Climate change, recycling, sustainability and green issues are now part of our daily lives and more people are turning to sustainable products when decorating, building, renovating or restoring. But it can be a minefield trying to work out which option is the ‘greenest’.
The Green Dilemma
For example, recycling or reusing old materials like timber or stone is very eco-friendly, but not if you have to go traipsing round many different places to find it, as the damage to the environment done by all the driving could offset all those intentions.
Or perhaps you might want to buy a product made from a renewable source such as bamboo, but then discover that traditional forests are being dug up to satisfy the increased demand for it.
And its important to consider the longevity of a product; is it better to use a product which is very natural but will need replacing in ten years time, or one that is slightly less eco-friendly but will last for thirty years, and therefore won’t do so much damage because there’ll be fewer manufacturing stages?
The key issues are the material that is being used, the damage that may be done during the manufacturing stage and the transportation issues.
However, as few people have a sheep farm and a bamboo forest in their back garden, not to mention the skills and tools required to turn them into usable floor coverings, the only thing to do is to research options carefully before you shop and look for certifications of sustainability where they exist, like the Forest Stewardship Council’s accreditation system.
For carpets probably the first option that springs to mind is wool, although to be truly eco-friendly you should look at the backing too, which should be made of a natural product like jute or hessian.
Synthetic alternatives require the use of oil in the manufacture not just for the top surface but for the backing and underlay too. They are also very durable, but this means that they survive in landfill sites for decades, if not centuries.
When looking for harder surfaces wood is an obvious option although the sources need to be checked out thoroughly. The same goes for stone as significant damage to local ecosystems can be caused by badly managed quarries. For these reasons recycled timber or stone have to be the best choices.
There are also of tiles that use recycled materials such as glass or ceramics, and cork is making a comeback, although it requires care with laying and sealing as it doesn’t cope with moisture too well.
Cork farms the world over are in now trouble in as the wine industry turns to plastic corks and screw-tops, so using cork for flooring and other internal decorating purposes will help keep the cork forests intact.
Lino is another product that has made a comeback. Many people assume it is a synthetic product but in fact it is made from organic products such as flax seeds, wood flour or cork dust and the backing is hessian or canvas.
On the other hand vinyl, the synthetic alternative, is thought by some to be less damaging to the planet in the long run as it can be less energy intensive to manufacture and lasts longer. It’s another example where you have to look at all the options before making a considered choice.
Keep it Green and Healthy
And although this might all seem like a lot of effort there are growing concerns about the damage that is being done to our health by the toxins used in the various manufacturing processes that create our synthetic floorings.
So going green is likely to help your own health, and that of your family, as well as that of the planet.