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Eco friendly flooring: Stylish and sustainable options for your home

When it comes to eco-friendly flooring options, there's a wide range to choose from. Whether it's bamboo, cork, or reclaimed hardwood, there are numerous beautiful and long-lasting possibilities.

Being environmentally conscious has never been more important. Not only are green products and practices helping to make the world a better place, but by incorporating sustainable materials in your home, you could help to add value too. In other words, opting for eco flooring is a done deal.

But what are your options when it comes to sustainable flooring? And what should you be looking for?

Here, we’ll explore everything to do with eco flooring, so you can build an environmentally-friendly home from the ground up.

What is eco-friendly flooring?

Eco-friendly flooring, also known as ecological flooring or environmentally-friendly flooring, is flooring that has as little impact as possible on the environment.

Usually, eco flooring is sourced from natural materials and not made with chemicals.

That said, eco-friendly flooring isn’t just about the materials the flooring is made of. It’s also about where it’s come from. For instance, consider whether the manufacturer uses sustainable practices.

Similarly, flooring that’s not made from renewable materials could still be seen as eco-friendly if it’s been reused or recycled.

What to look for in eco flooring

So, you’re sold on using eco flooring for your home, but where do you start? Here are some things to consider when you’re looking at eco-friendly flooring options.

  • Material. Is the flooring made form natural and renewable resources?
  • Ethics. Does the manufacturer source their products sustainably? Do they use recycled materials?
  • Lifecycle. Long-lasting floors are better for the environment – even if your floor is made from natural materials, it can still cause harm to the environment if you throw it away after a few years, especially if it’s not biodegradable
  • Toxicity. Materials that have a high level of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are bad for air quality (including adhesives or finishes). Choosing materials with low VOC levels will be better for the planet and your own health too!

Eco-friendly flooring options

When it comes to sustainable flooring, here are some materials to consider.

  • Cork
  • Bamboo
  • Rubber
  • Wool carpet
  • Carpet made of recycled plastic bottles
  • Glass tiles

Best sustainable flooring options

There’s no one best eco-friendly flooring option. Instead, the best sustainable flooring for you will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • Aesthetics. Consider your tastes and what vision you have for your home
  • Budget. Some eco-friendly flooring options are pricier than others
  • Room of the house. Some rooms will have special flooring needs, for instance, bathroom flooring will need to be resistant to water
  • Durability. Think about how durable your flooring needs to be – for instance, is it for a high-traffic area?

Bamboo flooring is an eco-friendly all-rounder

Bamboo is a sustainable material because it grows fast (some say too fast!), making it harvestable after only a few years. As a result, bamboo flooring is an eco-friendly option that’s gaining popularity as quickly as it shoots up.

Bamboo flooring is a great alternative to hardwood because it’s strong, durable, and attractive. Furthermore, it has a high Janka rating, which means it’s resistant to dents and scratches. This makes it perfect for high-traffic areas and households with pets.

Just bear in mind that most bamboo comes from tropical or subtropical regions. So, depending on where you live, getting your hands on it might involve high emission levels through the distribution process.

Find out how much bamboo flooring is likely to cost you.

Consider cork for an eco-friendly kitchen flooring

Cork flooring is another eco-friendly option for your home, and it’s one that’s making a comeback. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, which regenerates after being harvested. As a result, it’s a naturally sustainable option for your flooring. (As long as growers leave the trees to recover).

Cork flooring is also durable and water-resistant, making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. Not only that, but it has a unique look and can add warmth and tranquillity to any room.

Check out our cork flooring installation cost guide for more information.

Cork flooring price per square foot

Reclaim your eco-friendly hardwood flooring

Reclaimed hardwood flooring involves repurposing wood from old structures (e.g., barns and factories) and turning it into fancy flooring.

Due to its unique look, which is often a mix of old and new wood, reclaimed hardwood is becoming an increasingly popular option for people who want something different to everyone else.

However, the fact it’s environmentally friendly, has a lower carbon footprint than new hardwood flooring, and doesn’t require harvesting any trees doesn’t hurt either!

Linoleum can be eco-friendly too

Linoleum is currently making a comeback, and rightly so! While it’s often associated with vinyl, the two are like chalk and cheese when it comes to renewability.

Linoleum is made entirely of biodegradable materials like linseed oil, tree resin and cork dust – all materials that are highly renewable. Better still, it’s flame retardant, resistant to moisture, durable and even comes in a wide range of colours and designs.

The downside? Linoleum is more expensive than vinyl flooring. We’d say it’s worth the extra to save the planet though!

