EPA studies have shown that indoor pollutant levels can be two to five times higher than they are outside, according to Green America (www.greenamerica.org).
Installation of new carpet and flooring can fill the air with hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including known and suspected carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene and they can take years to dissipate.
To minimize indoor pollution and reduce health problems, you can now choose from a growing line of carpets and flooring made from recycled and eco-friendly materials such sisals, jutes, and seagrass. Natural Home (www.naturalhomebrands.com) offers a line of 100-percent wool carpets made with undyed or vegetable-dyed yarn and minimal natural latex (rubber) glue.
Padding: Many carpet paddings contain plastics made from petroleum, an unrenewable and energy consumptive resource. Choose a carpet with lightweight backing that requires no additional padding, or use padding made from recycled materials.
Installation: Tacking carpets down is a safe and easy alternative to gluing that eliminates many potentially hazardous pollutants. However, if you do decide to glue, you can take steps to minimize your ecological footprint by choosing water-based, low-VOC glues.
Other Options: While carpet and rugs can be responsibly purchased and installed, the most eco-friendly flooring option is often avoiding them altogether. Here are some of the best alternatives:
For home-owners sold on traditional hardwood floors, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) can make sure that your lumber comes from sustainably managed forests. Dozens of types of wood are produced in FSC-certified forests in which the trees are regenerated, biodiversity is conserved, and air and water quality are preserved.
While softwoods are rarely considered ideal flooring material, cork is an excellent choice for many reasons. Its natural elasticity makes cork floors especially comfortable; the wood provides thermal and acoustic insulation; and the durable floors recover well from marks left by furniture or high heels. The floors are also hypo-allergenic, so they won’t attract dust; are fire-resistant; and can even serve as a natural insect repellant. Better yet, the floors are produced using the bark of the cork oak tree, which grows back every three years.
Bamboo, a popular green flooring option, is 13-percent harder than maple and 27-percent harder than northern red oak, so it lasts longer and can withstand more use than conventional hardwood floors. The floors are naturally resistant to water, mildew, and insects, and they are sustainable since bamboo grows quickly and abundantly.
Tile and Linoleum
You can add life to any room with a colorful floor made of recycled glass tiles, which are ideal for modern bathrooms and kitchens. Natural linoleum floors are also hypo-allergenic and biodegradable.
The Self-Sufficient Home: Going Green and Saving Money, by Christopher Nyerges
Green Your Home: The Complete Guide to Making Your New or Existing Home Environmentally Healthy, by Jeanne Roberts
Green Living E-Books: www.sustainablebabysteps.com