Instead of standard carpeting, consider these environmentally-friendly options.
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To qualify as eco-flooring, a finish must be made from natural, sustainably sourced products. Many wooden flooring types fall into this category, but this page concentrates on the soft types of flooring similar to carpet. The main options are listed here.
Linoleum is more environmentally friendly than vinyl flooring as its basic ingredient is linseed oil. It is also popular for its nonallergenic qualities.
Traditionally, linoleum is laid in a similar way to vinyl. It must, however, be stuck down, making it a harder job. Some linoleum can be bought on a wood-backing and is laid in a similar way to clip-together flooring.
Although wood is a natural product, for it to be an eco-friendly choice it is important to check that it is either reclaimed, sustainably sourced, or even made from recycled lumber products. Eco-friendly alternatives to conventional wood flooring, such as bamboo, are increasingly viable.
Bamboo is both durable and sustainable, and some bamboo flooring is similar in appearance to standard clip-together flooring. It can be laid floating, or stuck down, and can also be made into slats (as shown) — which are commonly used for rugs rather than fixed flooring.
This is made from the leaves of the Agave sisalana plant. The leaves are crushed and soaked to extract the fibers, and then spun into yarn.
Properties: Probably the most versatile natural flooring for variety of design, comfort, and use. There is a wide range to choose from, varying from very tight to quite open-weave designs, in a choice of many colors.
Where to use: Its hardwearing nature means sisal can be used in most areas of the home. Best avoided in bathrooms and kitchens, as water causes fiber to expand and contract, damaging the appearance.
As the name suggests, this is a composite of sisal and wool, which creates a dual-fiber floor covering with two distinctive textures.
Properties: Combining sisal and wool makes for a more flexible material than raw sisal. The wool provides softness, while the sisal offers excellent durability.
Where to use: Can be used in most areas of the home, but manufacturers tend to advise against kitchen and bathroom use. Natural floor coverings usually have a natural latex backing; sisool is normally backed with jute.
This is twisted to form a yarn that is then woven into a floor covering. Some manufacturers combine paper with sisal.
Properties: This has a very different look to other natural floor coverings. Resins are often added to make this flooring more hardwearing, and to protect the fibers.
Where to use: Suitable for most areas, some paper flooring can even be used in bathrooms, as it is water repellent. However, exposure to standing water should be avoided.
There are a number of varieties of seagrass. Most commonly produced in paddy fields that are flooded with seawater, it is then harvested, dried, and made into yarn.
Properties: Seagrass offers a very strong yarn. It is hard to dye, and the colors are often limited, but its waxy surface makes it naturally stain-resistant. It gives off a very grassy smell.
Where to use: Suitable for most domestic situations, seagrass is quite impermeable to water, making it possible to use in a bathroom. Standing water should be avoided.
Made from the husk of coconut shells, coir is removed from the shell, soaked, and pounded before being dried and woven into a wiry yarn.
Properties: Short, hard fibers give this a raw, unprocessed look. It is incredibly hardwearing and durable.
Where to use: Ideally used in busy areas such as hallways and landings, this is not suitable for moist areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. It is commonly used for entrance mats.
A product of the Corchorus plant family and a close relation to hemp, the inner stems of jute are soaked, pounded and then dried to provide a soft fiber for the yarn.
Properties: Jute is very soft to the touch, and it's comfortable to walk on. The softness allows it to be woven into a number of designs relatively easily.
Where to use: Jute is hardwearing, but should not be used in bathrooms and kitchens, as humidity and damp damages fibers very quickly. It is often used in bedrooms, and other less-busy domestic areas.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009