Linoleum flooring is durable and water-resistant, making it perfect for high-traffic areas prone to splashes and spills. It also comes in a variety of colours and patterns, which means it works with any type of decor.

Is there eco-friendly vinyl flooring?

A lot of vinyl flooring contains high levels of VOCs. Plus, vinyl isn’t a renewable material. So, as a general rule, it’s best avoided if you’re looking for eco flooring.

That said, in recent years, many brands have made it their mission to reduce the impact that producing vinyl has on the environment.

For example, some brands now incorporate natural materials like chalk in the production of their vinyl. And many incorporate recycled PVC, helping to extend the lifecycle of existing products. Brands that specialise in eco-friendly vinyl flooring also try to minimise their use of VOCs as much as possible.

Another benefit of vinyl flooring is that it’s extremely durable. Not only does this mean it won’t have to be replaced for a long time, but it also makes it ripe for reusing. Some companies even produce recyclable vinyl flooring.

Luxury vinyl tiles cost around £35 per m2 for mid-end quality, although brands that make sustainability a core focus are likely to be on the higher end pricing-wise.

Consider recycled rubber flooring

Eco-friendly flooring for bathrooms isn’t the easiest to find. However, recycled rubber flooring is durable, slip-resistant, splash and stain-proof. This makes it perfect for bathrooms, high-traffic areas, and households with children or pets.

Rubber flooring is sustainable because it’s made from recycled rubber (e.g., old tyres), which keeps this durable material out of landfills. It’s also popular due to its unique look and the variety of colours and patterns it comes in.

Related: Bathroom flooring ideas: Inspiration for materials, non-slip and vinyl flooring.

Eco friendly flooring guide - chocolate labrador lies on a wood floor

The most sustainable wood flooring types

How sustainable is the wood you’re choosing for your flooring? For example, did you know that some wood species are endangered while others are sourced from poorly managed forests?

These are important considerations when choosing the right wood, some of which are considered more sustainable than other wood flooring types. Let’s take a look at the top eco-friendly wood floors below.

White oak

White oak is both durable and timeless, making it a popular choice for homeowners. It’s also considered sustainable as it’s widely available and grows in various regions across the world. As white oak is slow-growing, it’s denser and more durable than other types of oak, meaning it’s less prone to cracks and warping.

Even so, when choosing white oak flooring, look for an FSC certification so you know the wood is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Maple

Maple is another sustainable option for wood flooring. Unlike white oak, it’s a fast-growing and widely available tree, making it sustainable due to its abundance. Maple is also durable and able to withstand heavy foot traffic, which is ideal for high-traffic areas in your home.

Like white oak, when choosing maple flooring, check it has an FSC certification so you know it’s sourced from a responsibly managed forest.

Bamboo

As mentioned above, bamboo is a sustainable option for flooring that’s rapidly gaining popularity. Technically, it’s not a wood; it’s a fast-growing grass that becomes harvestable in only a few years. However, it acts like wood and is highly renewable, making it one of the most sustainable options for eco-friendly flooring.

Like white oak and maple, when choosing bamboo flooring, look for an FSC certification or other certifications such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Cork

Cork is a sustainable option for flooring that is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree. The tree isn’t cut down during harvesting and the bark regenerates, making it a highly renewable resource. Cork is also naturally resistant to water and insects, making it a durable and bug-free flooring option.

When choosing cork flooring, it’s also important to look for an associated FSC certification so you know it’s been sourced from a responsibly managed forest. By choosing sustainable wood flooring options, you can do your part to promote sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint, all while enjoying the beauty and durability of natural wood flooring.

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What’s the best eco friendly bathroom flooring?

Bathroom flooring tends to get exposed to high levels of humidity, and will need to be able to withstand splashes and spills. So, when it comes to the bathroom, we’d suggest looking for eco-friendly waterproof flooring.

Here are a few eco-friendly bathroom flooring options.

  • Recycled glass tiles are about as eco-friendly as you can get. They’re also impervious to water and resistant to stains, mould, and mildew, making them ideal for high-traffic areas like showers
  • Stone tiles are durable and don’t require much processing, making for a good eco-friendly flooring option. Stone’s natural texture also makes it slip-resistant – ideal for a bathroom!
  • Rubber is naturally water-resistant and easy to clean. It’s also an anti-slip material, which makes it perfect for households with young children
  • Linoleum is water-resistant as well as being biodegradable and made from natural materials. So, it’s a decent eco-friendly bathroom flooring option

What’s the best sustainable kitchen flooring?

Kitchen flooring needs to be durable enough to withstand heavy foot traffic. And, at the heart of the home, it needs to look great as well.

