If you’re looking into renovating your home, getting on board with the sustainability and eco-friendly trends might not be as economically straining as you might have thought initially. More and more alternatives are making their way into the market, and some are truly inspirational stories once you get to know them a bit better.
As we’re heading towards a pandemic-free world, the sooner, the better. If you ask me, we are more prone to look at natural alternatives and stray away from man-made products.
Seeing as ever since the industrial revolution began, we’ve been slowly implementing polluting substances into every product we purchase, consume, and throw away seems like a natural cycle. Now that we are increasingly more aware of humankind’s negative impact on the environment, we want to fix it.
When we started polluting the environment, we did not consider just how difficult it is to clean it and how much ill will is behind the fossil fuel industry. While the general public shouts and screams for a cleaner future, the desires of the few have more power.
Still, regarding kitchen trends, we can see that eco-friendly options are available and growing in demand. The best thing about it is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Brilliant minds that came before us already did. All we have to do is rediscover it.
What is Eco-Friendly Flooring?
When we think about eco-friendly flooring, we have to look at the materials used. For something to be eco-friendly, it must not harm the environment.
Another consideration is sustainability. Is it ethically sourced? Are the materials renewable? Does the production harm the environment with toxic chemicals?
When you look at wood flooring, you’ll think that that’s a tree that has been cut down. However, wood is one of the most abundant resources in the world. When sourced ethically from sustainably managed forests, wood is eco-friendly.
However, wood isn’t eco-friendly when secular forests are cut down without new ones taking their place. The reason is simple. One tree only reaches net 0 greenhouse gas emissions once it grows for 30 years. Before that, it has a negative environmental impact.
Choosing the most eco-friendly option for your home may not always be as easy as you think. There are a lot of costs when it comes to buying a house, and renovating is an extra one. To go eco, you will need to think about prices, sources, interior design styles, and what type of performance you want from your flooring.
We’ll get into more details on each kind of natural kitchen flooring precisely for that reason. Whether it’s wood, cork, bamboo, tile, glass, or stone, let’s see what sets them apart and what makes each one of them shine.
Innovative Eco-Friendly Options: Bamboo and Cork
When it comes to eco-friendly flooring, we can not delve into the materials and not start with bamboo and cork. Both of these materials come 100% from nature.
They are made from some of the most renewable and fast-growing resources available on the planet that have a much lower environmental impact than wood.
Bamboo flooring is an excellent alternative for wood or other man-made materials in the kitchen, and, in this state, bamboo is eco-friendly. It is durable, can be refinished just like hardwood floors, and comes in a wide variety of shades.
The bamboo used for flooring doesn’t require toxic chemical treatments to change its structure, as with textile bamboo. It has to be strong.
As it only needs 3 to 5 years to mature, the environmental impact of harvesting is limited and can successfully replace wood in flooring. Still, we must consider some things with bamboo flooring:
- Bamboo grows in China, and Latin America and the distance it has to cover to get to your home increases its carbon footprint.
- The glues used in manufacturing bamboo flooring can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or not.
- Harvesting methods can vary, and clearcutting or deforestation is environmentally damaging.
- Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification that guarantees its environmentally responsible manufacturing process.
Cork flooring is also similar to wood but has a lower impact on the environment, just like bamboo. While it does come from a tree, it only uses its bark, allowing it to continue to grow. The tree’s bark regenerates in 3 to 12 years and can be harvested for up to 250 years. The best part about cork is that it can also come from recycled wine corks.
While cork offers a cushiony feeling without a resistant finish, it might not be the most suitable alternative for kitchen flooring. Still, it provides the same resilience as stone with the right finish. Things to consider before installing cork flooring:
- The carbon footprint from shipping the material can be substantial as it has to be brought from the Mediterranean coast or northern Africa.
- VOCs are a concern because of the stains and finishes available for cork flooring.
- The FSC guarantees environmental and social standards, just like they do for bamboo.
A Blast from the Past: Linoleum and Refinished Flooring
We get the lowest environmental impact flooring from flooring practices of the past. Something old can be refinished, reused, or rediscovered.
