Your floor is one of the largest surface areas in your home. And while you may not spend a whole lot of time on the floor, your baby will. Babies crawl on the floor, touching it with their hands, their knees, their bellies, and often, their faces! And as much as you try to control where your baby will crawl, you will soon find her getting into places you never expected. Even after the crawling stage, toddlers and young children spend the majority of their time sitting, resting, and playing on the floor.
Most floor covering, whether its carpet, tile, or finished wood, is manufactured with synthetic materials, adhesives, binders, coatings, and backings that contain VOCs that cause indoor air pollution and are hazardous to your family's health.
Traditional flooring is also damaging to the environment as the extraction of raw materials, processing of materials, and manufacture and transportation of it all add up to high consumption of energy and resources and a huge production of waste. Disposal of old flooring is an ecological nightmare as synthetic flooring does not degrade in a landfill. When you are searching for flooring, your priorities might be durability, comfort, aesthetics, hygiene, stain resistance, etc. Why not add nontoxic to that list as well?
Adding hardwood floors or cabinets to a room? Use reclaimed or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)–certified wood to minimize your impact on old-growth forests. FSC-certified wood comes from forests that have been man-aged sustainably to protect the forest, the availability of wood resources, and the local economy. Reclaimed wood is high-quality wood that has been salvaged from other demolished or renovated buildings. You or your contractor can find reclaimed wood at building material exchange stores or via online sources such as Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) or Freecycle (www.freecycle.org). Reclaimed wood reduces the use of virgin materials, eases the burden on landfills, and often costs less than new materials.
Rapidly Renewable Flooring
The swell of eco-design has brought with it a number of renewable flooring options such as bamboo, cork, and natural linoleum. These options are considered rapidly renewable because they come from plants that can be grown, harvested, and replanted quickly with minimal disturbance to the environment. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that is as beautiful and durable as hardwood. Cork is harvested from the outer bark of the cork oak tree. Cork can also be used as an underlayment or as a wall covering to reduce noise between rooms. Natural linoleum is produced from such materials as cork, wood flour, and linseed oil.
Conventional carpeting is often produced using a slew of chemicals that off-gas into your home for months after installation. Your best bet is to steer clear of carpets altogether or minimize their use by choosing area rugs in place of wall to wall carpeting. When you do purchase carpets and rugs, look for products that are labeled as emitting low or very-low levels of toxins such as acetaldehyde, benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene, toluene, and vinyl acetate.