Specialty Floor Types
Repair & Care Of Floors
Green Building - Eco Friendly Flooring
What's A Person To Believe?
I won't get into all the labels being created today that attempt to differentiate what is green and what is not. Frankly I am not familiar enough to offer an opinion. What we often do not hear is what product or products are green for the environment. From the raw material to the manufacturing process, transportation effects, and finally to your floor. Essentially what effect the product you have chosen has affected the environment from every stage of it's development into finished flooring.
The Environment Before
I am sure many have heard of the devastating effects deforestation has had around the globe. From slash and burn forests to absolute disregard for our children and their children. Trees and water provide an enormous amount of benefits for the entire earth's eco system. Without it and ...you've probably heard the stories. Are manufacturers giving us the straight scoop on managed forests and the like? Yes, and no, but there's so much confusion because the green movement is relatively new and other aspects are involved.
Sure, the worlds population is growing. Developing countries need cleared areas for farming. Didn't the United States do the same thing when they were a developing nation in the 18th and 19th century?
Many green groups do not perform a proper analysis of what is happening during the manufacturing process. With the explosive production of hardwood flooring done in China today, perhaps we're thinking..."it's not our problem, but theirs." China has actually taken drastic steps protecting their forests with outright bans on logging in many areas. This was implemented after it was determined excessive logging contributed to the the problems associated with the floods along the Yangtze River in 1998.
Now a large amount of hardwood being manufactured into hardwood flooring actually originates in the USA as raw logs. The same is true of a lot of furniture these days. Exports have risen dramatically over the last ten years alone (2010). Sure this helps American loggers, but have we figured in the damage this is causing to the eco system of the oceans?
Those same logs we export to China come back as finished flooring and furniture. Transportation on the high seas is a subject rarely discussed with green flooring. Common cargo ships emit some of the dirtiest forms of pollution on the planet, while using bunker fuel as an energy source. Where does it go? Into the atmosphere and eventually falling into the oceans choking off marine life that produces an enormous amount of oxygen.
I was particularly impressed when I came across a story recently about the maiden voyage of a cargo ship using wind power. Yes, it's that simple! Before putting this article together I thought the same thing, albeit in the form of actual sailing ships roaming the high seas again. Tree Hugger reports the first successful hybrid ocean cargo vessel using a combination of fuel and wind power (shown right).
It's ideas like these that could balance the ill effects of increased international shipping. In summary, the first trans Atlantic hybrid cargo ship saved 20% on fuel usage.
Life Cycle Of Flooring
Life cycles are often reported by some green organizations. The longevity of products chosen is beneficial to the environment as we would not be dumping as many products into our landfills. Hardwood flooring is especially attractive in it's solid format. Expected use can run well into one hundred years depending on how many times the flooring will be refinished.
Older antique floors can last well past that period, specifically ones that are not tongue and groove. Many exist today and can be found in older colonial homes. These floors are protected by the elements such as decay and rot. Engineered floors on the other hand may have a limited life span, but will depend on the actual wear layer it was manufactured with.
Engineered Flooring Made In The USA
There are a few companies making great inroads in saving more trees buy way of utilizing waste products from milling. I'm specifically looking at sawdust and shavings. Previously, some companies used these waste products to heat their lumber kilns by way of burning. Others, but not all, simply shipped them off to local power plants so they could be turned into power by way of burning again. Still, even more just dumped it.
The new eco shakers in flooring manufacturing are now using these same waste products for use in the underlying makeup of the flooring. Some terms include high density fiber board. Previously, these products were constructed of additional forms of hardwood and softwood (depends on manufacturer) by way of veneers. This process meant more lumber was needed, or more trees cut down for that purpose.
But Isn't Bamboo, Cork and Lyptus Green Friendly?
Sure, they're considered sustainable green building products, but where are they grown? And how far are they transported until they reach your home? Once again, transoceanic voyages are required. I don't know of any large successful bamboo, cork, or Eucalyptus plantations in the continental USA. Eucalyptus has been tried according to this story.
What The Purest Form Of Green Flooring?
Mud, straw, stone, or other natural resources that are closest to your property is my view on the greenest type. Why? Although it will be undoubtedly argued, most of the greenness associated with products today should include what it takes to get the final product, not to mention the longevity.
For instance, if you're seeking wood floors, the greenest option is cutting your own trees down with an axe, drying it in the open air, then sawing it into flooring by hand like the original settlers did centuries ago. Sounds like a great idea. After all, many are spending large amounts of money today for facsimile distressed hardwood floors that mimic the centuries old appearance. Considering some of the retail prices I've seen you would probably come out ahead!
I've been known to come up with some off the wall ideas. In reality you could hire some day labor and set up a saw stand for cutting planks into flooring. You're actually doing a few things that benefits the eco system and keeping jobs in the USA. There are no transportation costs getting the flooring to you and less skilled people could be employed. Granted it's a dirty and very labor intensive job, but some brilliant person should be able to devise a better mousetrap here.
I'm looking at this from the purest form that does not include modern power sources needed to mill. I've also excluded the use of most items related to the industrial revolution or powered by natural resources that are fixed or not considered a sustainable resource. Stones, can be considered non sustainable, but I don't think we'll ever run out of them; same with mud. Straw! Now there's a possibility.
Okay Maybe Not In Your Backyard...but
Another form of green flooring when looking at the effect of manufacturing to the final product is unfinished wood flooring. Nearly every state in the USA has smaller lumber mills. Some may actually bring the logs from a nearby location. Hands down, it beats buying Asian hardwoods that have seen two trans oceanic voyages before it gets on your floor.