There is no denying the popularity of carpet as a floor covering. It covers approximately 70 percent of the floors in the United States. If it is time to remove the carpet that has long added warmth to your home, whether to enhance the design of the home or to eliminate the dirt, dust and allergens that have accumulated over the years, it is worth considering an eco-friendly approach to a floor covering solution.
Following are simple steps for getting rid of old carpets, choosing a new flooring alternative, and installing it in a manner that will make Mother Nature smile, and could protect the family’s health, too.
Getting Rid of Old Carpet
Removing old carpeting from the house seems simple, and it is. But rather than rolling it up and setting it out for the garbage man, make it a point to recycle the old carpet. There are organizations, such as the Carpet America Recovery Effort, that promote carpet recycling efforts across the United States. The group and its affiliates aim to reduce the amount of carpeting that finds its way to landfills and promote recyclability. Visit their website for a list of the Carpet America Recovery Effort’s partners across the country.
Choosing New Flooring
New or used, recycled or reclaimed, there is an eco-friendly flooring option for any style and budget combination. Following are a few options that will add character, minimizing allergens and harmful chemicals, reduce negative impacts to the environment.
- Reclaimed wood: Home remodeling often results in wasted wood, but true to the adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” discarded materials from renovated homes can easily become the floor of your dreams. Not only does reclaimed wood eliminate the need to chop down trees, but it provides incredible character. Local flooring business and national dealers sell reclaimed wood flooring, and the costs can be less expensive than buying new hardwood. With eco-friendly stains and finishes, hardwood floors are easy to clean and prevent the buildup of allergy-inducing dirt and pollen.
- Recycled glass tile: Not only is recycled glass flooring eco-friendly, but it reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. The benefits go beyond the environment, though. These floors are easy to clean, they don’t ever need to be replaced, and they are impervious to scratches, stains, and heat. Maintenance of the floor is easy, too; a glass tile floor needs to be refinished but once every 40 years or so. And if style is a concern, glass flooring can be rendered in a variety of styles, from mosaic to wood-like. While installation may seem a bit pricey, keep in mind the money you will save due to the limited maintenance and the fact that these floors will last forever.
- Decorated concrete: It doesn’t get any more basic than a concrete slab, but most homes are built upon them and they can create an interesting vibe as a flooring option. The concrete can be tinted and polished to the homeowners taste, and can be made painted or decorated to bring new life to any space. In addition, it is easy to clean, durable, and won’t ever need to be replaced.
- Eco-friendly carpet: The benefits for carpeted floors are many, ranging from sound absorption to warm comfort. It is possible to carpet a home without the air-quality issues that are caused by noxious chemicals or dust and allergens. Seek out recycled fiber carpeting or purchase from an earth-friendly business to ensure that the air quality isn’t compromised. Routine cleaning with a Carpet and Rug Institute-tested and approved vacuum will remove the dirt and dust from the carpet and keep it out of the air. That same institute utilizes a rating system to test carpet, adhesive, and paddings for low VOC content, and those that pass certain requirements are given their ‘Green Label.’
Installing New Flooring
Regardless of the flooring material, the key to eco-friendly installation in any home is avoiding noxious chemicals that can be used as adhesives or finishes. If chemicals are required for installation or if a stain is required to tint the floor to match your home, make sure to select eco-friendly alternatives. For more intensive installations, like glass, seek out a company that provides installation and make sure that they are committed to an environmentally conscious approach. Remember that this is not only better for the Earth, but it is better for your health.
If it is time to replace that old, worn, stained carpet in your home, it may be the perfect opportunity to take an eco-friendly approach. Whether reclaimed, recycled, or manufactured with the Earth in mind, eco-friendly floor options will not only help protect the environment, but they could protect your health.
Jay Harris has been a Home Depot store associate since 2005 in the Chicago area. Jay writes tips on equipment rentals, including carpet cleaner rentals and truck rentals.
Image credits: Marcelle Guilbeau at flickr under a Creative Commons license; Nutmeg Designs at flickr under a Creative Commons license
A great non-chemical way to maintain wood flooring is with Organic Linseed Oil products: Boiled Linseed Oil, Linseed Oil Wax, and Linseed Oil Varnish. I normally clean my old wood flooring or new with Linseed Oil Soap and then decide between the oil, wax, or varnish depending on what surface I want. Organic Linseed Oil is solvent-free, has minimal odor, and is environmentally friendly. Read more at solventfreepaint.com