Is the flooring in your home ethical? Now that Al Gore got our attention with his "Inconvenient Truth" documentary about the effects of global warming, we realize that we can look for green in everything we buy and that green can begin with us.
"Ethical" flooring choices are those that are friendly to the environment, such as reclaimed wood, linoleum, cork or bamboo surfaces. These types of surfaces are also coveted for their exquisite beauty, texture and form.
The reuse of wood from old buildings such as barns, hotels, and railroad cars is an emerging trend across the country. The character of reclaimed woods such as elmwood, rosewood and maple offers an old world elegance. Prices for reclaimed wood flooring is all over the map, depending on the wood type and its scarcity, anywhere from $6 to $20 per square foot.
Linoleum flooring is made from sustainable earth substances or recycled remnants. Even though linoleum itself cannot be recycled because of the glue used to install it, it is an increasingly popular choice for homes, offices and schools.
Cork floors are made from the harvested bark of the cork tree. What makes cork so unique is its naturally occurring durable cellular structure that makes it flexible, waterproof and airtight. It's a natural acoustic insulator and an excellent choice for apartments and condominiums as it muffles the sound of heavy foot traffic. Cork is soft underfoot, has good memory and bounces back to its original shape. It also provides a cushioning effect for items that are dropped on it, often preventing them from breaking.
Bamboo floors are a hardwood product that is created by using fast-growing stalks of the bamboo plant. For those "eco-techies" among you, bamboo yields a 2500 percent higher usable biomass than traditional hardwood flooring tree sources. It takes only 4 to 5 years to grow to maturity, and once harvested continues to grow by forming new shoots. It's stronger than many hardwoods and has about half the contraction and expansion problems associated with solid hardwood flooring.
For more information about green flooring as well as other eco-friendly building materials, go to The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing at pathnet.org (PATH).