Carpeting is one of the most widely used flooring options, not to mention one of the most inexpensive. It can be used in almost every room; it serves as an indoor filter as well as a sound absorber; and it adds color and texture to your home. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, more than two-thirds of American homes have wall-to-wall carpeted floors. However, what many might not know is that almost all carpet is made from petroleum byproducts and synthetics such as polypropylene, nylon and acrylic. Today’s carpets have also been treated with antistatic sprays, artificial dyes, antimicrobial treatments and finishes so that they are engineered to withstand stains and soils. We will say that the carpet, however, does act like a filter by trapping allergens and may even improve air quality in your home. But, in addition to the chemicals used when manufacturing carpet, the downside is that most people do not clean their carpets correctly or regularly, which can only exacerbate allergies and asthma.
FLOR carpet recycling
FLOR's easily recyclable Arabesque carpet. The FLOR brand is part of Interface's Mission Zero initiative.
If you are considering adding carpeting to your home in 2012, we recommend looking for area rugs instead. Because it is more permanent, wall-to-wall carpeting is less healthy than smaller rugs because it is in fact harder to clean (vacuuming doesn’t always do the trick) and, not to mention, several pounds of soil can accumulate in and under a carpet each year when not cleaned properly (if you’ve ever pulled up old carpet, you know that this is true). A great eco-friendly alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting is natural wool because of its warmth and durability. However, it is not appropriate for all rooms in the home (think entryways or the bathroom) because once it’s wet it takes a while to dry. This means that it is more susceptive to mold and mildew, making it not as versatile. Hemp and sisal rugs, on the other hand, are more durable and are perfect for many locations, not to mention they are becoming widely available. We love these all-natural must-haves for 2012:
  • The Parquet Sisal Carpet from Merida is an extremely versatile rug, as are all of the sisal patterns the company offers. The design creates a visual interest and can be used in hallways, bedrooms, dining rooms or family rooms. Merida is reinventing the way that rugs are designed, and we love the innovation and wide array of sustainable options that are available.
  • The Chunky Wool & Natural Jute Rug from Pottery Barn is crafted from sustainable jute, which is a fast-growing and renewable fiber. This rug is soft, making it a nice option for bedrooms. Pottery Barn has many other natural options as well, including sisal and sea grass.
  • New for 2012, the Arabesque Carpet (above) from Interface’s FLOR line is great for heavy-traffic places in your home. As with all of FLOR’s products, the modular carpeting allows for customization in any size and space. And when one part gets worn, it can be simply replaced using the company’s Return & Recycle Program. Founded by the late Ray Anderson, Interface’s goal is to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2020. Called Mission Zero, Interface’s ambitious sustainability goals are challenging, but the company has already achieved great progress.
  • The Rainier Collection is the newest rug line from Earth Weave, and is made from 100% undyed, untreated wool available in several different colors. This rug would be a great addition to a finished basement or playroom. We also like that Earth Weave offers natural and nontoxic padding, in addition to natural rubber for the backing of its rugs.
  • The bathroom and shower area can be a challenge due to the amount of moisture, but not so with the Bamboo Rug from Crate & Barrel. Made from 100% bamboo, it dries quickly so bacteria doesn’t have time to grow. Crate & Barrel also has a wide variety of natural fiber rugs available.
If you are replacing your carpet, as opposed to buying new, look for ways to recycle your old carpeting. On the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) website it is noted that an estimated 5 billion pounds of carpet was sent to landfills in 2003. Through CARE’s website, you can find ways to divert it from the landfill and find companies that actually recycle it.