One of the more common options for sustainable flooring is bamboo. A fast growing grass that produces new shoots without replanting, bamboo can be fashioned into a flooring that is actually twice as hard as oak. Bamboo is available either as a solid wood, an engineered flooring which is layered with other woods, or a strand woven flooring, which is produced under intense pressure. Composed of interwoven and glued strands of bamboo fiber, this third option provides an extremely nontraditional aesthetic. It is considered the strongest bamboo flooring, due to the stability of its woven construction, and also the most environmentally friendly, since very little adhesive is used in its construction.
Another attractive option for sustainable flooring, moving from a hardened grass to an actual wood, is reclaimed lumber. This option provides a unique aesthetic for each floor, as the harvested wood has aged in singular ways during its prior usage. Taken from building materials such as bleachers, resawn timbers, and antiquarian structures, a variety of hardwoods can be repurposed for flooring .
Douglas Fir, Yellow Pine, Longleaf Heart Pine, and Southern Pine are just a few of the species of wood which have traditionally been used in construction and can in many case be recycled for flooring. If there is any drawback to this option, it is simply that it redefines the concept of limited supply; there will be an eminently finite amount of wood that can be reclaimed in each case.
For those whose tastes lean more in the direction of a patterned or tile floor, cork can provide an interesting option. Quite possibly the greenest flooring of all, cork is manufactured from the bark of the cork oak tree. Interestingly, only the bark is harvested, in a process which allows the tree to continue to thrive. This bark replenishes itself each decade, making cork an eminently renewable resource.
Some of the same qualities that lead to the use of cork in wine storage also make it an excellent flooring material. Cork can be greatly compressed while retaining its shape, giving rise to a subtle cushioning effect underfoot. It also exhibits numerous beneficial properties for heat retention, sound insulation and fire-resistance. Due to a unique and natural wax within the cork, it possesses allergenic properties as well.
For those who prefer to have carpeting underfoot, there are substantial benefits to taking a sustainable route. Renewable carpeting is most often produced from wool and natural fibers. Wool's inherent resistance to flammability allows this carpeting to be manufactured in a highly non-toxic fashion. This is exactly the same reason that wool is such an effective fabric when used in bedding and mattresses. Typically, known and suspected carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene are harbored in carpeting, a byproduct of flame-retardant treatments. Employing wool fiber, particularly untreated and undyed, greatly reduces indoor pollutant levels, while its natural structure inhibits retention of dirt and allergens.
If you're looking to change or upgrade the floor underneath your feet, there are a number of solid reasons to choose a sustainable option. Fortunately for us, we live in a time when those options aren't in short supply.