10 Ideas for Eco-Friendly Flooring
By Ari Ziskin
| Fact Checked By: Lamont Robbins
Published: April 20, 2016 | Updated: July 23, 2020
Eco-friendly flooring is a hot topic these days. It seems like everyone is looking for stylish, functional flooring that is also friendly to the planet.
If you’re searching for a way to do your part beyond separating your recyclables, you’re in luck. There are many attractive, cost-effective green flooring options on the market to suit your taste.
With this guide, you’ll discover 10 dynamic, versatile, eco-friendly flooring options for you, covering everything from bamboo to engineered hardwood, and even some outdoor flooring. Let’s get started!
Get the trendy wood look without cutting down any trees! These days, luxury vinyl offers wood looks, textures, and colors that are so realistic, you won’t be able to tell it’s not the real thing.
Most engineered luxury vinyl options also come with a FloorScore indoor air quality certification, meaning they qualify for many green building schemes including LEED. To make sure you and your family can breathe healthy air, just look for the FloorScore logo.
Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring is one of the fastest growing categories of flooring out there. Designed to look like genuine hardwood flooring, luxury vinyl planks are constructed of man-made materials to optimize everything you want in your dream floor.
Advances in technology have produced vinyl planks with convincing textures, waterproof cores, maximum durability, and sturdy wear layer options. You can pick from ultra durable rigid core flooring, easy peasy peel-and-stick planks, and everything in between.
LVT is a durable flooring option made of quality PVC and vinyl. They’re one of the biggest trends in flooring today, made most popular for their realistic stone-look styles and easy installation.
With realistic natural textures, durable wear layers, and the option of a waterproof core, vinyl tiles offer a little bit of something for everyone.
Best Uses for Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring can go practically anywhere, from your bathroom or living room at home to lobbies and offices in commercial spaces. It’s durable and versatile, as well as being great for the planet.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Flooring
What are the advantages of luxury vinyl flooring?
- Easy to install: Do-it-yourselfers will be happy to know that installation is super simple. The interlocking planks and tiles snap together securely and can be laid over existing subfloors.
- Stylish: Vinyl flooring is very trendy right now, with the latest wood and stone looks ensuring that your space is attractive as well as eco-friendly.
- Affordable: You might not think of this flooring as budget-friendly, but when you compare it to real hardwood or stone, it has a much lower price.
- Durable: With a protective wear layer that guards against heavy traffic, your flooring will look great for years to come.
- Moisture resistance: Many vinyl options are completely waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about water damage.
What are the drawbacks of Vinyl Flooring?
- Not biodegradable: Overall, vinyl is a very durable product, and since it is not organic like wood flooring, it will not biodegrade.
- Can be dented and scratched: Depending on the core of the vinyl, it may be susceptible to dents from heavy furniture being dragged or objects being dropped. To get more dent resistance, choose vinyl planks with a stone-plastic composite (SPC) core. This rigidcore flooring offers extra durability.
|Related Content >> Vinyl Flooring Guide|
These days, almost all carpet tiles and rolls are made of recycled materials to some degree. Using recycled materials, such as fishing nets and plastics bottles, makes recycled carpet not only a green flooring option but a cost-effective solution as well.
Some people might tell you that carpet is on its way out, but it is still the most commonly purchased floor on the market. People may be going for that trendy wood look, but everyone still loves a little softness now and then.
Best Uses for Carpet
Environmentally friendly recycled carpet is most popular in bedrooms, hallways, living rooms, and offices.
Pros and Cons of Carpet
What are the advantages of carpet?
- Warmth: Bare feet on cold floors? No thanks! Carpeting keeps your floor cozy and warm even in the colder months.
- Comfort: People love carpet for its soft, plush feel. You can’t get that feel with any other flooring option.
- Style: With tons of colors, patterns, and textures to choose from, there’s bound to be a carpet to match your style.
- Easy carpet tile installation: DIYers will love how easy it is to install carpet tiles. Many options have peel and stick backings, so you can lay them out and secure them in a matter of minutes.
What are the drawbacks of carpet?
- Maintenance: Compared to hard surface flooring, carpets are more prone to stains, collecting dust, and water damage. The extra effort required for proper maintenance is the tradeoff for more comfort.
- Tricky carpet roll installation: While carpet tiles are simple to install, it can require more effort to lay out a carpet roll. Professional installation is often recommended. However, manufacturers have come out with some carpet rolls that are pretty easy to install, such as Air.o carpets with attached padding.
|Related Content >> Ultimate Carpet Buying Guide|
Porcelain and Ceramic Tile
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are environmentally friendly in a number of ways, starting with the material. Made from a mixture of clay and water, tile can be sustainably sourced in many cases. Additionally, since this material is so durable, some tiles are made of up to 70% recycled porcelain and ceramic.
