When it comes to flooring, there are a lot of options to suit every style and budget.
But, just how eco-friendly are traditional flooring options?
Many eco-friendly flooring options are available these days, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
In this article, I’ll explore the most eco-friendly flooring options and help you decide which one is right for you!
I’ve covered all the usual suspects and even a few wildcards you might not have considered.
The first thing to consider is where your flooring is going to go.
What else is going to be in the room? Does it need to be hard-wearing or waterproof? What is the color scheme? What furniture items will be placed on top of the floor?
If you're planning a new eco-friendly room in your home then these guides will help:
But there are a few more things you need to look out for to make sure that you choose the most environmentally friendly flooring...
Look out for flooring made from natural materials. Ideally sustainable, recycled, recyclable, or reclaimed.
Some certifications to keep an eye out for that help give peace of mind that your flooring is made from eco-friendly and non-toxic natural materials include:
You should try to only give your hard-earned dollar to companies who commit to ethical business practices.
If the company holds any of the following certifications, it’s a sign that they take its responsibility to the entire supply chain seriously:
Replacing your flooring every few years is unsustainable. Both environmentally and financially!
Choose a flooring option that will last you decades. The longer it stays down on your floor, the more eco-friendly it is.
When the time comes to replace your flooring, what happens to it then? Ideally, you want a product that can be reused or recycled.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gasses from certain materials used in flooring.
These emissions can cause short and long-term health effects, so it’s important to choose products with low or no VOCs.
Products certified as low or no-VOC usually have certifications (usually FloorScore or GREENGUARD) prominently displayed on their website or packaging.
The installation method you choose can also have an impact on the eco-friendliness of your flooring.
For example, choosing a floating floor over a glued-down option means that the floor can be taken up and reused more quickly if you move house or decide to change things up in the future.
Bamboo is a fantastic eco-friendly flooring option because it’s so sustainable. It grows quickly (full maturity in around five years…compared to over 20 years for most trees) and doesn’t require any chemicals or pesticides to thrive.
Bamboo flooring is incredibly durable, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas. It’s also naturally antibacterial, making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.
Finding certified sustainable bamboo is not always easy, but it’s worth the extra effort to find a sustainable product.
Linoleum is an ’old school’ flooring option that’s often overlooked, but it’s actually very eco-friendly. It’s made from biodegradable materials like linseed oil, cork dust, pine resin, and wood flour.
Linoleum is also durable, easy to clean, water-resistant, and fire retardant, making it an excellent choice for busy families looking for safe, low-maintenance flooring.
Cork is being used in the clothing industry as a sustainable fabric, so it stands to reason that you can also use it as eco-friendly flooring.
Eco-friendly cork flooring is becoming very popular for green builds. The cork oak tree is harvested without harming the tree, so it’s an entirely renewable resource.
It’s fire-resistant, anti-microbial, and can even repel insects…making it an excellent option for those with allergies.
Cork floors are very comfortable to walk on, making them an excellent choice for bedrooms and living rooms.
Cork is not as durable as some other flooring options, so you might want to think twice about using it for high-traffic areas.
Many different types of tiles can be used as flooring, including:
Concrete is a trendy flooring choice these days, and for good reason. It’s durable, easy to care for, and stylish (especially when polished to a glossy finish).
Concrete is a natural product made from limestone, sand, and water. It has a small carbon footprint.
Concrete floors can help improve your home’s indoor air quality as they absorb pollutants and toxins.
Traditional hardwood flooring is a classic choice that can add warmth and character to any home.
There are three main types of hardwood flooring:
Whatever type of wooden flooring you go for, try to ensure that it comes from a Forest Stewardship Council certified forest.
Softwood flooring is a fantastic eco-friendly choice as it’s made from renewable timber.
Pine is by far the most popular choice for softwood flooring. It grows well in the U.S., so it’s easy to source locally.
It’s also relatively easy to install and maintain, making it a popular choice for many homeowners.
Softwood is not as durable as some of the other options in this article, so it might not be the best choice if you have high-traffic areas in your home.
However, this softness means that softwood flooring is easy to sand and reprotect when it looks worn.
Vinyl plank flooring is popular because it’s durable, easy to install, and low maintenance.
However, vinyl flooring is made from plastic, so I deliberated for quite some time whether or not to include it.
I decided to include it due to its longevity. It can last decades. This long life reduces the need to replace with new flooring and thus eliminates the emissions and resource use associated with replacing flooring unnecessarily.
There are also recycled vinyl options that take the eco-friendliness of this flooring option to the next level!
Laminate floors have a reputation for being unsustainable and are another option I wrestled with for quite some time before deciding to include it in this article.
Modern laminate flooring has started using more sustainable and recyclable materials. UK flooring website BestAtFlooring reports that around 85% of modern laminate flooring can be recycled.
Carpet is probably the most well-known type of flooring and has come a long way in terms of eco-credentials over the past few decades. You can now buy carpets made from natural and biodegradable fibers, such as:
These natural fibers are biodegradable and renewable, making them an excellent choice for eco-conscious homeowners.
You can also get carpets made from recycled materials, such as recycled plastic bottles or post-consumer waste.
Carpets have a few drawbacks, however. It’s not the most durable option, and it can be challenging to clean. It’s also not the best choice for allergies, as it can trap dust and other allergens.
Leather flooring is now a thing! Who knew?
Its construction is similar to that of engineered hardwood. However, instead of the top layer being hardwood, treated and protected leather is used.
Leather flooring is often warm and soft to the touch and has excellent sound-dampening qualities.
For leather flooring to be eco-friendly, it needs to be made with recycled or deadstock leather.
Deadstock leather is brand new leather that is left over from manufacturing another product (a leather sofa, for example) that would otherwise end up in the trash.
Rubber is a fantastic eco-friendly flooring option for several reasons:
There are a few things to keep in mind with rubber flooring, though:
My eldest daughter is crazy about soccer and bugs me at least once a week to rip up her carpet and replace it with artificial grass, so it looks like a soccer field.
Unfortunately (for her!), the carpet in her room is perfectly fine and doesn’t need replacing anytime soon.
However, I can see why artificial grass is making its way inside the home. It makes a statement and looks pretty cool.
Yes, some artificial grass is made from virgin plastic, which is a big no-no in terms of sustainability.
However, if you go for a recycled option (or even buy second-hand and give a new lease of life to a product destined for landfill), it’s definitely an eco-friendly option.
Another product designed initially for outside but now making its way inside is composite decking.
Made from recycled plastic and wood fiber, it’s a popular choice for decks and patios because it requires little maintenance and is very durable.
These qualities are also appreciated inside the house or in outbuildings.
I saved a bunch of composite decking from a local commercial project from going to a landfill last year and used it to floor my garden office/gym/man cave!
It looks good, is incredibly hard wearing, and is a breeze to keep clean.
Most of the time, floors with a nontoxic seal or finish have the lowest VOC levels. Solid hardwood floors, polished concrete, and tile flooring, for example.
The best eco-friendly flooring options are the ones you already have in your home. Only replacing things when absolutely necessary is a key element of sustainability.
That said, if you are in the market for new environmentally friendly flooring, there are plenty of options.
One thing to watch out for is the extra products you need to fit your flooring of choice. Make sure they’re as eco-friendly and non-toxic as the flooring.
For example, buying VOC-free tiles means nothing if you then use a toxic sealant and grout.
I hope this article has helped you narrow down your choices and find the perfect flooring for your next eco-friendly refurb.
What are your go-to sustainable flooring options? Have I missed your favorite? Drop me a line and let me know.