Some things from the past received a bad rep because they are misunderstood, while others have a much longer life than we usually give them credit for.
Linoleum has been dragged through the mud, disrespected, and mixed up with the wrong sort while staying true to its nature. Many people wrongly call other hard-surface flooring options linoleum, and even if they are not the same, people treat them the same way. This is linoleum discrimination, and it gives lino a lousy name.
In contrast, laminate and vinyl (often confused with linoleum) are made from synthetic, man-made materials based on petroleum and plastics. Linoleum is 100% natural. To create linoleum, few ingredients are necessary, and they are all-natural.
Wood dust, cork dust, powdered limestone, jute fibers, plant resin, and the key element, linseed oil, all come from the planet and need to be scraps to be used for linoleum. Linseed oil hardens to a texture similar to plastic when it dries, and the process is 100% natural.
Linoleum has existed for 150 years and has been pushed out by vinyl flooring. Now, under the name of Marmoleum, it’s making its big comeback with additional help from interior designers and environmentalists working in the industry.
It reportedly has the lowest overall environmental impact and carbon footprint of all flooring materials. I, for one, regret going for laminate flooring the last time I renovated my apartment.
Sustainability through Wood: Engineered and Reclaimed Hardwood
Wood is a renewable resource, but it doesn’t come close to those mentioned above. Its biggest strength from an environmental standpoint is its availability. It can be sourced from anywhere on the globe. The downside, however, is that wood takes a long time to grow, and forestry methods vary across the planet. While solid hardwood flooring is a popular choice, it isn’t the most sustainable option for wood floor lovers.
Engineered hardwood is growing in popularity as of late. Unlike solid hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood doesn’t use wood slabs but hardwood veneer and plywood for the core. Like this, one tree results in more flooring and less waste.
Also, engineered hardwood isn’t limited to oak or other hardwood trees but can be made from faster-growing trees. Still, pay attention to the sealants and glues used, as some may contain VOCs. The FloorScore certification can help you pinpoint the minimum indoor air pollution flooring option on the market.
Reclaimed hardwood gives a new life to old wood, which is great. No other trees need to be cut down to source this material, and it also takes care of the waste from old buildings that are renovated or demolished.
Pay attention to lead paints or other toxic finishes commonly used in the past. Refinishing should be done, but VOCs are a concern again. Don’t replace old hardwood flooring when available, but polish and refinish it. It’s the most sustainable flooring option.
Enduring Environmental Choice: Glass, Porcelain, Ceramic, and Stone Tile
We have to stop disrespecting tiles. This low- to no-emission product is made from natural or recycled materials that don’t pollute the environment and provide durability in their most natural form.
If you think about it, tiles have such a wide variety of coloring, styles, shapes, sizes, and applications that you could design your whole home interior with them and have it be sustainable. Some of the variants are described below.
Glass tile is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly flooring materials as it’s most often resources from recycled glass. It’s aesthetically unmatchable and reflects light to brighten any room, limiting energy costs.
It isn’t limited to flooring, and its only drawback is that glass is not the strongest material compared to other types of tile.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are made from clay exposed to high temperatures to get their durability. It provides a cool floor in summer weather, decreasing the need for air conditioning, and has a long life cycle that can be prolonged further through recycling.
Stone tile is made from stone. That much is simple. We can use anything from marble to quartz, but you must pay attention to mining practices and shipping carbon footprint. Without VOC containing adhesives and sealants, stone tile doesn’t pollute the air or the environment.
Go Back to Nature
There are more available options for kitchen flooring. Still, we decided to focus on kitchen flooring trends on the rise because of the environmental awareness trends that have impacted every industry lately.
It’s about time to figure out ways to decrease the number of plastics in everything around us, especially seeing that these options have been around since before plastic was invented in 1907.
Let’s respect nature by rediscovering the options available to use from nature itself. As long as something is responsibly sourced, the fact that it comes from nature and is a natural resource should not make us turn away.
We should turn our back on anything that contains plastic as a tree can grow and decompose in nature while we still have plastics that were made in 1907. Think about it.