On top of that, tiles have a lot of staying power and can remain in good condition for decades. That means you won’t have to use up new resources to replace worn-out flooring, and more material is kept out of landfills.
Best Uses for Porcelain and Ceramic Tile
You can use environmentally-friendly porcelain and ceramic tiles in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, and even on walls or in outdoor settings in some cases.
Pros and Cons of Porcelain and Ceramic Tile
What are the advantages of porcelain and ceramic tile?
- Style: Tile can match any aesthetic, with practically limitless options for shape, size and color.
- Versatility: You can install tile on floors in any area of the home, as well as on walls or in showers. Some tiles can even work in outdoor settings! The real question is, “Where can’t they go?”
- Durability: Because tile is so dense, waterproof/resistant, and scratch-resistant, they’re sure to last for years and years.
- Waterproof/resistant: Tile won’t soak up moisture or take on any water damage. That makes them pretty easy to maintain, and perfect for high-moisture areas.
What are the drawbacks of porcelain and ceramic tile?
- Price: All the benefits of tile do come with a higher price point than other flooring options, but if you have the budget for it, it’s definitely worth it.
- Installation: Unless you’re using an innovative new product like Daltile’s Revotile, installing tile can require some serious effort, and some people choose a professional installer.
|Related Content >> Floor Tile Guide|
If you’re looking to keep tires out of landfills, then rubber flooring is for you. With many rubber tiles, mats, and rolls being made from recycled tire rubber, you can feel good knowing you’re repurposing that material to be used as a floor.
Ecore, one of the largest manufacturers of recycled rubber products, diverted over 100 million pounds of truck tires from landfills in 2018, and their products contain 62% post-consumer recycled content. Recycling rubber requires less energy than creating synthetic rubber, but even some synthetic rubber contains recycled rubber.
Rubber Gym Flooring:
Gym rolls, tiles, and mats all provide the optimal surface for your workouts. Rubber absorbs impact, is easy to clean, and comes in a variety of thicknesses for a range of applications, from weightlifting to HIIT workouts. So whether you’re building your home gym, or upgrading a commercial gym for better performance, rubber gym flooring is the go-to surface that will make your space functional and safe.
Rubber Playground Flooring:
There’s no doubt that safety is the number one priority for your playground, followed by fun. To make sure the kiddos can play without risk, start with quality outdoor play flooring. That’s where rubber flooring comes in. It’s tough enough to withstand the weather and the high traffic of the playground, but it also absorbs impact to prevent serious injury from falls. From rubber playground tiles, to durable rubber mulch, and even rubber playground mats, there’s an affordable and practical rubber playground flooring solution for you.
Natural pavers, while beautiful, are a bit of a pain. They are hard without any give, they can get hot in the summer, and there’s an increased risk of slipping when they get wet. Outdoor rubber is the perfect solution for all of these issues. Not only can you get the great looks that natural stone provides, but you don’t get any of the pitfalls. Outdoor rubber tiles stay cooler than concrete in direct sunlight, and are also comfortable underfoot. And if the tiles do get too hot underfoot, go ahead and soak them. Rubber is more slip resistant when wet!
Best Uses for Rubber Flooring
Eco-friendly rubber flooring is most popular in home and commercial gyms, although it is quickly gaining popularity as a trendy option for bathrooms and kitchens as well. You’ll find a lot of rubber flooring outdoors these days, too, including rubber mulch or playground tiles, and even rubber patio pavers.
Pros and Cons of Rubber Flooring
What are the advantages of rubber flooring?
- Absorbs impact: Rubber floors are tough enough to handle intense workouts, dropped free weights, and exercise equipment.
- Easy maintenance: It doesn’t require a lot of effort to properly take care of rubber floors. Just sweep away dust and dirt, and wipe them down with a disinfectant cleaner to keep them sanitary.
- Slip-resistant: One reason that rubber flooring is popular in gyms and outside is that it’s very slip-resistant when wet. It’s a safe option for high-moisture areas.
- Installation: Whether you choose rubber tiles, mats, or rolls, you can rest easy knowing that installation will be quick and simple.
What are the drawbacks of rubber flooring?
