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Green Flooring is Practical

by Kim Kinrade

cork flooring, bamboo flooringThe word "green" has been in the jargon of denoting environmentally-friendly products and practices since the 1970's when a German political party, die Grünen, first began its existence promoting socially-conscious issues. The policies of the Green Party spread throughout the world and one of them, "ecological wisdom" became the cornerstone for the move toward environmentally-sustainable products.

In recent times the word means products and practices which use as many environmentally-friendly manufacturing and building processes as possible. It also means that the products are not made from rare wood species or do not off-gas after installation. In addition, the products can be recycled or, in the case of a building, the operation, heating and lighting are made possible with the lowest amount of power usage.

Green Attributes

For a product to truly be "green" it has to adhere to a series of social and environmental principles:

1. Socially Responsible Manufacturers: This means no child labor, fair wages, safe work place, decent hours and good living conditions.

2. Clean Manufacturing: These workplaces do not pollute either the air or water in making the product.

3. Distribution: Packaging and transport should not leave a large carbon footprint. Local products get high awards for this for having low transport costs.

4. Renewable Materials: Source is not destroyed or, in the case of bamboo, grows back quickly.

5. Recycled Content: Green products should contain materials recycled either from the same material or others.

6. Ability to be Recycled: Products in this classification can be either remade into the same or other products, such as as glass and metal, or into other products like plastic pop bottles into fleece-lining for coats.

7. Toxicity: There has to be "0" toxic content and the same for off-gassing.

8. Life: The product must have a long life. Tile has this quality.

9. Installation: The product can be installed with adhesives carrying no VOC's (volatile organic compounds).

10. Maintenance: Product can be cleaned with environmentally-friendly products.

Green Flooring

tile flooring, marble flooring1. Clay and Porcelain Tile: Although some tile may be made in countries which do not adhere to humane labor practices the majority of tile is manufactured otherwise. Tile is non-toxic and comes from abundant supplies although the kiln-drying may take fossil fuels. Shipping is also an item for consideration because most tile is made in third-world countries. The installation requires natural products, like the limestone in portland cement. It also lasts the life of the home and more.

2. Stone Tile: This product is quarried and requires power to cut the stone sheets. Much of it is sent from overseas so there is a carbon footprint for shipping. However, stone outlasts almost any flooring substance.

3. Limestone Composite Tile: This is manufactured with 85% natural limestone and contains recycled vinyl. The making and shipping have a small environmental impact.

4. Carpet Tiles: Carpet tiles can be easily installed by the homeowner with a non-toxic glue. Because they are tiles worn ones can be replaced without taking up the whole floor as with wall-to-wall carpet. As well, look for carpet tiles with the CRI Indoor Air Quality label, an assurance that they are low-emitting carpet. Many can be recycled and most are made within the country making shipping easier.

5. Cork Floors: Cork is cut from the bark of the cork tree without harming it. In addition the tree is ready to give another donation in 10-11 years. Cork is also inert, light and easy to install. Many sealers are water-based, as well. Cork does come from overseas but the tile is manufactured in this country so shipping is low.

cork flooring, bamboo flooring6. Bamboo Floors: Bamboo, "the fastest-growing wood on the planet," is actually a member of the grass family and its inclusion in flooring brings a wonderful texture to the floor. Many flooring companies – who are mainly in this country - use no formaldehyde in the tile-making process. A stand of bamboo regrows to harvest potential in 2 years and requires no fertilizer. It is long-lasting, up to 50 years.

7. Wood Flooring: Exotic hardwoods are mostly suspect to environmental guidelines because of the forced labor to harvest them and the unbridled logging that goes on regardless of wildlife or the decreasing volume of these woods. If buying this wood look for a certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which means that the product came from a well-manged forest area. Local hardwoods and pine are easy on distribution and sealing can be donwe on all floors using a water-based product.

8. Natural Fiber Carpet: Hemp and other grasses make beautiful carpets as do wool and cotton. Wool is naturally stain resistant and fireproof and both wool and cotton products are made in this country.

9. Rubber Tiles: Made form 90% recycled tires these are great for indoor-outdoor applications which get wet and are heavily used. 10. Linoleum: To produce linoleum they use an oxidized linseed oil with rosin. These are then combined with the other materials to form granules which are, in turn, rolled onto a jute backing. Linoleum comes in a wide variety of colors and tectures.

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