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What is Sustainable Flooring?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sustainable flooring can refer to a wide range of products that are made from renewable, ecologically sound resources. The main purpose of sustainable flooring is to avoid depleting natural resources by using a variety of functional alternatives. There are several categories of sustainable flooring, including hardwood substitutes, natural fiber carpets, and linoleums. Rubber floors can also be sustainable if they are not made from petroleum products. Using these types of flooring materials can help create sustainable buildings when used in conjunction with other efforts.

The various types of sustainable floors are often contrasted with traditional floorings made from nonrenewable resources. Hardwoods that are traditionally used for flooring typically take a very long time to mature, rendering them an unsustainable resource. Several alternatives are available that can offer comparable functionality and looks. Bamboo flooring is one sustainable option that is made from a quick growing grass. It offers good durability, pleasant aesthetics, and relatively easy installation.

Another hardwood alternative is made from coconut timber. This type of flooring is usually created from very old palm trees that have stopped producing coconuts. When these aged trees are cut down for processing, new ones can be planted that will mature very quickly. Since coconut palms can grow to maturity in about six years, this type of wood flooring can be far more sustainable than other exotic woods. Coconut timber flooring is fairly durable, and is typically about as hard as mahogany.

A variety of non-wood flooring options are also sustainable. One choice is natural cork, which is obtained from the bark of a particular type of oak tree. The cork oak can usually be harvested about once a decade without harming it, so this type of flooring requires no logging at all. Another woody plant that can be used for sustainable flooring is the rubber tree. The sap of these trees can be harvested for natural latex, which may be turned into a durable and resilient flooring material.

Linoleum is another type of flooring that can be created from sustainable plant materials. This type of sustainable flooring is primarily made from ground up flax seeds. Other renewable resources can also be included in the composition, such as pine resin and cork. The backing of linoleum can also be made out of a sustainable plant material, such as jute fibers.

Many types of carpet are made from synthetic fibers that may not come from renewable resources, though sustainable options are often available as well. One type of sustainable carpet is made from plant fibers, such as jute or wool. Other carpets that are made from synthetic fibers may be considered sustainable depending on the source of the materials. Recycled carpets can be made from thermoplastic polymer resins, such as those used in food and drink containers. Since these products were already used for another purpose and would otherwise take up space in a landfill, recycled carpet constructed from these materials can be considered sustainable.

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