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Eco-Friendly Floors

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Wonder why new carpet smells so darned bad? It’s the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that include formaldehyde and benzene (both known or suspected carcinogens)! Installing new carpet can infuse your home’s air with hundreds of VOCs and they can take quite a while to disappear! Additionally, carpets may be treated with chemicals for mothproofing or as soil repellants, also very bad for your health. Carpets and padding may also be made from synthetic materials derived from petroleum. What can you do if it’s time for new flooring, but you’re not too sure you want to invite all those toxins and synthetics to share your living space?

Fortunately, there are options and they are both healthier for you family and environmentally sustainable. There is a growing market of floors and carpets manufactured from eco-friendly and recycled materials. They look great, last for years and can actually turn out to be less expensive that conventional carpets.                                                                      

If you are ready for new flooring, here’s what’s new:

Many carpet manufacturers are producing carpets and rugs made from natural fibers without chemical treatment, or with very little chemical treatment. You can also find carpets that have natural fiber backing that’s attached with adhesive that is less toxic than the adhesives normally used. Some companies are selling carpets made from wool, sisals, jutes and seagrass. Some are selling carpets that are made from recycled materials – they’re still synthetics, but they’re recycled. You can also find padding made from recycled materials instead of the common padding made from plastics (which come from petroleum).

Carpet installation is changing too. The glues used to install carpets can cause respiratory problems and other issues. Carpet can be installed by tacking it down, but it you want it glued, there are water-based, low VOC glues available.

What about my old carpet?

You may be able to find companies that will recycle or donate your old carpet. This is ideal, because otherwise, it’s going to the landfill. You can check out www.carpetrecovery.org to see if there is a place near you to recycle old carpets.

Any other “green” flooring ideas?

- Install carpet tiles. That way if one section gets wrecked by a wayward glass of red wine, you just pull up those tiles and replace with new ones.
- Purchase rugs made by earth-friendly manufacturers and use them to cover the worn spots on your carpet. Make sure they have the RUGMARK label to be sure you are getting rugs that are child labor-free as well.
- Consider hardwood floors. They are much better toxin and allergen-wise, and if you get Forest Stewardship Council approved wood, you know it’s coming from forests where trees are regenerated and the ecosystems are kept in tact.
- Use cork or bamboo flooring. Sound weird, but works great. Both come from renewable sources, are durable and in the case of cork, fire-resistant.
- Use tile or linoleum made from recycled or natural materials.

If it’s time to get rid of your old worn carpet, you’ve got many good choices for an eco and family-friendly floor covering. If you aren’t completely devoted to the idea of having wall-to-wall carpet, consider some of the other, equally attractive options.

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