The most eco-friendly flooring might not be what you expect.
When you say “eco friendly”, “environmentally friendly” or “renewable” your mind might go to wind turbines, dams, solar panels and hybrid cars. But when it comes to flooring, the best option comes from the ground.
That’s right. It’s wood.
Why Hardwood Is Eco-Friendly Flooring
The USDA actually endorses hardwood flooring as an eco-friendly, carbon-neutral flooring option. As the USDA Forest Service notes, wood buildings store carbon, and for the length of time that wood should last any wood installation should become carbon neutral.
It works because by the time that wood wears out or is removed, usually the forest will have regrown. Though hardwood trees take a long time to reach maturity, hardwood flooring lasts a long time if properly maintained. You can find original hardwood floors in some hundred-year-old buildings. Though a floor needs a certain thickness to be able to be refinished, most ¾” thick boards will take anywhere from six to ten refinishings comfortably.
Engineered wood is less capable of taking refinishings than regular solid hardwood flooring, but it will still last long enough to be eco-friendly. In some ways it may be better than solid hardwood because the core layers are made of more easily-managed softwoods that reach maturity quicker than equivalent hardwoods. Though they still use glues and finishes that may not come from sustainable sources, engineered wood floors are an environmentally-friendly option.
Hardwood Flooring Production
Though the production of hardwood flooring isn’t necessarily carbon-neutral, it’s offset as the trees grow. Hardwood trees are removed and the forest managed according to forestry regulations, which leaves new timber to grow where the old timber had been.
As trees grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the air, and a stand of mature hardwood trees will replace the carbon impact of their harvesting and installation by the time the floor comes up for replacement.
Engineered wood uses more glue than a solid wood floor will, and both types of hardwood flooring may be finished with something like polyurethane that isn’t a natural or environmentally-friendly product. But the overall impact on the environment is much more muted than something that relies on a non-sustainable material like petroleum.
Wood flooring is one of the best options for sustainable harvesting, but it’s not the only one. Bamboo and cork are similar products that have other drawbacks. But any biological material that comes from the ground and will replace itself over time is going to be an environmentally-friendly solution.
Eco-friendly flooring is mostly limited to natural or perhaps recycled materials. That leaves out a lot of options, especially common ones like carpet, vinyl and linoleum that are made with petroleum products or byproducts.
What’s Not Eco- and Environmentally-Friendly Flooring?
Floors like vinyl and carpet are not as environmentally friendly as hardwood for a few reasons.
Firstly, they’re mostly made from petroleum products and byproducts. Vinyl in particular is a big offender because it’s liable to release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause health effects. In the event of a fire, it’s also hazardous to both the environment and the people nearby because of the vapors that can be released.
Unless you’re buying specialty eco-friendly carpet made of natural fibers with natural backing and non-toxic glue, it can be just as bad as vinyl. Off-gassing (the release of toxic gasses as the carpet ages) is a similar problem. That doesn’t even get into the impact of its production.
Environmentally-friendly carpet is more expensive and harder to get than the other options. Vinyl and linoleum just flat aren’t environmentally friendly. Tile and stone can be environmentally friendly but they come with their own tradeoffs, too.
Another problem with these types of flooring is their disposal. When vinyl is removed, there’s no easy way to recycle it. Different types of vinyl have different formulations, and these formulations are incompatible for recycling even when the material’s able to be recycled. Often vinyl just winds up filling up a landfill. It doesn’t break down easily, either—it’s non-biodegradable.
Carpet isn’t environmentally-friendly flooring either, because it’s almost as hard to recycle. Recycled carpet is available, but it’s not easy for the same reason vinyl is: the material is different from type to type, making it difficult to break down. Carpet is also made up of multiple systems including the backing and the fibers, which adds to the eco-friendly flooring issue.
Usually if you’re choosing environmentally-friendly flooring options, carpet and vinyl won’t be at the top of your list. Hardwood flooring is preferred.
The Better, More Environmentally Friendly Flooring Option
If you’re thinking of putting in a floor in your house and you want to be conscious of the environment, hardwood is one of your best options.
It’s made from natural materials, unlike carpet and vinyl, so you don’t have to worry about off-gassing or byproducts. It’s durable, so you don’t have to worry about replacing it a bunch of times over its lifespan. It’s tough, so you don’t have to worry about resurfacing frequently. Hardwood is one of the best options for flooring that you can get if you want something that’s beautiful, durable and good for the environment.
And if you’re really concerned about getting hardwood that’s sourced in a way that’s good for the environment ask for something that has a stamp from the FSB or one of the other certification boards for sustainably-produced lumber. There are still occasionally lumber sources that pull from illegal timber, and FSB and other certified lumber sources will make sure that the supply chain is legitimate from start to finish.
If you’re sourcing flooring in OKC and you care about sustainability, hardwood flooring is one of the best options. Environmentally- and eco-friendly, hardwood is an option that helps you keep the environment safe while still getting a beautiful finish for your house.
Temple Johnson provides you the eco-friendly hardwood flooring options that you’re looking for. We’ve been in business for a hundred years, and our experienced flooring crews and top-notch sales staff can provide you with the floor you’re looking for. Come schedule a consultation today and we’ll show you what your floor can look like. And if you want to know more about environmentally-friendly flooring, ask us what options we have for your house that can minimize your carbon footprint. We’ll give you the floor you’re looking for. Beauty, quality and environmental impact—we have everything you need here. Just come by our store and we’ll get you set up.