Home > Carpets > Green Carpets

Green Carpets

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 3 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Green Carpet Eco-friendly Carpet

Is it possible to choose carpet as flooring and still be environmentally-responsible? Is there such a thing as a “green carpet”? This is a controversial issue that has been debated at length. For some there is confusion over what actually constitutes a “green” carpet. A lot obviously depends on the material it is made from – but even among carpets made of the same material, there can be a great variation in the “green” status depending on how the carpet is installed, what it is treated with and even how it is cleaned.

Conventional Carpets

There is very little doubt that conventional synthetic carpets are very bad for you and the environment. These carpets consist of fibres that are generally made up of synthetic petroleum compounds such as acrylic, nylon, polyester and poluypropyelen and furthermore, they are usually backed by synthetic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane or synthetic SB latex. All of these ingredients are non-sustainable, as well as involving significant energy consumption and pollution in their production. In addition, their synthetic “durability” means that they do no decompose or biodegrade, so that they remain in landfill sites, releasing further toxins into the environment, for decades to come.

Synthetic carpets may also be harmful to you and your family’s health, as well as that of the environment. For example, over 90% of conventional carpets use SB latex which contains a toxin called styrene which may well be carcinogenic. Similarly, PVC has often been the subject of health controversies and in fact, several of its components are now being banned from children’s toys in Europe.

Even if the fibres and backing materials do not contain a specific suspected toxin, the fact that these carpets are often heavily treated with fungicides, fire retardants, dyes, stainproofing and anti-static measures means that they may be continually giving off fumes of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)and other potentially harmful chemicals. Furthermore, conventional carpet installation involves the use of adhesives which are usually full of these harsh chemicals and VOC’s again.

Some have suggested that by installing modular carpet tiles instead of floor-to-floor carpeting, this will present less of a negative impact on the environment as small sections can be replaced as opposed to the entire sheet. However, it must be noted that while this is an improvement, it is still not solving the problems of environmental sustainability and pollution.

Some “Green Carpet” Options

With a bit of research and planning, as well as perhaps a slightly greater financial investment, it is possible to have a “green carpet”.

Recycled Carpet – these carpets are made up of recycled material such as plastic, wool, cotton, nylon and even other used carpet. And some manufacturers can even reclaim a recycled carpet at the end of its lifecycle by recycling it again into a renewed material. Furthermore, even carpet backing or carpet pads can be made from recycled materials, such as recycled nylon. Coupled with eco-friendly installation options, such as tacking the padding down instead of using glue, these recycled backings will help to maintain the “green” status of your recycled carpet.

Wool Carpet – this is the sustainable, 100% biodegradable choice and it is superior in performance to synthetic carpets in many ways. This includes its durability, stain-resistance, richness of texture and plushness and its many natural advantages such as fire resistance and anti-static – which means that it does not have to be treated with as many chemicals. It does have some vulnerabilities – namely to mildew and moths – and there has been some criticism of the treatments applied for these but it is possible to buy untreated carpets. Wool carpets which have jute backing, only use natural dyes, are installed without adhesives and cleaned with plant-based cleaners are the best eco-friendly option.

Plant Fibre Carpets – these completely ‘natural’ carpets involve the use of plant fibres from various species which can be sustainably grown and harvested, and which will be 100% biodegradable when eventually disposed of. The most commonly used and well-known is sisal, which is made from the leaves of a plant that grows in the deserts of Africa and Latin America. Other plant fibre coverings include seagrass, jute and coir (from coconut husks). These are all easy to clean and maintain, provide good sound insulation, do not harbour allergens, are naturally anti-static and extremely durable, as well as providing a uniquely beautiful natural look. However, they cannot replicate that “plush” carpet feeling and while soft underfoot, they can be uncomfortable to sit on for long periods. They are also vulnerable to moisture so may be unsuitable for certain rooms in the house.

All of these “green carpet” options are generally more expensive than standard synthetic carpet but when you consider the cost to your health and to the environment, it may well be worth the extra investment.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Rob
    Re: Eco Friendly Underlay Options
    @steven - Have you got any damp? I think I'd be inclined to take it up and have a look first to see what the issue is. What is…
    5 October 2017
  • steven
    Re: Eco Friendly Underlay Options
    hi. wondering if you can give advice of what to do with a carpet that still smells 'yeasty' more than a year after it was put…
    4 October 2017
  • rosie
    Re: Eco-Friendly Rubber Floor Tiles
    Hi I am looking for a non slip flooring for a disabled bathroom approx 3mx4m and ensuite 2m x 1.5m, can you please advise a…
    17 July 2017
  • fuge
    Re: The Impact of Quarrying
    how can this be controlled effectively?
    11 May 2017
  • Pet Owner
    Re: Non Toxic and Sustainable Flooring Suitable for Children
    My husband insisted on having carpets upstairs for 'luxury'. Hardly necessary for what little…
    14 April 2017
  • SustainableFloors
    Re: Cork Flooring
    Pia - Your Question:Cork flooring is not as natural as is made out. A binder is used - as far as I could find out (hard to get this info from manufactu
    10 August 2016
  • Pia
    Re: Cork Flooring
    Cork flooring is not as natural as is made out. A binder is used - as far as I could find out (hard to get this info from manufacturers) usually it…
    9 August 2016
  • Omonu
    Re: The Impact of Quarrying
    Assessment of dust and noise emission and impact on neighbouring communities
    24 July 2016
  • SustainableFloors
    Re: Seagrass Flooring
    Mona - Your Question:Hi, I am an interior designer looking for Eco friendly flooring for my client. I was wondering if it possible to order…
    13 May 2016
  • Mona
    Re: Seagrass Flooring
    Hi, I am an interior designer looking for Eco friendly flooring for my client. I was wondering if it possible to order samples? thank you
    12 May 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SustainableFloors website. Please read our Disclaimer.