, cotton, hemp, sisal, seagrass, bamboo and jute
  • New fibers in the marketplace are completely recyclable or made from renewable resources


In the past, there was little generally accepted data studying the environmental impact of using stone as a building material. However, in the fall of 2009, the Natural Stone Council completed a three-year study on the environmental impact of using stone. The report included a look at water and energy consumption in quarrying and processing stone, yields from raw materials and reuse and recycling of stone.It’s clear there are certain advantages to using stone.

Green Benefits of Stone:

  • Natural material
  • Enduring lifecycle
  • No VOC emissions
  • Easy to maintain
  • Recyclable and salvageable


Hardwood is a natural, renewable and recyclable material. Not all hardwoods, however, are automatically environmentally sound choices. To make the decision easier, there are a variety of programs that certify which hardwood products are green. The most common product certification programs are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). All certify wood from sustainable managed forests.

When shopping for hardwood flooring, look for certification and understand that most of the flooring will be imported. Only 4% of the United States’ own native, old growth forests are still standing.

Green Benefits of Hardwood:

  • Managed, sustainable, natural resource
  • Renewable
  • Recyclable
  • Low or no VOC emissions
  • Can be finished using water-based products and installed with low-VOC adhesives


Introduced in the 1850s, linoleum is composed of linseed oil, wood flour or cork dust and resins over canvas. It was resilient and pretty environmentally friendly when it first came to market — and it’s just as green today. All of these materials are abundant and renewable. Linoleum is resilient and durable and can be recycled.

Green Benefits of Linoleum:

  • Made from all natural materials
  • Materials are renewable and abundant
  • Recyclable
  • Fully biodegradable
  • No VOC emissions
Can be installed and maintained with 100% solvent free adhesives and cleaners

Ceramic Tile

All ceramic tile is made of a host of natural materials — sand, talc, clay and lime, to name a few. However making tile requires a great deal of energy. To improve tile’s green appeal, some new ceramic tile is being made from recycled, post-industrial and post-consumer glass, such as car windshields and glass bottles. Ceramics are heavy and hard to ship. This is one occasion when buying locally really makes a huge difference because it requires so much less transportation energy.

Green Benefits of Ceramic Tile:

  • Some contain recycled content
  • Recyclable
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Low to no VOCs
  • Easily maintained

Saving the planet won’t happen overnight, but if each us begins to make small, green choices, the result will be a cleaner, safer and greener planet for every creature that calls it home.