Depending on your household, it might have other boxes to tick too – for instance, do you need it to work with underfloor heating? Do you have the time to maintain and seal a floor regularly?

Here are a few ideas for sustainable kitchen flooring:

  • Engineered wood flooring has a thin veneer of finished wood backed by several layers of more wood. This makes it less likely to warp when faced with temperature changes or humidity
  • Linoleum flooring is not just made of natural materials, but it’s also inherently antimicrobial – a handy trait for a kitchen!
  • Cork flooring is warm and comfortable underfoot, which is handy in a room we stand in for long periods of time. Although it’s not waterproof, it is water-resistant and hypoallergenic. Just watch out because cork flooring isn’t great with underfloor heating
  • Rubber flooring is great in high-traffic areas and absorbs impact. So, it’s another good choice for a room where you stand a lot. As a bonus, it’s also easy to clean
  • Polished concrete flooring might not immediately sound like an eco-friendly choice. However, if your home uses concrete as a foundation like most do, polishing existing concrete can avoid any further materials from being introduced, including VOCs. It’s also energy efficient, easy to clean and looks great!

Environmentally friendly flooring finishes

You wouldn’t wash your face with soap and then moisturise with acid, just like you wouldn’t choose eco-friendly flooring and coat it in chemicals. It’s important to consider an eco-friendly wood floor finish. Here are some options:

  • Water-based finishes: Low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are chemicals that harm the environment and your health, water-based finishes are non-toxic with a low odour
  • Natural oil finishes: Made from natural oils such as linseed or tung oil, they’re non-toxic, have a low odour, and penetrate the wood for a natural look and feel
  • Wax finishes: Made from natural materials such as beeswax or carnauba wax, they give the wood a natural sheen and are non-toxic, easy to maintain, and have a low odour

Eco friendly flooring for your home

Eco-friendly flooring ratings and certifications

Look for these environmental ratings when choosing your wood floors:

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a certification that ensures the wood used in the flooring comes from responsibly managed forests. FSC-certified wood is harvested sustainably to make sure the forest’s biodiversity is protected, as well as the associated ecosystem services and economic livelihoods.

Green Label Plus

Green Label Plus is a certification that assures the consumer the associated flooring has low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The certification means the flooring won’t release harmful chemicals into the air, which improves indoor air quality and promotes a healthy living environment. Good news for people who suffer from asthma!

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) makes sure the associated flooring is made from organic materials, the manufacturing process is environmentally responsible, the flooring is free from harmful chemicals, and the production process meets specific environmental and social criteria

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

PEFC is an international certification system that promotes sustainable forest management practices and ensures that the wood used in flooring comes from responsibly managed forests.

Cradle to Cradle Certified (C2C)

C2C looks at the environmental and social impact of products throughout their entire lifecycle, from production to disposal. It assesses factors such as material health, recyclability, and social responsibility.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

LEED evaluates the sustainability of buildings and interiors. They include criteria for flooring such as the use of sustainable materials, low-emitting products, and recycled content.

Final thoughts

Choosing eco-friendly flooring as an option is a great way to support sustainable designs and reduce your carbon footprint. There are many options available, including bamboo, cork, reclaimed hardwood, linoleum, and recycled rubber flooring.

When selecting flooring options, it’s essential to look for environmental certifications such as FSC, Green Label Plus, and GOTS, which will give you peace of mind that the flooring you choose is environmentally responsible.

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FAQs

What is the most eco-friendly flooring in the UK?

Bamboo is widely considered one of the most eco-friendly flooring materials. However, the most eco-friendly flooring option for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

It’s important to consider factors such as durability, cost, and maintenance requirements before making a decision. Why not talk to a flooring expert who’ll be able to help you work out the best option for your needs?

What is the least toxic flooring?

Cork is a natural material that doesn’t emit harmful VOCs. It’s also hypoallergenic, antimicrobial and resistant to mould and mildew.

Natural stone, such as slate, granite, or marble, is also a non-toxic and durable flooring option, which is also easy to clean and maintain.

NB: Even low-toxicity flooring options may emit some level of chemicals, so we recommended choosing a flooring option that’s certified as low-emitting by third-party organisations such as BREEAM, GreenGuard, IAC, or FloorScore.

Proper ventilation during installation and ongoing maintenance will help minimise any potential exposure to harmful chemicals.

What flooring has the lowest carbon footprint?

The flooring options with the lowest carbon footprint are those that are made from natural and renewable materials, have a low impact on the environment during production, and can be recycled or biodegraded at the end of their life.

Related: 5 eco-friendly bathroom ideas

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