- The smell: It’s true, some rubber flooring will off-gas and emit a less-than-pleasant odor at first, but this is temporary. Mop it with soap and water a few times and keep the room properly ventilated, and that should take care of it. If you want to avoid the smell altogether, you can always buy virgin rubber tiles, which don’t have this odor.
|Related Content >> Rubber Flooring FAQ|
Although bamboo is technically a grass and not actual wood, eco-friendly bamboo flooring is one of the hardest, most durable flooring options out there! Bamboo flooring offers unique looks that no other flooring can rival.
What makes bamboo an environmentally friendly flooring? Bamboo grows so quickly that there is always a surplus of material, unlike other traditional types of wood. This naturally renewable resource gives you a gorgeous “wood” option without killing the rainforest.
Best Uses for Bamboo Flooring
Eco-friendly bamboo flooring is great in bedrooms, living rooms, offices, and more!
Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring
What are the advantages of bamboo flooring?
- DIY installation: No need to hire an installer! Thanks to the interlocking tongue and groove design, bamboo planks are easy to interlock together, and they can float over the subfloor, no glue required.
- Durable: Bamboo is two times stronger than Oak wood. It can withstand regular wear and tear like a champ.
- Appearance: This is a truly unique material, and it can have a lot of personality in the look department, from high-variation tigerwood patterns to sleek, solid black or white options.
What are the drawbacks of bamboo flooring?
- Not waterproof: Like all wood flooring, bamboo does not do well with large amounts of water or humidity. Bathrooms, flood-prone areas, and other extremely humid environments are not ideal for bamboo.
Remember reading about bamboo earlier? Well, composite decking is made from bamboo, plastic, and glue composite. Composite deck tiles are made from this sustainable, eco-friendly material that regrows faster than hardwood. This makes composite decking a more environmentally sustainable choice than solid wood decking.
Best Uses for Composite Decking
Outdoor patio tiles are recommended for use in a variety of applications, including for use as pool decking, patio flooring, shower floor tiles, flooring underneath patio furniture, and more.
Pros and Cons of Composite Decking
What are the advantages of composite decking?
- Installation: Creating a new composite deck is as simple as snapping the tiles together over a solid surface like concrete.
- Looks: With a variety of attractive colors, patterns, and even wood-look options, there’s no doubt your new patio will be in style.
- Maintenance: You’ll never need to sand or refinish your composite decking. As long as you sweep away the occasional dirt and debris, it will look like new even after years of enjoyment.
- Long-term savings: Since you save on maintenance costs, composite decking ends up paying for itself after a few years.
What are the drawbacks of composite decking?
- Temperature: Composite decks are partially made from plastic, and plastic can get hot in the sun. To address this issue, choose a lighter color, and add more shade to your deck.
- Upfront cost: It’s true that composite decking is initially more expensive than solid wood, but when you take maintenance costs into account, it’s actually cheaper in the long run.
|Related Content >> Composite Decking Guide|
Eco-friendly flooring isn’t confined to the indoors! There are plenty of outdoor flooring options that are just as green. Speaking of green, artificial turf is one of the best eco-friendly outdoor flooring options.
First of all, there are many turf options made from recycled plastic, keeping those materials out of landfills. Even more importantly, fake grass saves water. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, just one square foot of synthetic grass can save up to 55 gallons of water in a single year.
Best Uses for Artificial Grass
Artificial grass isn’t just for lush lawns, though that’s one of its most popular uses. You’ll also find turf specifically designed for pets, putting greens, and even gyms. There’s really not much that turf can’t do.
Pros and Cons of Artificial Grass
What are the advantages of artificial grass?
- Low-maintenance: You can permanently retire your lawnmower and weed trimmer once your new turf is installed. It will always look perfectly manicured.
- No watering: Save on your water bill and save the planet in the process.
- Always green: No matter if there’s a drought or the cold weather rolls in, your lawn will remain a beautiful, natural-looking green.
- Goodbye bugs: Insects and other pests don’t thrive in fake grass, so you don’t have to deal with them anymore!
What are the drawbacks of artificial grass?
- Heat: Because fake grass is made from plastic, it will absorb heat and get hotter in the sun than natural grass. However, you can buy turf and infill designed to mitigate this issue.
|Related Content >> About Artificial Grass|
Laminate is made with a photo-realistic wood image layer and a core of recycled wood fibers known as medium density fiberboard (MDF). This is one of the most convincing wood-look flooring options on the market, but because it’s made of post-consumer wood, it’s much more sustainable and eco-friendly than the real thing.
Best Uses for Laminate Flooring
Laminate floors often come with tough wear layers that can withstand high traffic, so they perform well in commercial spaces as well as in bedrooms, foyers, and living rooms at home.
