Which of the green floors is best for your home? If your ecological conscience has been nagging you to make a lower impact on the environment, you need not look any further than where you’re standing.
First, it should be noted that two major offenders against the green floor movement, traditional carpet and PVC (or vinyl) flooring are in the shop for some major eco-overhauls. Unacceptable levels of chemical emissions from vinyl, and the allergy-inducing dust collection and chemical additives of carpet have forced a few new formulae from the scientists, and have brought a few new products to the fore.
Cork and bamboo are among the products that have emerged recently as the “greenest.” And neither is really new to the flooring industry, to be honest. It’s just that both of these materials have lots to offer when it comes to the responsible use of natural resources, human health concerns, and good, old-fashioned practicality.
Both bamboo and cork, as plants, are considered renewable resources, though in different ways. Bamboo grass forests are harvested every five years or so, and there is no replanting necessary. Bamboo plants grow fast and the forest replenishes itself. Cork, on the other hand, which is simply the thick bark of the cork oak tree, can be stripped approximately every ten years, without damaging the tree. A substantial amount of the material is also recovered from post-industrial bottle corks, and recycled.
Bamboo as a flooring material, other than its processing and appearance, is quite similar to traditional hardwood. Cut into strips and boiled, before being glued and pressed into planks, bamboo is almost as hard a most traditional woods used for flooring, and provides a smooth, durable, and stainable surface.
Cork used for floors is also stainable, as well as hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial, and insect resistant, and it has natural cushioning, sound-, and temperature-insulation properties due to its internal cellular structure. Though it can be expensive because it’s a slow-growing import, cork can be combined with a top veneer that can be made to imitate other materials.
Both cork and bamboo can be made to match the style of your home. Each is durable, functional, and has the advantage of being a renewable, “green” resource. Cork offers a few more amenities, but at a cost. So where you stand when it comes to what’s best for your home is up to you.