Story at a glance:
- Discover sustainable flooring options in carpet, terra-cotta, bamboo, and more.
- The US has a number of sustainable carpet tile manufacturers to choose from.
- Flooring that is low in VOCs and easy to clean continues to be important in health care settings.
Interior design that is environmentally friendly is on the rise, including demand for green flooring products, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. From incorporating sustainable building materials in the initial design to filling projects with green furniture, what may have once been considered a trend shows no sign of slowing down. And when it comes to green cleaning products, the global green cleaning products market accounted for $3.9 billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach $11.6 billion by 2029, according to Prophecy Market Insights.
What good is a green home or workplace without sustainable flooring? Just think of all the time you spend on your feet or, if you have kids and pets, how close they can be to the ground. What’s under your feet matters, whether you’re inside the house or spending much of your time in what you hope is a healthy office.
We’ve compiled a quick guide to some of the top green flooring products out there, from actual flooring materials to the products you clean floors with.
Bentley Mills was the first manufacturing facility in the US to be LEED-certified, and their carpet products continue to be produced in California, earning them a number of certifications and green labels. Today they have products in a range of colors across commercial projects, from the “non-solid solid” Color Core to the multi-faceted and textured Off the Chain.
“Off the Chain is based on embroidery and chain stitching,” said Ginger Gilbert, vice president of product design and development at Bentley Mills, in a previous interview with gb&d. “We were looking at knitting and work done by hand. We wanted to create a feel that was fairly low in ounce weight but that also brought a feeling of warmth into a space.”
She says that’s especially important considering how more buildings are dominated by glass but also living green walls. “Plants are coming back into spaces,” she says. “They’re a design element we need to work with, creating more textures versus patterns where people are trying to mimic the outside. We’re supporting the outside in bringing that texture and warmth to a space.”
For other carpet tile options, Mohawk’s Relaxing Floors Collection is a patterned Living Product based on research linking fractals to stress reduction. These repeating, organic patterns are found throughout nature, and the carpets capitalize on the same concept. “It’s random. Nature is random. It is no different than you seeing branches on a tree or leaves on the ground or sand on the beach. And there’s a certain level of relaxation that comes with that,” George Bandy, Mohawk Flooring North America’s chief sustainability officer, told gb&d.
US-based Metroflor was the first major manufacturer to eliminate ortho-phthalate plasticizers from its resilient flooring products. “It’s the right thing to do—for our planet, our people, our users, and our manufacturers,” said Harlan Stone, CEO, of HMTX Industries, which includes Metroflor, in a previous interview with gb&d. All Metroflor flooring products are third-party certified as having low VOCs through FloorScore, and their entire Aspecta line, with more than 200 designs, has Declare labels and Health Product Declarations.
Tarkett is yet another flooring manufacturer committed to sustainable carpeting. In one Oregon project, the design team installed Powerbond, a resilient solution that is 100% recyclable and promotes healthy indoor air quality. The hybrid sheet flooring allows for colorful inlays that add a whimsical element to projects like school design. For school officials in Oregon, there were bottom-line benefits, Jonathan Klinger, chief marketing officer for Tarkett North America, told gb&d.
This Tarkett flooring both resists soil entrapment and masks wear, reducing maintenance costs. And for cost-conscious administrators, a long-lasting product is simply good business. “If they know they can install a product that’s going to last 50 years, then that provides them an economic peace of mind they would not find in an alternative product,” Klinger said.
But what about sustainable sports facilities like gyms and arenas?
REGUPOL has you covered with sustainable options. Seven of their product lines, including their sports flooring, were recently added to the mindful MATERIALS (mM) library, a free platform with aggregated information on human health and environmental impacts for products from leading manufacturers. The material ingredients, EPDs, and emission data testing for each REGUPOL product is readily accessible to visitors of the library.
REGUPOL offers top-notch track and field surfaces that provide superior traction, uniformity, and comfort while meeting stringent performance standards under IAAF guidelines. The company uses more than 115 million pounds of recycled rubber in its manufacturing process. REGUPOL America uses 100% post-consumer tire rubber, post-industrial EPDM rubber, and additional renewable resources.
Terra-cotta is green, recyclable, sustainable, durable, low maintenance, and fire-resistant.
Ludowici’s terra-cotta not only comes from the earth, creating zero waste, their tiles are 100% recyclable, energy-efficient, and free of toxic and synthetic ingredients.
Tyler Arboretum’s living classroom building in Pennsylvania is entirely clad in terra-cotta tiles from Ludowici. DIGSAU Architects worked with Ludowici and others on the project.
“These terra-cotta tiles, which come out of the earth and reflect both centuries of use and questions about application in modern times, are not a material we get to work with much, and we were so excited to use these tiles to explore the project’s key themes,” said Jules Dingle, principal at DIGSAU, when interviewed about the project.
Health Care Flooring
In the health care space, flooring products that are environmentally friendly, durable, and easy to clean are key.
Decades ago Teknoflor brought low-maintenance, no-wax, no-buff floors to market. Their sheet products offer heat-welded, seamless installation for easy cleaning and infection control.
“Healthy design is creating products that positively influence the health and comfort of the building occupants—that’s the main goal. And then sustainability is achieving that healthy design with a beneficial approach to the environment,” said Andrew Heeter, Teknoflor’s vice president of strategic sales, in a previous interview with gb&d.
Another flooring manufacturer, Mondo Contract Flooring, points to its Natura line as a top sustainable flooring product. It was a perfect fit for a dialysis management clinic in Pickering, Ontario, Canada. Their rubber, which is highly resistant to shrinking and cracking, is also free of Red List ingredients (those building materials deemed harmful to humans and the environment). The Natura product is also free of PVCs, heavy metals, chlorine, BPA, and halogen.
A beautiful hardwood floor can elevate any interior, and the experts at Bona know how to keep those floors clean and looking new for a long time.
The team at Bona suggests floor finishes like theirs that are waterborne and low in VOCs—to protect the floor and the environment at large and for better indoor air quality.
Refinishing your hardwood also reduces the carbon footprint by more than 75% compared to floor replacement, according to one of their recent reports.
Strand bamboo flooring is another sustainable flooring option, according to the experts at Trinity Bamboo.
Stand bamboo combines the durability and dimensional stability of tropical hardwoods with the green credentials of traditional bamboo flooring products. Grown on lush mountainsides in China, this perennial grass is cut by hand by villagers who lease the harvest rights from their local government. Its rapid regrowth means bamboo forests sequester more carbon than typical hardwood forests.
“These are largely naturalized strands of bamboo that require no irrigation or pesticides,” said Tom Goodham, president of Trinity Bamboo, in a previous interview. “Because bamboo culms are harvested and transported off the mountain by hand, the soil and ground cover is not disturbed, which reduces or eliminates human-caused soil erosion.”