Pros and Cons of Laminate Flooring
What are the advantages of laminate flooring?
- Realistic wood visuals: Laminate floor planks often have some surface detail to further mimic a natural hardwood look and can have the look and feel of a hand-scraped hardwood, embossed wood, distressed hardwood.
- Affordable: Laminate floors are an affordable alternative to hardwood floors. Lower price and lower maintenance? Yes, please!
- Durable: Laminate flooring’s supreme durability makes it a good option for high-traffic areas or homes with kids and pets.
- Easy to install: Laminate flooring is designed to be installed as a floating floor, meaning that it is not secured to the ground underneath, but rather “floats” by the means of an interlocking design.
What are the drawbacks of laminate flooring?
- Not waterproof: While there are many water-resistant laminate options, this flooring hasn’t quite gotten to the point where it’s considered waterproof. Unlike waterproof vinyl, water-resistant laminate isn’t recommended in high-moisture spaces like bathrooms.
- Sound: If installed poorly, laminate floors can create a hollow, empty sound. Every product comes with thorough installation instructions, and if you’re really worried, you can always hire an expert.
Engineered hardwood and solid hardwood look basically identical from the top. However, while real hardwood is solid all the way through, engineered flooring comes with a genuine wood veneer at the top and artificial materials for the base.
This unique construction makes engineered wood more eco-friendly since less wood is being used in the process. Sometimes, the core will be made of medium density fiberboard (MDF), which is recycled wood particles. All in all, this flooring is a great way to use materials fully and reduce waste in manufacturing.
Best Uses for Engineered Hardwood
Engineered wood is particularly popular in bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. It’s loved for its real-wood looks, so why not show it off where friends and visitors can see it?
Pros and Cons of Engineered Hardwood
What are the advantages of engineered hardwood?
- Real wood veneer: Every plank is unique since there is a real wood veneer. You’ll never find a repeating pattern or an unconvincing texture.
- Water-resistance: Depending on the core of your flooring, your engineered wood could be moisture resistant or even 100% waterproof.
- DIY-friendly: Some engineered hardwood is designed with click-lock or tongue-and-groove installation, and it floats above your subfloor. No nails or glue here!
- Price: You get the high-quality real wood surface without that big price tag, and nobody will be able to tell the difference.
What are the drawbacks of engineered hardwood?
- Might not be able to refinish: Depending on the thickness of the veneer, and what the manufacturer says, it might not be possible to refinish your engineered hardwood. Typically, if the veneer is less than 3mm thick, you risk exposing the core of the flooring. While this cuts back on maintenance, you have less flexibility when it comes to redesigning. Most people don’t refinish engineered hardwood.
- Not solid wood: Having real, solid hardwood is important to some people. No matter how great it looks, it’s just a veneer, and not solid hardwood.
|Related Content >> Engineered Hardwood Buying Guide|
Known for its comfort and durability, cork flooring is made from the thin bark of cork trees, which is harvested without damaging the trees themselves.
The bark is first made into products like wine corks, then the leftover scraps are ground and pressed into flooring. Trees are harvested every nine years, giving them plenty of time to replenish. As it turns out, cork flooring is extremely durable, and there are some gorgeous looks available that are unique and stylish on top of all that sustainability.
Best Uses for Cork Flooring
Eco-friendly cork flooring is great in bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, and kitchens, especially in any area you will be standing for long periods of time (due to the natural anti-fatigue properties).
Pros and Cons of Cork Flooring
What are the advantages of cork flooring?
- Mold- and mildew-resistant: Cork is naturally resistant to unsightly mold and mildew, making this a green option for hygienic flooring
- Anti-fatigue: This flooring is resilient, meaning there’s a bit of softness under your step. It makes your floor more comfortable to walk on, especially if you’re on your feet for long periods of time.
- Easy to install: The glue-free floating floor system requires minimal effort. Simply interlock the cork planks and enjoy your new floor!
- Appearance: Maybe your first instinct is to think that cork wouldn’t be stylish, but that’s where you’re wrong! With such a unique look, you can bring a fresh style to your space.
What are the drawbacks of cork flooring?
- Not water-resistant: Cork is prone to water damage, making it less than ideal for bathrooms and flood-prone basements.
There you have it folks, an in-depth look at some of the most environmentally friendly floors. It turns out that you have a lot of options, and you can enjoy stylish looks and advanced features while also benefiting the planet. So now that you know your stuff, which eco-friendly flooring option would you choose?